Deans' Note February 13, 2022
What does Absalom Jones have to do with renewing your marriage vows? Glad you asked! The answer is two neighboring days on the calendar. The church celebrates the first African American ordained a priest in the Episcopal Church on February 13 and of course the next day is Valentine's Day. At St. John's it usually winds up that we celebrate this great leader of the Black Church on the same day we ask couples to renew the vows of love and commitment they have made to their spouse.
As you may recall, Absalom Jones and Richard Allen both were formerly enslaved and had won their freedom. Both also attended Philadelphia's St. George's Methodist Church. On a Sunday morning in 1787, Jones, Allen, and several other black members of the congregation were physically pulled from their knees by white church elders to go to another part of the gallery.. In response, the entire group left en masse never to return. Both men took different journeys afterwards, Allen eventually founding the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and Jones entering the Episcopal Church in which he would be ordained.
We celebrate this great act of Gospel protest in the face of racism this Sunday as we conclude our monthlong celebration of Black history that began with our remembrance of Dr. King. Let these noble saints encourage us by their example and aid us with their prayers to stand against injustice in our own generation.
We encourage you also to attend church with your spouse this Sunday. As our culture celebrates romantic love on Valentines Day, renew the covenant of committed love you share. St. Valentine was a third Century martyr about whom we actually know very little. One legend says he secretly married Christian couples in defiance of the Roman emperor who thought young men made better soldiers if they were single. He's also a patron saint of bee-keepers -- go figure. Not much there about flowers or chocolates, but maybe honey?
So this weekend isn't just about the Super Bowl, in our city, it's about standing up against racism and above all standing up for love -- not only married love, but the love that claims us all as God's beloved. As the words of the old hymn put it:
In Christ there is no east or west,
in him no south or north,
but one great fellowship of love
throughout the whole wide earth.