To me one of the best ways to combat racism both in the public view and in my own heart is to remember with reverence and jubilation the accomplishments of men and women of African descent . George Freeman Bragg, Jr. is one of those men who as the grandson of a slave worked with diligence, became a priest of the Church, and worked tirelessly to improve the state of African-Americans both within and outside of the Church. He advocated for voting rights and state supported higher education for African-Americans. Through a weekly newspaper, initially called the Lancet and later The Afro-American Churchman he called attention to the fact that African-Americans were treated as recipients of mission work but were not supported in raising up self-sustaining institutions that would have fostered their presence in the church. He also challenged the policy of his diocese of requiring black men to remain in deacon’s orders for five years or more which was much longer than their white counterparts. He was vehemently challenged the exclusion of African Americans from the church ‘s society for mission work. And, he was instrumental in fostering over twenty priestly vocations in an environment in which black Episcopalians were often left to fend for themselves without the support and resources of the larger church. (from Holy Women, Holy Men)
His ministry is remarkable when one considers that we white Episcopalian’s take for granted the opportunities afforded us by the church. We never give that availability a second thought and we never have to work so hard and so diligently just to have an opportunity to participate. Fr. Bragg’s ministry in aptly described in one of the psalms appointed for the third day of the month, psalm 15, vs 1-4:
1 LORD, who may dwell in you tabernacle?
who may abide upon your holy hill?
2 Whoever leads a blameless life and does what is right,
who speaks the truth from his heart.
3 There is no guile upon his tongue;
he does no evil to his friend;
he does not heap contempt upon his neighbor.
4 In his sight the wicked is rejected,
but he honors those who fear the LORD.
Using the words of the Collect for this feast today we offer thanks for the strength and courage of George Freeman Bragg, who rose from slavery to freedom, documented African-American history, and helped to found the first advocacy group for black people.
Grant that we may recount the story of thy wondrous works in ways that proclaim thy justice in our own time. And, let us never forget the struggle African Americans have had to endure throughout our history. Let us never turn a deaf ear or blind eye to injustice.