“And one was a soldier, and one was a priest, and one was slain by a fierce wild beast”*
Today the Episcopal Church remembers Thomas Bray, Anglican priest and missionary, who died in 1730.
In 1696 Bray, an Oxford professor as well as a priest, was commissioned by the Bishop of London (Henry Compton) to report on the condition of the Church in the colony of Maryland. He spent only ten weeks in the colony, but he radically re-organized and renewed the Church there, providing for the instruction of children and the systematic examination of candidates for pastoral positions. He founded thirty-nine lending libraries and numerous schools. He fought long to get an American bishop consecrated, but failed. He founded two of our church’s most effective missionary organizations, the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge and the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts (now United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel), both still in operation after two and a half centuries.
Back in England, he worked for the reform of prison conditions, and for the establishment of preaching missions to prisoners. He persuaded General Oglethorpe to found an American colony (Georgia) for the settlement of debtors as an alternative to debtors’ prison. Both in Maryland and upon his return to England, he wrote and preached in defense of the rights of enslaved Africans, and of Indians deprived of their land.
O God of compassion, you opened the eyes of your servant Thomas Bray to see the needs of the Church in the New World, and led him to found societies to meet those needs: Make the Church in this land diligent at all times to propagate the Gospel among those who have not received it, and to promote the spread of Christian knowledge; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
So hats off and a toast to the good reverend Bray. He was quite a guy.
*”I sing a song of the saints of God” by Lesbia Scott (1898–1986)