Dear Friends,

This Lent the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire has partnered with the Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire to offer a daily Lenten reflection. Each reflection chronicles the life of an early Black citizen of New Hampshire, helping us uncover what was so often obscured in our founding story. On Tuesday, the reflection and concluding prayer were for Ransom Parker, of Hopkinton.  

I include them here in full, in hopes "we" may be blessed by this fuller story of who "we" are. To find the full list of reflections, click HERE.

Day #12                                              March 19, 2019

RANSOM PARKER  (1806 - 1887)

Hopkinton, NH; Providence RI 

Compiled by Lynn Clark


In the 1820 Federal census of Hopkinton, three names were written in the margin under the heading "Colored People." One of those names was Ransom Parker, who would have been a child at the time.  


His father, Caesar Parker, and other members of his family lived in Mont Vernon, NH. We don't know who Ransom lived with or why he was in Hopkinton, separated from his family. His name doesn't appear in the 1830 census, but there are three young Black men living in different White households in Hopkinton. Parker would have been one of these young men. Young people often were placed in other families to work, but we can't be sure what his relationship to the head of household was. Parker, still listed as a resident of Hopkinton, attended Wesleyan Academy in Wilbraham, MA, in the mid-1830s. This enterprising young man next moved to Providence, RI, where he taught at a school for Black children, married, raised a family, and became a political activist, for temperance, against slavery, to integrate public schools, and secure the vote for Black men. In the early 1840s White male landowners born in the United States were the only Rhode Island residents allowed to vote. Blacks in Rhode Island had their right to vote taken away in 1822, part of a trend to reverse voting gains made by Blacks in some states after the Revolutionary War. A movement to extend voting rights to all White men competed with an equally energetic movement to prevent foreign-born men from voting. Against this backdrop, Black activists, such as Parker, fought to have their voting rights reinstated. In 1842 Rhode Island became one of the few states where Black men could vote. Parker also helped achieve statewide school integration in 1867, after decades of battling. That same year, Parker was ordained an elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, which had been the center of Black activism in Providence. Somehow Parker also managed to find time to add a nursing career to his credits. His daughter, Anna, married Daniel Laing, one of the first Black physicians in the United States. Anna and Daniel moved to Liberia where they worked for the American Colonization Society for a decade. They moved back to the United States when Daniel became ill and Anna ultimately moved back to Providence with their children. Parker's father, Caesar, moved to Rhode Island before he died. A sister, married to a Baptist minister, also lived in Newport, RI. Parker's children and grandchildren lived with or near him. He may have begun his adult life separated from his family, but he ended his life surrounded by his loved ones.


COLLECT: O gracious and loving God, who through your creation made all beings equal: we give thanks for your servant, Ransom Parker, who not only strove to improve his own life, but fought for and helped to improve the lives of others through political action, pastoral commitment, and healing care. In gratitude we pray; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, One God, now and forever. Amen.  

Blessed Ransom, pray with us.

With Remembrance,

Reed

Dear Friends,

This past month I have had the joy of introducing St. Andrew's to Susan and Kim, our new staff members. And really to re-meet Susan, Kim, and Eric alike (and with my deep gratitude) in this "new staff." After a year and a half among you, it has been a great chance to re-introduce myself to St. Andrew's as well, as I tell about our community... The icons of Sandy Strang, the story of two organs, the story of our Memorial Garden magnolia, and peeking again into the attic above the worship space, where there is a cross covered in lightbulbs, and a long-discarded brass altar rail sinking into the insulation and hollow wall cavity.

...Walking into the Atrium like Gulliver among the Lilliputians, to share the joyful discovery that goes on there. Trying to describe Making Your Mark Art Camp, which really has to be seen to be believed. And likewise Family Promise, which is a beautiful hustle and bustle that is best known by sharing a meal or sleeping over, rather than in words alone.  

...Preparing for Holy Week liturgies, which for all their universality, are so particular to each congregation, each space, each layering of customs down through the years.  

It seems to me that after a month of storytelling, I have barely begun to introduce our newest staff members to the fullness of St. Andrew's. And I feel again small myself before the vastness of prayer offered in our church, and before the gallons of sweat (to be frank) given in care of our buildings and property to sustain them as useful, beautiful space. Before the generations of small steps into justice; in a parish built long before the Civil War, so many waves of Suffrage, Desegregation, Gay Rights, and much else that we are, by the grace of God, growing through and into.  

In the spirit of that part of Lent that is about looking out to the horizon, to the cross and then to the empty tomb, my imagination is kindled to imagine what beautiful saint's story will some day be told about our current young ones, or what aesthetic choice we will laugh about in years to come and leave to molder in a sub-basement, or what new light will break out in our liturgy, or what act of justice we will lever our souls into next, in the years to come.  

I do not feel hasty about these things, but just grateful to know they are coming, just as surely as they have come before. Because that's who we are and are becoming. This is what we do and will do.  

What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. The one who plants and the one who waters have a common purpose, and each will receive wages according to the labor of each. For we are God's servants, working together; you are God's field, God's building.
 That's from the Apostle Paul writing to the church in Corinth. Humility, Celebration, expectant Joy, Participation, inextricable Community...I'll take it all, with thanksgiving, this Lent.  

In Peace,

Reed 

Dear Friends,

Each time I walked outside today I had initially to squint my eyes closed; so bright was the sun sparkling from every surface dusted with snow.

I loved it! 

It reminded me of a similar snow last week, and that morning Linden and I were bustling around the house working to get two kids and ourselves fed, dressed and out the door, when Laurel, at just under 3 years old, walked past the clear porch door...and froze, saying, "Ooooo, it's gorgeous. It's gorgeous, Momma. Come and see..."

With an invitation like that, we all gathered around her, staring silently out at a yard blanketed in crystalline panko crumbs.

I felt similarly today, gazing at the soft blanket on every fir and maple, covering all the asphalt, turning lakes into soft fields, and clinging to my shoes in a fuzzy halo. The light was everywhere, even adhering itself to and adorning me as I entered out into it.

Jesus may have known snow, but if so I'm amazed he never used it in a parable. Because surely we here have a vision of the Kingdom of Heaven every time our blanket of light descends from the clouds, unifying every surface and brightening the eyes of every passenger through the landscape.  

In Peace,

Reed 

Dear Friends,  

Yesterday we (the Episcopal Church) celebrated the saint's day of blessed Absolom Jones. Absolom Jones was the first black man ordained a priest by our Church, in 1802.    

Long before that, he began life as a slave in 1746 in Delaware. Undertaking his own education, he purchased the freedom of his wife, and then his own. He served as a lay minister in the Methodist Church, until the day when so many black people had joined the church that the white congregants became upset, and demanded they sit in the balcony. Instead, they walked out, forming the Free African Society. Throughout the next year his city of Philadelphia was by yellow fever, so that there was sometimes no one even to bury the dead. Jones and fellow black citizens gave themselves to care of those in need (at a rate 20 times higher than white volunteers), and Jones himself became sick, but recovered. The year after the epidemic Jones led his congregation as they applied and were accepted for membership in the Episcopal Church, naming the church for St. Thomas. Jones was ordained first a deacon, and years later in 1802, a priest.    

Absolom Jones' story is one I am very proud to recall, as a fellow Episcopalian. He was a person whose courage, and fortitude of dignity, I do not think ever to match, but always to be inspired by. I hope that all Episcopalians, and all people, would be glad to tell his story.   

I must also say that I am unsettled by Absolom Jones' story. Because even in his bodily and spiritual triumph over slavery, he reminds me of the whole great slavery-wound which has been so much more persistent than a bout of yellow fever.    

One thing Absolom Jones knew about was the need to know and respond to reality. He was clear in his vision, and clever, resourceful, and eloquent in his response. I believe that hearing from him directly, across the centuries, saves me from hero worship, and allows me to better know the context of his courage; better celebrate Jones with honesty.   

Therefore I offer here some stirring, eloquent words from his 1808 sermon on the occasion of the abolition of the African slave trade by the US Congress. If you wish, perhaps read them, and join yourself a little more fully to this great saint, and to the reality of our land, where we give ourselves to the work of healing today.    

The history of the world shows us, that the deliverance of the children of Israel from their bondage, is not the only instance, in which it has pleased God to appear in behalf of oppressed and distressed nations, as the deliverer of the innocent, and of those who call upon his name. He is as unchangeable in his nature and character, as he is in his wisdom and power. The great and blessed event, which we have this day met to celebrate, is a striking proof, that the God of heaven and earth is the same, yesterday, and to-day, and for ever. Yes, my brethren, the nations from which most of us have descended, and the country in which some of us were born, have been visited by the tender mercy of the Common Father of the human race. He has seen the affliction of our countrymen, with an eye of pity. He has seen the wicked arts, by which wars have been fomented among the different tribes of the Africans, in order to procure captives, for the purpose of selling them for slaves. He has seen ships fitted out from different ports in Europe and America, and freighted with trinkets to be exchanged for the bodies and souls of men. He has seen the anguish which has taken place, when parents have been torn from their children, and children from their parents, and conveyed, with their hands and feet bound in fetters, on board of ships prepared to receive them. He has seen them thrust in crowds into the holds of those ships, where many of them have perished from the want of air. He has seen such of them as have escaped from that noxious place of confinement, leap into the ocean; with a faint hope of swimming back to their native shore, or a determination to seek early retreat from their impending misery, in a watery grave. He has seen them exposed for sale, like horses and cattle, upon the wharves; or, like bales of goods, in warehouses of West India and American sea ports. He has seen the pangs of separation between members of the same family. He has seen them driven into the sugar; the rice, and the tobacco fields, and compelled to work--in spite of the habits of ease which they derived from the natural fertility of their own country in the open air, beneath a burning sun, with scarcely as much clothing upon them as modesty required. He has seen them faint beneath the pressure of their labours. He has seen them return to their smoky huts in the evening, with nothing to satisfy their hunger but a scanty allowance of roots; and these, cultivated for themselves, on that day only, which God ordained as a day of rest for man and beast. He has seen the neglect with which their masters have treated their immortal souls; not only in withholding religious instruction from them, but, in some instances, depriving them of access to the means of obtaining it. He has seen all the different modes of torture, by means of the whip, the screw, the pincers, and the red hot iron, which have been exercised upon their bodies, by inhuman overseers: overseers, did I say? Yes: but not by these only. Our God has seen masters and mistresses, educated in fashionable life, sometimes take the instruments of torture into their own hands, and, deaf to the cries and shrieks of their agonizing slaves, exceed even their overseers in cruelty. Inhuman wretches! though You have been deaf to their cries and shrieks, they have been heard in Heaven. The ears of Jehovah have been constantly open to them: He has heard the prayers that have ascended from the hearts of his people; and he has, as in the case of his ancient and chosen people the Jews, come down to deliver our suffering country-men from the hands of their oppressors.    We celebrate Absolom Jones on Feb. 13th, the last day of his earthly life, because it was also the first day of his eternal life. He is living still. May his spirit strengthen us in Christian friendship, and for continued healing as God comes down to deliver still. Blessed Absolom, pray with us.     
In Peace,

Reed