Adult Education Series: Absalom Jones & William Douglass

Our focus in the next few weeks will be a series of sermons from African-American leaders in the Episcopal Church.

Absalom Jones and William Douglass were the first two rectors of the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas in Philadelphia. Jones established the church in 1792 after splitting from a Methodist Church and was ordained priest by William White, the Presiding Bishop.

The sermons are available online at and, and also available in the book of sermons published by Seminary Street Press, “Absalom Jones & William Douglass: Early Sermons from the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas, Philadelphia,”

Feb. 13th: This Sunday marks the day when the Episcopal Church commemorates Jones in its calendar. We will begin by reading Jones’s “Thanksgiving Sermon.” The sermon gives thanks for the passing of the ‘Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves’ in 1807 in the United States that took effect on January 1, 1808 and a similar law in the United Kingdom, ‘An Act for the Abolition of the Slave Trade’ which received Royal Assent on March 25, 1807.

Feb. 20th: Last week we began discussing the famous Thanksgiving Sermon of Absalom Jones. Our time this Sunday will begin by looking again at that sermon before moving on to sermons preached by Jones’s successor William Douglass. Our focus will be on the first two sermons, ‘The God of Hope’ and ‘Peace in Christ.’ These two sermons give us a window into the spiritual life of the congregation at that time.

Feb. 27th: Our reading of sermons from the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas in Philadelphia continues this week. We will look at sermons III and IV by William Douglass. Sermon III picks up on a few verses from 1 John about the ‘well-beloved Gaius’ and the way of life he pursued that allowed his soul to prosper. Sermon IV takes up the weighty matter of the practices of mutual forbearance and forgiveness within the church. Douglass picks through the difficult terrain of how we forgive each other and how we cultivate a spirit of forgiveness.

Mar. 6th: This week, we will consider sermons 5 and 6 which examine the concept of Grieving the Holy Spirit as well as God’s power, justice, and mercy. In particular, we will review Douglass’ examples of these things that may be observed in our lives and consider the continued applicability even more than 150 years later.

Mar. 13th: Our sermons from William Douglass this week focus on the need for wisdom and the pursuit of our own peace. Especially in sermon VIII, we see Douglass’s ability to set practical matters of our life in conversation with theological doctrine. What does our relationship to eternity mean for our own time? Douglass gives sermon VIII during a time of cholera and turns to a sense of God’s eternity as a source of comfort during a time of great illness. I am sure that Douglass’s reflections will provide ample opportunity for our discussion with him and with each other.

Mar. 20th: We are now coming close to the end of our sermons from William Douglass. Appropriately the focus of these sermons is on time and the fact that everything must come to an end. Douglass draws connections between our current life and the life to come. Is he just offering us a little consolation for our earthly suffering or something more? These sermons will give us an opportunity to discuss how our present life relates to a life beyond death and to the eternal God.

Mar. 27th: Our time with William Douglass comes to an end this week with the last two sermons in our book. We are fittingly taking up two different themes in these sermons: repentance and death. Douglass explores the dynamics of drawing close to God when we seem distant from God in sermon XI. What is required of us in this repair of our relationship with God? And, finally, the last sermon in this collection is a funeral sermon for Rev. Peter Williams. While looking to Rev. Williams life, the sermon also explores what it is for the faithful to pass away.

Sunday mornings at 9:15, you can access our meeting by any of the following methods:

1. Click here –


2. Go to, click “Join Meeting” & enter Meeting ID: 912 9783 7526


3. On your cell, call (312) 626-6799 and enter Meeting ID 912 9783 7526#

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