Spirited service set for feast of Episcopal Church's first black priest

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry will preach at Washington National Cathedral

Posted Feb 4, 2016

[Diocese of Washington, Washington National Cathedral press release] The Most Rev. Michael Curry, the first African American presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, will preach at a Washington National Cathedral service commemorating Absalom Jones, the first black Episcopal priest, on Sunday, Feb. 7 at 3 p.m.

Curry, known as a powerful preacher and evangelist, was elected as the Episcopal Church’s presiding bishop in 2015.

The communion service, which will include traditional African American hymns and music of the African diaspora led by Theodicy Jazz Collective, is open to all. The Rt. Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington and interim dean of Washington National Cathedral, will preside. The event will be streamed live on the internet and will be available on demand afterward.

“Absalom Jones was a courageous leader, committed to the abolishment of slavery and racial reconciliation. Two centuries later, God still calls our church and country to that reconciling work.” Budde said. “We’ll celebrate Absalom Jones with all the joy we have in us and at the same time acknowledge that we have much work to do.”

The Episcopal Church’s annual Feast of Absalom Jones commemorates a man who was born into slavery in 1746 in Delaware, worked for eight years to buy his wife’s freedom so that their children would be free, and then labored for another seven years to purchase his own freedom. A gifted lay preacher, Jones led the founding the first black Episcopal church in the United States after his white-led church in Philadelphia insisted on segregation during worship. He was ordained an Episcopal priest in 1804.

Sunday marks Curry’s first return to Washington National Cathedral since he was installed as presiding bishop there in November. The service is co-sponsored by Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church in College Park, Maryland, the Union of Black Episcopalians, and the Episcopal Diocese of Washington. The offering will benefit the Bishop John T. Walker School for Boys, an Episcopal school in southeast Washington D. C. for students from low-income families.  Walker was both the first African American to serve as bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington and as dean of the cathedral.

Washington National Cathedral is a house of prayer for all people called to serve as a spiritual home for the nation. It seeks to be a catalyst for spiritual harmony in our nation, reconciliation among faiths, and compassion in our world. Learn more at www.nationalcathedral.org.

The Episcopal Diocese of Washington includes more than 40,000 Episcopalians in 88 congregations in the District of Columbia and the Maryland counties of Charles, Montgomery, Prince George’s and St. Mary’s. The Episcopal bishop of Washington is the Rt. Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde. Learn more at www.edow.org.