In our Calendar of Saints yesterday we remembered Anna Ellison Butler Alexander, the first African American female Deacon in the Episcopal Church. Anna was born to former slaves in 1865. She was the youngest of eleven children and spent her life and ministry in Georgia.
First employed as a teacher, Anna and her sister Mary started a school in Darien, Georgia affiliated with St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church. Anna also founded a mission in the town of Pennick, forty miles away. She supported the mission financially by taking in sewing and managed to serve in both the school and the mission by making the trip back and forth by boat and on foot!
Anna was “consecrated a Deaconess” in 1907. She continued to teach academic subjects and help her students learn what it meant to live by the teachings of Christ. Even when her diocese split and the new bishop excluded African American churches from ecclesiastical support, her worshipping community did more proportionately to assist needy people than any other church in her diocese.
Anna Alexander continued to serve until well into her final decade, avoiding questions about her age for fear she would be forbidden to work. After a life of service and breaking down barriers for women and people of color, Deaconess Alexander died on September 24, 1947. Almost 70 years later she was added to our calendar of feast days in 2018. Although her faithful witness has only recently been formally recognized by the Episcopal Church, she is an icon of faith; a model in the communion of saints.
If you are interested in learning more about the Diaconate in general and our Deacon and Deacon-in-Training here at Holy Apostles, I hope you will plan to join us this Sunday at our first Adult Forum of the program year. The forum will be held on Zoom after worship and virtual coffee hour, from noon to 12:45. It will be co-led by Deacon Bob Jacobs and Diane Wondisford, who is currently in the Diaconal formation process in the Episcopal Diocese of New York. I look forward to seeing you there and then!