Today’s Readings for the Daily Office
Psalm 26, 28 (Morning)
Psalm 36, 39 (Evening)
Prov. 30:1-4, 24-33
Today we remember Absalom Jones on the 200th anniversary of his death. He was the first African American priest in the Episcopal Church, ordained in 1804, after helping found a black church in 1794. Party because this is Black History month, I decided to learn more about Absalom Jones. I’m not going to share the details of his life – you can learn about him via Google – but will share some of my reflections.
He was born a slave, his birth family was sold away from him, he married a slave. With the help of friends (possibly the original GoFundMe campaign) he bought his wife’s freedom, and later his own. In spite of the difficulty of his life, he felt God’s love, responded to God’s love, and aspired to the priesthood.
He helped establish St, Thomas African Episcopal Church, and became a priest in 1802. In the Causes and Motives for Establishing St. Thomas’s African Church, he wrote, “God has marked out made our ways with blessings. And we are now encouraged through the grace and divine assistance of the friends and God opening the hearts of our white friends and brethren, to encourage us to arise out of the dust and shake ourselves, and throw off that servile fear, that the habit of oppression and bondage trained us up in.” Simultaneously welcoming and accepting the support of whites while affirming the intention to rise above oppression and bondage. Such a strong and peaceful intention.
On January 1, 1808, he preached a sermon giving thanksgiving that the United States had outlawed importation of foreign slaves. The Thanksgiving Sermon is a wonderful example of gratitude to God for what has been accomplished while stating clearly the abuses that still remain. I never sensed bitterness in him. That he could remain focused on love and gratitude in spite of what he and his people had and were enduring makes me give thanks to God, And provides an example for how to approach racism and oppression today.
Written by Cathy Campbell
Cathy is a semi-retired professional counselor and Healing Touch Practitioner. She makes a joyful sound in the choir and helps lead the Healing Touch Ministry. She advocates for marginalized groups, especially LGBTQ people.