Denmark, S.C. – Voorhees University will host its annual Absalom Jones Feast Day celebration, on Tuesday, February 7, at 11:00 a.m. The Reverend Dr. Mark Jefferson, assistant professor of homiletics at Virginia Theological Seminary, will serve as the keynote speaker. An emerging scholar and theologian, Jefferson’s oratorical skills have earned him membership in the prestigious Martin Luther King, Jr. Board of Preachers at Morehouse College.
The Episcopal Church has partnered with Voorhees in recognizing the legacy of Rev. Jones since their affiliation in 1924. This year, the program will feature the Right Reverend Ruth Woodliff-Stanley, as the Celebrant for the occasion. Woodliff-Stanley is the fifteenth bishop of the historic diocese, and the first woman to serve in the role as the bishop of Diocese of South Carolina.
Jones was born into slavery in Sussex County, Delaware in 1746. At the of sixteen, he was sold along with his mother and sister to a farmer. The three were later separated, when their owner sold his mother and sister. Absalom, who was kept moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where he became a merchant.
While enslaved he learned to read and write. Pennsylvania abolished slavery and became a free state in the U.S. allowing Jones to later become a Lay Minister of the interracial congregation of Saint George Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia. Jones became one of the first African Americans licensed to preach by the Methodist Episcopal church. Because of his admiration for bridging a gap between racial discrimination, he became the first African Priest in the Episcopal church.
On January 1, 1808, he delivered one of his anti-slavery sermons, “A Thanksgiving Sermon,” that became famous and published in pamphlet form. After becoming the first black and freed man to be ordained, his oratory skills deemed him to be a pioneer and dominate leader of the world.
For more information about Jones, see: https://episcopalarchives.org/church-awakens/exhibits/show/leadership/clergy/jones