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The Liturgical Calendar: The Church Remembers

Today the church remembers James Theodore Holly, Bishop of Haiti, and of the Dominican Republic, 1911.

James Theodore Holly was born in 1829, the son of freed slaves. At age fourteen, his family moved to Brooklyn, New York, where he learned the shoemaking trade. There he become involved with abolitionist efforts. He left the Roman Catholic church, upset by policies toward the ordination of local black priests, to join the Episcopal Church. At age twenty-seven he was ordained priest, serving for a time as rector of St. Luke's in New Haven, Connecticut.

Prior to the Civil War, Holly helped to found the Protestant Episcopal Society for Promoting the Extension of the Church Among Colored People (a precursor to the Union of Black Episcopalians). Without success Holly and others urged the Episcopal Church at its General Convention to take a stand opposing slavery.

Convinced that the United States would never be a fully hospitable place for people of color, he became involved in encouraging emigration. In 1861 Holly led a group of people to Haiti, where he suffered greatly. His mother, wife, two children, and many members of his group were killed by disease. Still, he founded Holy Trinity Church and schools.

He was ordained bishop in 1874 at Grace Church in New York City. Because the Episcopal Church itself would not countenance the ordination of a black missionary bishop, he received episcopal orders through the auspices of the American Church Missionary Society. He was made bishop of the Anglican Orthodox Episcopal Church of Haiti. Recogition came from Canterbury, and Holly attended the Lambeth Conference as an Anglican bishop. He died in Haiti in 1911.

Jesus, our Prince of Peace, we ask you to raise up servants to stand for freedom and justice, and give us courage to heed their cries. Amen.

Read the Wikipedia article here.

Most gracious God, by the calling of your servant James Theodore Holly you gave us our first bishop of African-American heritage. In his quest for life and freedom, he led your people from bondage into a new land and established the Church in Haiti. Grant that, inspired by his testimony, we may overcome our prejudice and honor those whom you call from every family, language, people, and nation; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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