August 3: George Freeman Bragg, Jr., Priest, 1940
August 3, 2010 10 Comments
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About this commemoration
An historian whose work gives us invaluable insight into the early history of African Americans in the Episcopal Church, George Freeman Bragg served for 35 years as the secretary of the Conference for Church Workers Among the Colored People and authored important studies such as A History of the Afro-American Group of The Episcopal Church and Richard Allen and Absalom Jones.
The grandson of a slave, Bragg was born into an Episcopalian family in Warrenton, North Carolina in 1863. As a young man he campaigned for the Readjuster Party in Virginia, which advocated for voting rights and state supported higher education for African- Americans. He was the editor of the influential black weekly paper The Lancet, which he renamed the Afro-American Churchman upon his entrance into divinity school in 1885. Through this paper, Bragg 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.
George Bragg was ordained a deacon in 1887 in Norfolk, Virginia. He challenged the diocese’s policy of requiring black men to remain in deacon’s orders for five or more years, much longer than their white counterparts, and in 1888 he was ordained a priest. He served as the rector of St. James’ First African Church in Baltimore for 49 years, from 1891 until his death in 1940. He helped establish the Maryland Home for Friendless Colored Children, and did not cease in his advocacy for black Episcopalians and their full inclusion in the larger life of the church. He vehemently challenged the exclusion of African Americans from the church’s society for mission work. 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.
Collect of the Day
Almighty God, we thank you 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 tell the story of your wondrous works in ways that proclaim your justice in our own time, to the glory of Jesus Christ; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2 Corinthians 10:3–7
Preface of Baptism
We invite your reflections about this commemoration and its suitability for the official calendar and worship of The Episcopal Church. How did this person’s life witness to the Gospel? How does this person inspire us in Christian life today?
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From Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.