Harold Lewis to keynote Episcopal Divinity School's 21st Absalom Jones Lecture

January 2, 2008

The Rev. Dr. Harold T. Lewis, rector of Calvary Episcopal Church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, will serve as the keynote speaker on February 13 for Episcopal Divinity School's (EDS) 21st annual Absalom Jones Lecture. He will also serve as preacher at the Eucharist on February 14.

Absalom Jones, the first African American priest ordained in the Episcopal Church, is celebrated in the church on February 13. The 1991 edition of Lesser Feasts and Fasts states that "Absalom Jones was an earnest preacher. He denounced slavery, and warned the oppressors to 'clean their hands of slaves.' To him, God was the Father who always acted on 'behalf of the oppressed and distressed.'"

Jones' legacy is celebrated every year at EDS to help support the Absalom Jones Scholarship Fund. Established in 1986, the fund provides scholarships for African American students attending EDS and preparing for ordination in the Episcopal Church.

"As the author of "Yet With a Steady Beat" and one time staff officer for Black Ministries at the Episcopal Church Center, Dr. Lewis brings both a historical and practical perspective to the significance of Absalom Jones in the 21st Century," said the Rev. Karen Montagno, EDS dean of Student and Community Life.

Lewis, whose lecture will be titled "Absalom Jones: An Icon of Inclusivity," wrote the hymn "Blessed Absalom" (#44 in "Lift Every Voice and Sing, II"). An excerpt follows:

"When settled in Philadelphia, he sought persons in great need, dedicated to empowerment, his own people did he lead. Blessed Absalom, pray that we from All in difference may be freed…

"Blessed Absalom Jones, first priest of African (American) stock within our fold; may we, inspired by your witness raise up priests with hearts of gold! Blessed Absalom, pioneer, prophet. May your story long be told!"

"Absalom Jones was known for his struggle for freedom and subsequent anti-slavery work, being a gentle and compassionate minister, his civic development of the African American Community, and his humanitarianism," explained Montagno. "This is why we continue to recognize such a key figure in the timeline of the Episcopal Church."

Lewis, an author of several publications, has been an overseas missionary in Honduras and in Congo, and served parishes in England, Washington, D.C., New Haven, Connecticut, and his native Brooklyn, New York since being ordained in 1971. From 1983 until 1994, he served on the Presiding Bishop's staff as director of the Office of Black Ministries. A former research fellow at Cambridge University, he has also pursued graduate studies at Catholic University in Washington, the Center for International Documentation in Cuernavaca, Mexico, and St. George's College, Jerusalem. He is also an honorary canon of the Diocese of Bukavu, Congo.

Past lecturers include: the Rev. Alfred Moss, Jr. (1987), the Rt. Rev. Barbara Harris (1989, 1995), the Rev. Canon Ed Rodman (1994), Archbishop Desmond Tutu (2002), the Rt. Rev. Gayle Harris (2004), the Rt. Rev. Michael Curry (2005), and the Rev. Gloria White Hammond (2006).

The lecture and Eucharist will take place in St. John's Memorial Chapel on the Massachusetts seminary campus. Each event will be followed by a reception in the Washburn Lounge. Both are free and open to the public, although reservations are encouraged as seating is limited. The chapel and the library are handicap accessible. For more information or to RSVP for this event, contact Priscilla Burns at [email protected] or call 617-682-1506.

To help support the Absalom Jones Scholarship Fund, visit here, and click on the Donate Now link.

EDS, formed in 1974 with the merger of Philadelphia Divinity School (founded in 1857) and the Episcopal Theological School (founded in 1867), offers doctor of ministry and master's degrees, as well as certificates in theological studies. It is a member of the Boston Theological Institute, a consortium of nine eminent theological schools, seminaries, and departments of religion.

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