ABSALOM JONES SERVICE OF WITNESS
FROM THE BISHOP:
Dear People of the Diocese of New Jersey,
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.
(Lift Every Voice and Sing (LEVAS) Hymn #1)
February is Black History Month. In honor of this, I want to share some of the story of Alexander Crummell. I first heard the story of Alexander Crummell when I was a student at The General Theological Seminary in New York. As part of a tutorial process, we were given required readings and asked to offer theological reflections on them. One of the readings was a chapter from W.E.B. Du Bois’s classic work, The Soul of Black Folk titled “Of Alexander Crummell.”
Alexander Crummell was born in New York City on March 3, 1819 to Charity Hicks, a free woman, and Boston Crummell, a former slave. Both parents were committed abolitionists. Alexander Crummell’s story is one faithful persistence in the face of brutal racism and rejection. Holy Women, Holy Men offers a blunt sketch of his career: “As a young man, he was driven out of an academy in New Hampshire, dismissed as a candidate for Holy Orders in New York, and rejected for admittance to General Seminary. Ordained in 1844 as a priest in the Diocese of Massachusetts, he left for England after being excluded from participating in diocesan convention.” (see “Alexander Crummell,” Church Publishing, 2010)
The last detail is particularly indicting. After serving a small church in Massachusetts, Crummell traveled to Philadelphia with a letter of introduction to Bishop Onderdonk of Pennsylvania from the Bishop of Massachusetts. Du Bois writes:
Bishop Onderdonk read the letter hastily and frowned. Then he said slowly and impressively, “I will receive you into this diocese on one condition: No negro priest can sit in my church convention, and no negro church must ask for representation there.”
Du Bois uses several paragraphs to reflect on the silence that followed as well as on and what must have been going through Crummell’s mind. Finally, Crummell said “slowly and heavily: ‘I will never enter your diocese on such terms.’” (Du Bois, W.E.B, The Soul of Black Folk, Brooklyn, Restless Books, 2017, pp. 201-203 – Kindle Edition)
Crummell went to England, and studied at Cambridge. He developed a vision for a national church in Liberia modeled on that of the Episcopal Church. He travelled extensively between the United States and Liberia to build this mission, encouraging persons of African descent in the United States to move to Liberia. Holy Women, Holy Men reports that, “opposition and loss of funding forced him to return to the United States.”
In the United States, he began “to concentrate his efforts on establishing a strong urban presence of independent black congregations that would be centers of worship, education and social service” (Holy Women, Holy Men). He also gathered black churches into an organization that was a precursor to the Union of Black Episcopalians. Late in life, he served in Washington, D.C. and taught at Howard University. The Reverend Alexander Crummell died September 10, 1898 in Red Bank, New Jersey.
Toward the conclusion of his essay on Alexander Crummell, Du Bois writes:
“He did his work – he did it nobly and well; and yet I sorrow that here he worked alone, with so little sympathy. His name today, in this broad land, means little, and comes to fifty million ears laden with no incense of memory or emulation. And herein lies the tragedy of the age: not that me are poor, — all men know something of poverty; not that all men are wicked, — who is good? Not that men are ignorant, — what is Truth? Nay, but that men know so little of men” (Du Bois, p. 204-205).
Alexander Crummell’s story is a part of the story we all share as Episcopalians. Black History is a part of the history we all share as well. It is a story filled with pain, prejudice and pathos. It is also a story filled with courage, faith and an enduring human spirit. In the introduction to a recent edition of The Soul of Black Folk, editor Vann R. Newkirk, II writes, “In the closing, Du Bois writes about his motive to tell Crummell’s story: as a fight against erasure and the prioritization of white history at the expense of the richness of black history” (Du Bois, p. location 134 –Kindle edition).
I pray we all give thanks for the life, witness and courage of Alexander Crummell whose feast day is celebrated in The Episcopal Church on the anniversary of his death, September 10.
This coming Sunday, we are all invited to join with our brothers and sisters of the Earl B. Scott Chapter of the Union of Black Episcopalians as well as the Black Clergy Caucus to celebrate another black Saint of the Episcopal Church, Absalom Jones. The celebration will take place at Trinity Cathedral, Trenton at 3:00 PM. The Rev. Dr. Roland Clemons will be the preacher. The Reverends Sharon Sutton and Hyvenson Joseph will concelebrate with me. Marcus Gales, a member and active lay leader at Christ Church, Willingboro and in the wider diocesan community, will be honored.
This is not a celebration just for the black community of the diocese, it’s for all us. We all need to know our story and know one another better.
I hope I will see you Sunday at 3:00 PM at Trinity Cathedral.
Blessings and peace,
The Rt. Rev. William H. Stokes, D.D.
XII Bishop of New Jersey
Almighty and everlasting God, we thank you for your servant Alexander Crummell, whom you called to teach the Gospel to those who were far off and those who were near. Raise up in this and every land evangelists and heralds of your kingdom, that your Church may proclaim the unsearchable riches of our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen
Bishop’s Schedule Highlights
Saturday, February 10, 2018:
10:00 a.m. Trinity Cathedral: Acolyte Festival
3:30 p.m. DoCC – small conference room
Sunday, February 11, 2018:
9:30 a.m. Visitation: St. Uriel the Archangel Church, Sea Girt
3:00 p.m. Trinity Cathedral: Absalom Jones Service of Witness
Monday, February 12, 2018:
Tuesday, February 13, 2018:
6:00 p.m. St. Peter’s Church, Medford dinner/vestry meeting
Wednesday, February 14, 2018:
Ash Wednesday Ashes to Go – Trenton Transit Station from 7 a.m.- 9 a.m.
12:00 noon Trinity Cathedral – Ash Wednesday service
Thursday, February 15, 2018:
5:00 p.m. Standing Committee meeting
Friday, February 16, 2018:
6:00 p.m. St. John Baptist, Mendham – Academia Eduménica de Liderazgo
Upcoming Diocesan Events
Diocesan Calendar for the through late winter 2018..
Trinity Catheral, Trenton
Absalom Jones Service of Witness
Notices and Classifieds
Diocean Acolyte Festival
9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
The theme of this year’s Festival is the Light of the World…
Absalom Jones Service of Witness to Black Ministry
Celebrant: The Rt. Rev. William Stokes, D.D.
Preacher: The Rev. Dr. E. Roland Clemons
February 11, 2018, 3:00 p.m.
Trinity Cathedral, Trenton, NJ
Sponsored by the Black Clergy Caucus and the Earl B. Scott Chapter of the Union of Black Episcopalians.
Save the Date!
NEW JERSEY COUNCIL OF CHURCHES
Opioids: The Next Step
Diocesan Convention – Save the Date!
The 234th Convention of the Diocese of New Jersey will take place on March 2-3, 2018 at the Crowne Plaza in Cherry Hill.
Book your accommodations: February 10, 2018
Register by February 19, 2018
Exhibitors register by February 19, 2018
February 15, 1:30 pm – St. Stephen’s, Whiting
February 15, 7 pm – St. Thomas, Glassboro
February 20 7 pm – Christ Church, Somers Point
PART-TIME ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT POSITION
Send a resume to The Rev. J. Connor Haynes by email or mail to 145 West Broad Street, Burlington, NJ 08016.
ABOUT ELECTRONIC GIVING
St. Francis, Dunellen, is exploring setting up an electronic giving system If your congregation is using such a system, please contact them with the following: Name and contact info of the service you use, fees/costs involved for parish and/or donor, rough percentage of households that use this option, pros and cons, anything else we should know.
SEEKING LEVAS II
Proclaiming Christ in the Garden State
We are the Episcopal Branch of the Jesus Movement in the Southern 2/3 of New Jersey.