Born a slave in Delaware, Absalom Jones became a leader in the struggle by black Americans to gain governance of their religious worship. In 1762, he was moved to Philadelphia where, eventually, he bought his freedom. In Philadelphia, Jones served as a lay preacher at St. George’s Methodist Episcopal Church. His active evangelism greatly increased black membership at St. George’s, alarming the vestry, which secretly decided to segregate black members to an upstairs gallery. During a Sunday service when ushers attempted to move Jones and others upstairs, the black members, indignant, walked out.
In 1787, black Christians established the Free African Society, a service organization for blacks, and elected Jones to its leadership. Thereafter, the Society began to build a church, which applied for membership in the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania. In 1794, the church was admitted as St. Thomas African Episcopal Church. The church grew rapidly and Jones was ordained as deacon and later as priest.
Jones was an earnest preacher, denouncing slavery and warning oppressors to abolish slavery. He preached that, “God acts on behalf of the oppressed ....” In this icon, Jones, surrounded by symbols of oppression, cradles a decorated Bible with his left hand and holds his right hand in blessing. Absalom Jones demonstrated persistent faith in God and in his Church as God’s instrument.
(This narrative is printed on the back of Note Cards. A copy is included with each plaque and photo.)
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