“The Rev. Absalom Jones.”
As members of the Body of Christ,
All Saints’ Parish participates in God’s mission
of reconciling love for the world
by striving for justice and peace among all people
and respecting the dignity of every living being.
History in Black and White
Historian Carter G. Woodson noted in 1929 that “if a race has no history, it has no worthwhile tradition…and it stands in danger of being exterminated.” For this and many other reasons, observing a “Black history month” was first proposed by Black educators at Kent State University in 1969; its first observance occurred a year later, in February of 1970, as a way to encourage the teaching of the history of Black Americans in public schools. Native American Christian theologian Randy Woodley has also noted the importance of ancestral traditions for the vitality of a people—whether white, black, or any other color of the rainbow of creation’s diversity.
Black History Month begins today and I am always reminded on such occasions of Paul’s frequent use of the image of the body to describe “church.” In his letter to the Romans he invites a deeper awareness of our shared joy and shared sorrow as diverse members of a single body (Rom. 12). In that sense, the horrors and triumphs, the suffering and achievements of both white people and Black people belong to the one history of American society. (This is also true for the Episcopal Church; the image above is an 1810 painting by Raphael Peale of Absalom Jones, whom we remember on February 13 and who was the first Black person ordained as a priest in The Episcopal Church, in 1802. To read more about his inspiring and troubling story, click HERE.) Setting aside this one month every year to focus our attention on Black history offers a powerful invitation to keep that history in mind throughout the year. Please mark your calendars as we begin our All Saints’ observance of Black History Month 2023 (and click HERE for a flyer to share with friends!):
- LEVAS on Sundays: Most of the music for worship in February will come from Lift Every Voice and Sing II, which is the African-American Hymnal of The Episcopal Church (it was published in 1993, a revision of the first edition). While not all of the music in LEVAS is written or composed by Black people, the selections were made based on relevance to Black history in the U.S. and in consideration of styles of worship that have been so influential in American Christianity.
- Truth and Reconciliation: In 2017, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and other clergy made a pilgrimage to the sites in Ghana where Africans were exported on slave ships to the Americas. Three short videos were made of these pilgrimages and we’ll watch them together on two Sunday mornings, February 12 and 19 at 9:00 a.m. and have some discussion together about them. While these videos revisit a truly painful history, they also offer images of hope, healing, and reconciliation.
- Covert, Michigan: Even in the midst of Jim Crow segregation in this country, a small town right here in West Michigan modeled racial integration and healing. We are truly fortunate to have award-winning historian Dr. Anna-Lisa Cox living right next door in Douglas who has literally written the book on that town, Covert. She has graciously agreed to speak here at All Saints on Wednesday evening, February 15 at 7:00 p.m. in the parish hall. Invite your friends and neighbors! (We will also live stream this talk.)
- St. Augustine’s University: Among the Historically Black Colleges and Universities, there are two remaining that were formed by Episcopalians. One of them, St. Augustine’s in Raleigh, North Carolina, has a special place in the hearts of All Saints’ parishioners and we will once again be donating money to St. Augustine’s as part of our Black History Month observances. Please bring a check made payable to All Saints (“St. Aug” in the memo line) on Sunday, February 12 (or you can mail it in!).
On a final note as February begins, I always remember one of my faculty colleagues back in Berkeley, a New Testament scholar, who absolutely loved Groundhog Day; she used to have big parties and send “holiday” cards. She didn’t seem particularly interested in my yearly reminders that February 2 is actually the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple! Of course we made silly jokes about Jesus poking his head out of the temple and seeing his shadow if winter would be longer. Here at All Saints’ Parish, we will mark and celebrate this Feast of the Church with our weekly service of Evening Prayer this evening. Click HERE for the liturgy leaflet and click HERE for the readings. To join this service on Zoom at 5:30pm (EDT), click HERE, or use meeting I.D. # 821 3414 0821 and passcode # 797197. We also stream this service on our Facebook page (click HERE for that page).