Cathedral of St. John the Divine Blog

The Feast of Absalom Jones REBECCA MERRILL FEBRUARY 7, 2018

portrait of Absalom Jones

On Saturday, February 10, the Cathedral joins the rest of the Episcopal community in celebrating The Feast of Absalom Jones. At a special 10:30 am Saturday Eucharist organized by the Diocese of New York activist Ruby Nell Sales will preach. Following the service, we’ll hold a reception featuring lively music and refreshments.

Absalom Jones became the Episcopal Church’s first ordained black priest in 1804. Born into slavery in Delaware and sold as a teenager to a shop owner in Philadelphia, Jones eventually bought his freedom and began serving as a lay minister at a local church. When leaders of the church began segregating the increasingly black attendees, Jones broke off and, with Richard Allen, formed the Free African Society to provide religious services and aid for “free Africans and their descendants.”

As the Free African Society’s religious offerings grew, Jones looked to join the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania but retain the church’s independence. The Diocese agreed and in 1794, the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas opened. The church is still in operation today.

A year later, Jones was ordained a Deacon and, in 1804, because a priest. He was a famously talented orator and preached sermons against slavery widely. Jones died on February 13, 1818 and in 1973 the church declared that date Absalom Jones Feast Day.

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