The grit and persistence of Absalom Jones

February is National Black History Month, and in the past several years we at St. John's have chosen a date around the feast of Absalom Jones as the focus of our celebration.

You may know that Absalom Jones was the first African American priest off the Episcopal Church, but his resilience in the face of oppression is central to his story. Jones was born a slave and his mother and six siblings were sold when his master sold his plantation and moved to Philadelphia with young Absalom. Eventually he was able to buy freedom for his wife, but his master was not eager to allow him to buy his own freedom, though eventually he was freed. He still experienced segregation when the Methodist church of which he was a part refused to let black folks sit in the nave, but relegated them to the gallery upstairs. When he and his good friend Richard Allen left that Church, and helped found an African congregation that affiliated with the Episcopal Church, Jones sought ordination.

The grit and persistence of Absalom Jones speaks volumes about the foundation of his faith on Christ the solid rock who calls us all beloved children of God. Is it not the case that we in our day need the example and the prayers of blessed Absalom?

In a time when we segregate ourselves not only by race and tribe, but by ideology as well, we look to Absalom who sought to end the bonds of division and seek our central unity in Christ. And so, as we come together with Absalom Jones and all the communion of saints around the Lord's table to share in one bread, one cup, and as we together share a meal with all our many differences and diversity at St. John's, let's remember that the work we do is kingdom work. It's prophetic work. "As Christ breaks bread and bids us share, each proud division ends. That love that made us makes us one, and strangers now are friends" (Brian Wren). Let that be our witness to the world as we celebrate Absalom Jones and every day.

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