Walking with the Saints
Absalom Jones, the first African American ordained in the Episcopal Church, is a giant in the history of our church. Imagine being born a slave in the middle of the 17th century and accomplishing what this man accomplished. He managed to buy his wife’s freedom and seven years later his own while studying and fulfilling the responsibilities his owner put upon him. You can tell from his story that he was a man of profound integrity and morality.
He brought countless men and women of African decent to the teachings of Christ. Through his lay leadership at a Methodist church Jones increased the Black attendance by tenfold and so intimidated the white parishioners that the vestry surprised them by insisting on segregation and making the Blacks sit in the balcony. But Absalom Jones and his community would not and they walked out in one unified group. This is why he ultimately became involved with the Episcopal Church.
He founded an organization, with his friend Richard Allen, to support the needs of the poor. When a yellow fever epidemic hit Philadelphia this organization was able to care for the sick and their families.
Absalom Jones was ordained a priest in 1804 and within one year his parish had over 500 Black parishioners. He was a powerful preacher and abolitionist. In 1816, Jones saw his friend Richard Allen consecrated the first bishop of the newly formed African Methodist Episcopal Church.
The Episcopal Church has come a long way towards inclusion and an appreciation of cultural diversity. And we have a ways to go. We can always improve in our attempt to live the gospel by caring for those who are oppressed or left out. By opening our doors to those in need and those who feel judged or excluded.
There is a saying that Sundays are the most segregated day of the week. We are certainly changing that with our Mandarin congregation and let’s hope that The Church of Our Saviour becomes more and more attractive to people of all ethnicities and cultural backgrounds.
Set us free, heavenly Father, from every bond of prejudice and fear; that, honoring the steadfast courage of your servant Absalom Jones, we may show forth in our lives the reconciling love and true freedom of the children of God, which you have given us in your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.