CAMBRIDGE, MA, January 11, 2013—On Monday, February 11, 2013, the Reverend Kimberly S. Jackson will deliver the sermon at the Absalom Jones Eucharist at Episcopal Divinity School. Absalom Jones was the first African American ordained as a priest in the Episcopal Church, in Philadelphia in 1804.
Jackson is the Episcopal chaplain for the Absalom Jones Episcopal Center and Chapel at the Atlanta University Center, which serves the students and faculty of four historically black colleges and universities—Clark Atlanta, Morehouse, Morris Brown and Spelman. A recent recipient of the Hugh White Award from the Episcopal Network for Economic Justice, Jackson is actively involved in local efforts to bring fair wages to workers in the community. Alongside members of the Georgians for an Alternative to the Death Penalty, she also works tirelessly to help bring an end to capital punishment.
The Absalom Jones Eucharist is also part of a larger celebration of the Absalom Jones Scholarship established twenty-five years ago at EDS to support African American students seeking ordination in the Episcopal Church. The celebration will also include recognizing past scholarship recipients as well as welcoming applicants to campus who are on campus for a special Absalom Jones Visiting Day.
The service will take place at Saint John's Memorial Chapel on the EDS campus at 12:15pm on February 11, 2013.
Jackson took a few minutes to answer our questions about Absalom Jones, her own practices to stay spiritually centered in a busy world, and on her upcoming trip to EDS.
Q: What inspires you about the life and ministry of Absalom Jones and what can we learn from his example?
There is much that we can learn from the life and ministry of Absalom Jones. Absalom Jones demanded that the Church be the Church. Clear about God’s call on his life, Absalom Jones urged the Episcopal Church to heed that call from God as well. He did so with patience and tenacity. He found allies in the white community and built relationships across difference. Despite being in the midst of the struggle for ordination (he spent nine years as a deacon!), he maintained the priority of ministering to his congregation.
I hope that we will be people who serve with patience and tenacity. I pray that we build relationships across differences and may we always be mindful of our commitments to minister to God’s people. But most importantly, let us demand that the Church be the Church. Let us say, “No!” to bigotry, racism, classism, and other sins that keep the Church from being the Church.
Q: How do you stay connected to the sacred in your busy life?
My spouse and I provide care for two beautiful goats and four rambunctious hens in our urban Atlanta backyard. Each morning when it’s my turn to go out to feed the “girls,” there’s something deep within my spirit that gets renewed and made light. I often go through the morning routine in complete silence: feeding, cleaning, petting, and gathering eggs without uttering a sound. It’s a time of peace and grace for me, a time of communing with nature and the Creator.
I also stay connected to the sacred by finding sanctuary in an old warehouse that now serves as a gym. It’s loud and dirty, yet a space in which the Holy resides. In that space, I lift heavy weights and push my body to the point of shear exhaustion. In my sweating and fatigue, despondency looms, but the Holy Spirit always breaks in and fills me with a sense of strength and hopefulness. I carry that reassurance with me throughout the day as I encounter difficult situations and heartbreaking stories.
Q: What are you most looking forward to about coming to EDS?
I look forward to meeting new colleagues—women and men who are being formed by a place that recognizes the importance of working towards justice and peace in the world.
Learn more about Absalom Jones Celebration. Register for this free event.