Blessed Absalom Jones Offering to Assist Episcopal HBCUs
Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has invited Episcopalians to deepen their participation in Christ’s ministry of reconciliation by dedicating offerings at observances of the Feast of Absalom Jones to support St. Augustine’s University in Raleigh, NC, and Voorhees College in Denmark, SC, the two remaining Episcopal Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).
St. Augustine’s and Voorhees provide an excellent liberal arts education to thousands of students, the vast majority of whom come from low-income households, and over 40% of whom are the first in their families to attend a four-year college. These schools also provide robust campus ministries which both evangelize and form young adults as followers of Jesus and his way of love.
“As we approach February, the remembrance of the Blessed Absalom Jones, the first African-American priest in The Episcopal Church, we have a unique opportunity to celebrate his memory and to honor the witness of two schools that continue to form new leaders,” Presiding Bishop Curry said. “In honor of Jones’ commitment to advancing the education of African Americans and promoting the development of African American leaders in all areas of life, The Episcopal Church is delighted to designate St. Augustine’s University and Voorhees College as the beneficiaries of the 2019 Feast of Absalom Jones offerings.”
The two institutions were founded in the later 19th century as an Episcopal Church missionary venture. “These schools bring educational, economic, and social opportunity to often resource-poor communities, and they offer many blessings into the life of The Episcopal Church,” he said.
Donations will provide much needed help to: offer competitive scholarships and financial aid; attract and retain exceptional faculty; support cutting-edge faculty research; install new and upgraded technology campus-wide; provide state-of-the-art classroom and athletic equipment.
“The Episcopal Church established and made a life-long covenant with these schools, and they are an essential part of the fabric of our shared life,” the Presiding Bishop noted.
HBCUs with Episcopal Roots
Once there were 10 Episcopal HBCUs; however, St. Augustine’s and Voorhees are the only two remaining.
Saint Augustine’s University (SAU) was founded in 1867 by the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina. Located in Raleigh, over 1,000 students pursue Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees at SAU, while adult learners engage in advanced studies in Criminal Justice, Organizational Management, and Religious Studies. The mission of the university is to sustain a learning community in which students can prepare academically, socially, and spiritually for leadership in a complex, diverse, and rapidly changing world.
Voorhees College is a private historically black four-year liberal arts college located in Denmark, SC. Voorhees was founded as the Denmark Industrial School by Elizabeth Evelyn Wright, a young black woman, in 1897. A former student of Booker T. Washington, Miss Wright dreamed the seemingly impossible dream of starting a school for African American youth in rural Bamberg County, SC.
For more information, contact Cecilia Malm, in The Episcopal Church Office of Development.
The Rev. Absalom Jones
Jones is commemorated in The Episcopal Church on February 13. He was an African American abolitionist and clergyman and the first African American ordained a priest in The Episcopal Church. Jones was born enslaved to Abraham Wynkoop in 1746 in Delaware. He moved to Philadelphia after his master sold his plantation along with his mother and six siblings. Jones bought his wife Mary’s freedom, and later, his master granted Jones’ emancipation in 1784.
In 1787, with his friend Richard Allen, they founded the Free African Society, a mutual aid benevolent organization that was the first of its kind organized by and for black people. Bishop William White ordained Jones a deacon in 1795 and a priest on September 21, 1802. Jones faithfully served the people at the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas in Philadelphia, a church which remains a vibrant congregation.
In the featured image: The Rev. Absolom Jones by Raphaelle Peale [Public domain].