Lent is a season of repentance, renewal, and preparation, and it begins quite soon, on February 14. I am excited to introduce our Lenten theme in 2024: for ALL the saints.
As we move toward our annual observance of the crucifixion and resurrection of our Lord, it helps to have role models who have journeyed this path ahead of us. Since ancient times, the Church has honored those “saints” whose lives represent extraordinary commitment to Christ. Sainthood does not mean perfection, but it does suggest exemplary faith—a Christian life that is patterned after the Baptismal Covenant and is worthy of emulation.
This year, as a parish, the season of Lent offers us the opportunity to learn more about the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) saints recognized in the Anglican tradition as role models for their faithfulness and devotion. Members of StAART (St. Alban’s Anti-racism Team) are working to provide our parish with some very exciting programs for the season ahead. Keep reading below to see all the opportunities to journey with the saints this Lent.
SAINTS IN YOUR INBOX
On Tuesdays in Lent, our community will receive a special e-mail message containing a week’s worth of snapshots of BIPOC saints recognized by the Episcopal Church. Some of these saints will be familiar to you, while others may not be well-known. You are invited to read their brief stories and be inspired by their faithful witness, their prophetic leadership, and in many cases, their courage in facing the evil forces of white supremacy. Each short biographical portrait will be accompanied by a prayer.
SUNDAY SAINTLY SPOTLIGHT
Join us on Sunday mornings from 9:10 a.m. - 10:10 a.m. in the Reflection Room, as we take a deeper dive into the lives of some very special Black saints. The sessions on February 18, February 25, March 10, and March 17 will feature screenings of documentary films, sermons, and interviews, with time for discussion.
February 18 & 25: Pauli Murray, 1910-1985
The Rev. Dr. Pauli Murray was a civil rights activist, a pioneering feminist, a labor organizer, a lawyer, an Episcopal priest, and a poet who contributed immensely to the dismantling of segregation and discrimination in our country. Born Anna Pauline Murray, Pauli chose the gender non-specific Pauli. After growing up in Durham, NC, Murray’s failed attempt to study at the all-white University of North Carolina garnered national attention. In 1965, Murray became the first Black student to receive a JSD degree from Yale Law School. Murray wrote “Jane Crow and the Law: Sex Discrimination and Title VII” and “Roots of the Racial Crisis: Prologue to Policy,” both of which proved profoundly influential in challenging the legal foundations of racial discrimination. Later in life, Murray became the first African-American woman ordained as an Episcopal priest. The U.S. Mint plans to feature Pauli Murray on the quarter in 2024. A line from Murray’s poem “Dark Testament,” describing hope as “a song in a weary throat,” will be inscribed on the coin.
March 3: Journeys
Journeys is a group for adults who enjoy poetry, theological discussion, and diving into the deep topics of life and faith. Journeys typically meets on the first Sunday of each month. March’s gathering will feature poetry by a BIPOC saint – details forthcoming.
March 10: Absalom Jones (1746–1818) and Richard Allen (1760–1831)
The Rev. Absalom Jones and Bishop Richard Allen first met as enslaved men in the fields of Delaware. Later, as free men, Allen and Jones met again in Philadelphia, where they joined the congregation of St. George's Methodist Church. While Jones, Allen, and a number of other Black worshipers knelt in the gallery of St. George's for prayer one Sunday in 1787, white church leaders attempt to pull them off their knees and move them to another part of the church. Offended by the racism of the church, Allen and Jones led the Black members out of St. George's Methodist Church, never to return. They founded the Free African Society, which later joined the Anglican Communion and reorganized as the St. Thomas Episcopal Church of Philadelphia. Jones was ordained to the diaconate in 1795 and to the priesthood in 1805, becoming the first Black priest in the Episcopal Church. Allen remained affiliated with the Methodist church before becoming the founding Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
March 17: Barbara Harris (1930-2020)
The Rt. Rev. Barbara Clementine Harris was the first woman consecrated a bishop in the Anglican Communion. Harris was long active in civil rights issues, participating in Freedom Rides and marches in the 1960s, including the Selma to Montgomery marches. She served as an acolyte in the historic service in which the first eleven women, now known as the Philadelphia Eleven, were ordained priests in the Episcopal Church on July 29, 1974. She was ordained to the priesthood in 1980, then elected suffragan bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, in 1988. Eight thousand people attended the service, which was held at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston, Massachusetts. Amid the controversy of a woman bishop, she was urged to wear a bulletproof vest to her consecration, but she refused. She served in the role of suffragan bishop for 13 years, retiring in 2003.
LENTEN GRIEF GROUP
Some of us are grieving for the saints in our own lives who now dwell with God. Though we trust in the promise of resurrection, their absence is still painful. Others grieve because of different losses, but the sorrow is just as real. While the ache of loss may never fully leave us, the gift of community can help us feel less alone in our grieving.
During the Lenten season, Rev. Carmen will facilitate a 5-week Grief Group on Wednesdays from 5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. in the Reflection Room. The dates are February 21, February 28, March 6, March 13, and March 20. Pre-registration is required, and participants are asked to commit to attending as many of the five sessions as possible. Register HERE by February 18.
This Lent, allow yourself to grieve in community. Then, when Easter Day finally dawns, we will join with ALL the saints who from their labors rest, to proclaim, in a whisper or a shout, “Alleluia. Christ is Risen.”
STATIONS OF THE CROSS ON FRIDAYS AT NOON
We will once again offer Stations of the Cross each Friday in Lent at noon. Because of construction, we will use our new indoor Stations in the nave each Friday rather than the outdoor Prayer Trail this year. Please use street parking when possible and enter the narthex via the doors facing Caldwell Lane. The service will last approximately 15-20 minutes and we will read selections from John Peterson’s book A Walk in Jerusalem each week.
Yours in Christ,