America’s First Black Priest

It was fitting that I received a copy of Absalom Jones: America’s First Black Priest written by Mark Francisco Bozzuti-Jones in early February, Black History Month. Exactly two years ago I wrote about Absalom Jones, sharing resources for learning about this man of faith, courage, and commitment. So it is fitting that I share a new resource for children (ages 8-12) close to his Feast Day – February 13 – that explores the history of this man and the context in which he lived and came from. The people of God are all people – all colors, all races, all languages – from all over the world.

One is immediately caught by the visually stunning cover of this book that shows what Absalom might have looked like today, surrounded by other people of faith who were instrumental in the Civil Rights Movement, including the first Black woman to be consecrated as a bishop in the Episcopal Church, Barbara C. Harris, who died in March 2020. Illustrator, Christopher Michael Taylor describes his image on the cover as “a modernized and unique interpretation,” while each black and white artwork that begins each of the eight 3-page chapters can be described as “comic book realism.” They pop next to the text, engaging the reader in wanting to read on to see how a man, born a slave in 1746, earned his freedom and was ordained a deacon in 1795 and a priest in 1802.

As the United States continues to be divided in so many ways, here is a book for elementary school-age readers that offers a point of American history that is rarely taught. With a “Timeline of African Americans and the Episcopal Church” (1624-2017), this book will give children – Black and White – a chance to understand one person’s whole story and how one can rise up and make a difference. How much we can learn from this man who lived 275 years ago.

Let us remember him on his Feast Day, February 13th and emulate his faith and tenacity everyday in our lives.

“Arise out of the dust and shake ourselves, and throw off that servile fear, that the habit of oppression and bondage trained us up in. And in meekness and fear, we would desire to walk in liberty where with Christ has made us free.”

words from an early sermon of Absalom Jones

My other posts featuring Absalom Jones (and other individuals we remember during Black History Month) with prayers, reflections, and activities for all ages:

Header Photo by Joshua J. Cotten on Unsplash

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