The Episcopal Diocese of Alabama along with the Episcopal Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast are endeavoring to host the inaugural Absalom Jones Feast Day in celebration of the founding of the joint Alabama Chapter of the The Union of Black Episcopalians. Absalom Jones who was ordained in 1818 was the first Black priest ordained in the Episcopal Church. The Union of Black Episcopalians (UBE) stands in the continuing tradition of more than 200 years of Black leadership in the Episcopal Church, and according to Lesser Feasts and Fasts (2006) when certain mainly southern bishops of the Episcopal Church wanted to create a separate missionary district for the pastoral oversight of Black congregations, Alexander Crummell building upon the work of Blessed Absalom created a national convocation to combat this movement. UBE is an outgrowth of that convocation.
According to The Union of Black Episcopalians' website, the Union began "with the establishment of St. Thomas Episcopal Church by Absalom Jones in 1794 in the city of Philadelphia through the election of Barbara Harris as suffragan bishop of Massachusetts, there has always been a strong corps of Black Christians in the Episcopal Church. People like James Holly, Henry Delaney, John Walker, Tollie Caution, Charles Lawrence, Deborah Harmon Hines, and countless others.
Organized in 1968 as the Union of Black Clergy and Laity, the Union is the proud inheritor of the work of these people and earlier organization, the Convocation of Colored Clergy, the Conference of Church Workers Among Colored People, all dedicated to the ministry of Blacks in the Episcopal Church. The name was changed to The Union of Black Episcopalians in 1971. The UBE is a confederation of more than 55 chapters and interest groups throughout the continental United States and the Caribbean. The UBE also has members in Canada, Africa and Latin America." Membership is open to any one, regardless of ethnicity. The only requirement is a commitment to the core mission as stated below.
The Union’s core mission for the 21st Century: To unite the diverse cultures, concerns and gifts of black Episcopalians by providing preparation and encouragement for living the Baptismal Covenant and fully participating in the mission and governance of The Episcopal Church. In this Core Mission, the Alabama Chapter of UBE is welcoming and open to members of different races in our congruent efforts for social justice and change. The Alabama Chapter of The Union of Black Episcopalians’ vision for the 21st Century:
To be a community of vigilance and action regarding matters of injustice and inequity, especially the effects of racism and classism in the Church and society by engaging in social justice education and initiatives to address racial disparity with in the Church;
To create awareness within young men and women of African descent about the clergy vocation;
To promote strong lay leadership among communities of African descent within The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion;
Create a systematic approach of ensuring that Black congregations are sustainable and viable within their vineyards.
It is in this spirit of advocacy, unity, and justice that parishioners from the Diocese of Alabama and the Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast have combined forces to create a joint chapter to be known as The Alexander Crummell Chapter of The Union of Black Episcopalians. It’s mission will mirror that as stated above. It will be headquartered at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Birmingham, Alabama. Among its first activities will be the celebration of the Feast Day of Absalom Jones on Saturday, February 17, 2018 at 5 pm. The event will be held at the Canterbury Chapel Episcopal Church, 812 5th Ave, Tuscaloosa, AL 35401. The sermon for the ceremony will be delivered by the Rt. Rev. Gayle Harris, assistant bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts. The celebrant will be the Rt. Rev. Russell Kendrick, bishop of the Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast. The officiant will be the Rt. Rev. Keith Sloan, bishop of the Diocese of Alabama. Please mark your calendars to attend this seminal event. The first ever celebration of its kind to occur in either of our dioceses.
If you have any questions about either the Absalom Jones celebration or about becoming a member of the St. Alexander Chapter of The Union of Black Episcopalians please contact either The Rev. Tommie Watkins at 305-785-5111 or at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Joe McDaniel, Jr. at 415-225-9066 or at email@example.com.