January 17, 2019
Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
On Sunday afternoon, February 17 at 4 o'clock, the Wilma Ruth Combs Chapter of the Union of Black Episcopalians and the Diocese of Ohio will host this year's Absalom Jones service at Christ Church, Shaker Heights. Bishop Williams will be the celebrant and the Rev. Sharon Williams, Priest-in-Charge at Historic St. Andrew’s, Cleveland, will preach. I write to encourage you to attend this service and to remember Absalom Jones in your prayers on his feast day, February 13, and in your parishes on February 17.
The annual Absalom Jones service is an important event in our common journey toward Becoming Beloved Community. It is an opportunity both to remember the Rev. Absalom Jones, ordained by Bishop William White to the diaconate in 1795 and the priesthood in 1802, and to affirm our commitment to racial reconciliation and the disassembling of racism. Born enslaved in Delaware in 1746, Absalom Jones founded the first African American congregation in Philadelphia, The African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas, which exists to this day, and was the first African American ordained a priest in our church. His courage, dedication, and deep faith can inspire in us the same spirit necessary to heal the racial divisions and injustice of our own day.
Presiding Bishop Curry has asked that the offering from observances of Absalom Jones, whether in special diocesan services or regular Sunday parish worship on February 17, be given to the Absalom Jones Fund for Episcopal Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Saint Augustine’s University in Raleigh, NC and Voorhees College in Denmark, SC. To that end, you may send any contributions to Sue Leishman at 2230 Euclid Ave, Cleveland OH 44115, who will combine them with the offering from the service at Christ Church, Shaker Heights, and forward them on to Bishop Curry’s office.
Bishop Curry writes, “Saint Augustine’s and Voorhees provide an excellent liberal arts education to thousands of students, the vast majority of whom come from low-income households, and over 40% of whom are the first in their families to attend a four-year college. Further, these schools provide robust campus ministries which both evangelize and form young adults as followers of Jesus and his way of love.”
I encourage you to remember “Blessed Absalom” on February 17, in your congregations that morning and at Christ Church that afternoon, and to contribute through the Diocesan office or directly to the Absalom Jones Fund (www.episcopalchurch.org/development/HBCU
The Rt. Rev. Mark Hollingsworth, Jr.
Bishop of Ohio