Absalom Jones, whose feast day is celebrated today, February 13, on the Episcopal Church’s liturgical calendar, was, among many things, a dreamer of ideas and an organizer of action. Born into slavery, he dreamt of freedom and worked to buy his own freedom. He dreamt of serving as an Episcopal priest, and pressured the church’s reluctant hierarchy to ordain him. He dreamt of a church that empowered African-Americans rather than tolerated them in the balcony, and he petitioned church leaders in Philadelphia to allow him to open the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas in 1794.
An activist is sometimes only a re-activist. Reacting to the immediacy of a problem and failing to comprehend underlying causes. A dreamer can sometimes be caught up in a “what-if” world – if only someone did the work of making the dreams come true. But a dreamer-activist is truly something to celebrate.
Here at St. Alban’s on Sunday the choirs are singing an anthem I commissioned several years ago, Light, Love, Life. I wanted the text to reflect the heritage of both my husband (African-American) and me (Indian), and so the composer and I sifted through the writings of Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi, coming up with alternating lines from each. The entire text can be found here: Light, Love, Life-Davison, but one line in particular jumps out at me every time I work on this piece with a choir. A quote from King in which he says, Whatever your life’s work is, do it well. While nothing most of us will do with our lives will ever live up to the accomplishments of Absalom Jones, the goal of doing our life’s work well is a dream worth acting on.
Gary Davison’s Light, Love, Life can be heard here at the 7 minute mark: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EYno2xNhPII