St. John’s Episcopal Church, Our 275th anniversary celebration, honors Black History month,
on February 25th, 2017 at 9 am.
The morning began with a welcome to everyone by our MC. Terrance Green. We had a morning
devotion by Rev. Jim Wheeler and a hearty breakfast prepared by the parishioners.
Our first speaker was Rev. Rowena Kemp, she did a powerpoint presentation on slavery in
Connecticut, especially in the churches. She said half the ministers, lawyers and Government
officials owed slaves. In 1794, Children born in slavery must be freed by law at age 21 years of
age. She showed the differences between slaves in the North and South. The Northern slaves
were allowed to attend church, but had to sit in the back. When they became old or if they
became free, and unable to take care of themselves (even sickness) their former master had to
pay for their care and provide food for them. This kind of provision was not available for
Southern slaves.
In addition Rev. Kemp told of her original research on the first Rector of Trinity, Bridgeport, who
according to oral tradition of her home parish, Trinity/St. Michael’s, Fairfield, was African
American. Her research indicated that this pastor who served from the 1860’s to the early
1900’s in parishes and in two Episcopal seminaries, had clear African American features and
faced some difficulties in his positions, but seemed to “pass as white.
Mr. King, our second speaker spoke about the triangular trade, the meaning of the Amistad, the
abolition of slavery and where it began. He spoke about United States the last to free slaves,
the Underground Railroad, The civil rights movement, where we are now and the sacrifice that
was made by some of the ancestors to educate notable black people we recognized today. He
spoke about the Atonement at Georgetown University on slavery, especially those men and
women who can trace their descendants to any of these slave will be able to attend the
University for free today.
Stephanie Dieudonne read a speech by Dr. Martin Luther King “This will be the day when all of
God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning.”
Peter Stroili, our committee chairperson, spoke about our first minister Ebenezer Dibblee, who
owned slaves. One named Caesar, who got married by Mr. Dibblee to a slave named Candice,
owned by his friend Mr. John Selleck. Peter also touched on a Slave named Jupiter Hammon,
who was owned by one of our church’s parishioner, who went on to become the first North
American Black Poet.
There were exhibits on famous black inventors, writers, doctors, soldiers, government officials
and artist.
The morning ended with thanks to our Mayor David Martin, guest speakers, priests, organizers,
Sandie DiFillipis, our MC: Terrance/Toni Green and a song “ In shady green pastures so rich
and so sweet” by Olive grant. Father Jim Wheeler closed with a Prayer.