Friday E-News | February 9, 2024

by Simon Mainwaring on February 09, 2024

Dear saints,

This Sunday is a celebration of firsts. 

The Rev. Absalom Jones was America's first black priest. Born into slavery in 1746, it was a remarkable life's journey that brought him from that beginning to the priesthood 56 years later. Who is to say the first time it was that Absalom Jones knew that God had a call on his life that the world around was not yet willing to recognize and to honor? How long must he have held onto the hope that was set before him?

Similarly, as we host a screening of the documentary, The Philadelphia Eleven, on Sunday afternoon, I cannot help but wonder at the generations of women who, prior to July 1974, looked up at the altar, and saw a space reserved only for men to serve as priests and yet all the same felt that deep call of God call within as they imagined themselves standing there, right where they belonged. I can recall the priest who formed me as a curate in my first call in the Church of England sharing exactly that experience long before women were ordained to the priesthood. Those remarkable women leaders who stepped forward to help the church stumble forward into its necessary progress made a space so that your daughter and my daughter might see themselves in their place should their hearts so call them there. 

It takes courage to lead that way. I must say that for my own part, as a straight, white, man in a denomination that is still dominated by straight, white, men, I have not had to face what it is like to summon such courage. That is not to say that I have never been brave, or had to be brave in my life—nor is it to say that you have not had to be brave or exercise courage in yours. It is simply to note that sometimes I have found it important for me to sit back once in a while in sheer admiration at how others have lived and led. 

The gift of being the Body of Christ is that the larger story we are all invited to enter into is not one about exceptional people. One of the more striking theological points about Jesus is in fact his ordinariness. That is kind of the point—that God would become ordinary, just like you and me. Instead, the bigger story of being the church, of being God's people, is the one that speaks of how all of us can be brave, how together we can step forward. 

So, I invite you to take inspiration where you find it this weekend. I know I will. 'Tis a gift to belong to such a great cloud of witnesses.


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