On Monday, February 13, St. Paul’s will celebrate the life and witness of abolitionist Absalom Jones in a service of Evening Prayer at 7:30 pm, sung by St. Paul’s Chamber Choir.
The service is part of the Holy Women, Holy Men series, which explores the spiritual life of a diverse group of saints, as well as major church feasts.
About Absalom Jones (1746-1818)
Born a slave, Jones taught himself to read using the Bible. With pay earned working at a school he bought his wife’s freedom, later at age 38 his own. He and lifelong friend Richard Allen were among the first African Americans licensed to preach by the Methodist Church, serving St. George’s in Philadelphia.
In 1792, the black members of St. George’s were told that they could no longer join whites on the first floor but sit in the balcony. After completing their prayer, Jones and the church’s many black members walked out. Jones went on to found the first black church in Philadelphia, the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas, and to become the first African-American priest in the Episcopal Church. His friend Allen founded the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church.
Jones helped establish the tradition of anti-slavery sermons on New Year’s Day. He also is remembered for founding with Allen a corps of black Philadelphians who helped nurse the sick and bury the dead — sometimes at their own expense — during a Yellow fever epidemic in 1793.
About the Service
The February 13 service of Evening Prayer will include readings that explore Biblical themes connected with the life and work of Absalom Jones. The music will include spirituals “Steal away to Jesus,” and “Great Day.”
St. Paul’s Chamber Choir also will offer Thomas Tomkins’ “When David heard,” inspired by the final episode in the story of Jones’ biblical namesake.
The choir also will sing Palestrina’s “Super Flumina Babylonis” (By the waters of Babylon) and John Sheppard’s setting of Christ’s Maundy Thursday mandate, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another even as I have loved you.”