April 2, 2019 by Rosalind Hughes
A new congregation, formed out of the merger of two churches in the Diocese of California, has been named after one of the newest saints on the Episcopal calendar. St Anna’s Episcopal Church is the first to be named after an African American woman, according to the Episcopal News Service, having chosen its name for Anna E.B. Alexander, the first and only African American Deaconess to serve in the Episcopal Church.
On the Diocese of California’s website, from St Anna’s press release :
Anna Ellison Butler Alexander is a new saint in the Episcopal tradition whose Feast Day is on September 24th and will be included in the next edition of Lesser Feasts and Fasts. She came to the attention of St. George’s, Antioch, and St. Alban’s, Brentwood, during last year’s Lent Madness, Forward Movement’s version of March Madness with saints “competing” in the brackets. St. Anna “won” the Golden Halo, six months before General Convention reaffirmed her sainthood in July. Born shortly after the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, Anna Alexander devoted her life to the service of others by providing much needed education and literacy to the children of those formerly enslaved. Despite the segregation of the Episcopal Church at the time, she became the first African American Deaconess in the Episcopal Church.
The new congregation has parishioners who hail directly from Uganda, Liberia, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, The Philippines, Korea, Mexico, Canada, Holland, Lebanon, Sierra Leone, Bermuda and Ghana among others. The Rev. Jill Honodel, Long-Term Supply Priest said, “We were so inspired by Anna’s story of the pouring out her life for the sake of those formerly enslaved; despite having little resources she managed over time to build a school as well as a church to help people succeed through literacy. Educational segregation exists right here in our neighborhood in that only 9% of the African American boys pass their math through high school. We are inspired by St. Anna to do our part so that as many people as possible have a chance to succeed and the opportunity for a good future.” When parishioner Betty Smith saw the saint’s photo on the front cover of Sunday’s bulletin, she said, “It was good to come to church this morning and to see a saint of the church that looks like me. I’m really thankful that God has given this to me in my time.”…
… The new Senior Warden of St. Anna’s, Michelle Price, summarizes the sentiments of the congregation by saying, “I’m elated that we are finally St. Anna’s Episcopal Church. I was so inspired by her story in Lent Madness. She models what I feel is true Christianity: her quiet faithfulness and being a teacher, a champion for literacy and education, which is something I feel very passionately about. I took away from Lent Madness her being a saint as something I could emulate in my own life. Some of the saints do things that are so huge and so dynamic and here’s this humble, small woman in Pennick, that just quietly changed people’s lives one student at a time and depopulated the area and brought them to a new life where otherwise they would have been left behind so she is truly an inspiration to me. Hopefully our church will model the same through our resource center by hosting literacy programs, after school programs and math programs.”
Read more about St Anna’s Episcopal Church, Antioch, at the Diocese of California website and the Episcopal News Service, and find out more about Deaconess Anna Alexander via Lent Madness and the Diocese of South Georgia.
Pictured: Deaconess Anna E.B. Alexander is shown with a group of her students in front of the Good Shepherd School which she founded in Pennick, Georgia. Via Diocese of South Georgia