Absalom Jones, priest
Tuesday, February 13 is the feast day of The Rev. Absalom Jones, priest.
While we may be confused or frustrated at the ordination process as it now stands, in comparison with the journey of this dedicated, corageous man, we live on easy street. Below is a condensed version of his biography from 'Lesser Feasts and Fasts'.
Absalom Jones as born into slavery in Delaware in 1746. He taught himself to read. At 16 he was sold to a store owner in Philadelphia, PA. There he worked while at night he attended the school for Blacks, run by the Quakers. At 20 he married another slave and in 1766 bought her freedom with his savings.
By 1784 he had enought money to buy his own freedom and served as a lay minister for the black membership of St. George's Methodist Episcopal Church. Absalom and his friend, Richard Allen, were such magnetic evangelists that the black segment of the congregation grew rapidly. In a move that would shock us in our day, the vestry of St. George's unilaterally decided - without prior notification - to segregate all Blacks into an upstairs gallery. When some members would not comply with ushers request to relocate, the entire black membership walked out in indignation. Jones and Allen later were elected to head up the Free African Society. Members paid monthly dues to benefit those in need. Aligning themselves with similar groups in other cities, the Society built it first church which was dedicated in July, 1794.
The African Church applied for membership in the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania on condition that they could be received together, had control over their local affairs, that Absalom Jones be a licensed layreader - and, if qualified - be ordained as minister. The newly formed St. Thomas African Episcopal Church was admitted in 1794, Absalom Jones was ordained a deacon in 1795 and a priest in 1802.
Fr. Jones denounced slavery, and looked to God who would act on behalf of the oppressed and distressed. His vigilance in visitation and quiet demeanor drew many to St. Thomas' Church.... which at the end of its first year, grew to over 500 members.
Absalom Jones overcame many obstacles - in his life, in his spiritual journey - and can be for us an example of someone who casts their care fully on the Lord and trusts God in every aspect of life. May we be so brave in speaking truth and so full of faith in a God that loves one and all!