The Rev. Vernal Savage Preaches on Absalom Jones

The Rev. Vernal Savage preaches at the Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey’s annual service to honor the legacy of the Rev. Absalom Jones, held Feb. 18, 2024 at Trinity Cathedral in Trenton.

Absalom Jones (1746-1818) was the first African American to be ordained as a priest in the Episcopal Church of the United States in 1802.

In 1792, he founded the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas, which is currently located at 6361 Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Jones was born into slavery in Delaware and taught himself to read using the New Testament. At age 16, he was brought to Philadelphia by his owner, Benjamin Wynkoop, to work as a clerk and handyman in a retail store. Jones was able to work for himself in the evenings and keep his earnings. He saved money and bought books, including a primer, a spelling book, and a bible.

In 1770, he married a fellow enslaved person and, with the help of friends and his father-in-law, was able to buy her freedom. Jones saved enough to purchase his own freedom in 1784.