Absalom Gone Yet Still Here | by Bob Bowen

During the past few weeks I have been what I’ll call spiritually busy. My focus was the rare and dynamic and dedicated lives of Reverend Absalom Jones and his lifelong spiritual colleague and friend, Reverend Richard Allen. For purposes here, I will concentrate on Reverend Jones.

Reverend Jones was attracted to the Episcopal Church where in 1802 he became its first African American priest.

What I will explore here is some ways in which in 2023 St. John’s Cathedral can make some aspect of the Jones legacy a viable and ongoing part of St. John’s Cathedral life.
As no surprise to anyone, February is acknowledged and celebrated as African American History Month. It had earlier been labelled “Black History Month.” There were parades and a broad range of sincere and effective cultural activities all over the country. Here in Los Angeles, I was personally attracted to the annual [Martin Luther] King Day parade along King Boulevard. This was a special and always well attended activity. Lots of bands, lots of fun and lots of people from all over the city and beyond.
At that time the Cathedral appropriately acknowledged Black History Month with a series of activities including historical displays, poetic readings and musical presentations, all attended by lots of people who expected and had lots of fun.

Now one of the social, political and cultural realities of America is: To do something with serious vim and vigor and then…move on to something else. The nation is filled with holidays and holy days with their attendant acknowledgement and celebration. And then…NEXT…move on to something entirely different and disconnected. This is normal and accepted. What I want to explore is a change as regards Reverend Absalom Jones:

That his legacy be incorporated into the ongoing, active life of the Cathedral. Reverend Jones was as spiritually dedicated and astute as he was committed to community needs. Let me share here that both he and Reverend Allen were very active assisting Philadelphians affected by the horrific Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793. They provided both spiritual and practical [namely transportation to the hospital] support.  

Fast forward to 2023. The Cathedral can become a spiritual and practical resource for the increasing number of people to people who are without shelter. [There are, for example, surely ways in which the focus at City Hall on homelessness can be supported without creating any unnecessary church and state complications.]

In closing, I want to share that Reverend Absalom Jones has provided us with a life that can be seen as a new, clearly different and exciting. We can both honor and incorporate his example and please God…all at the same time.