One of the great moments in 11-year-old Arri Davila’s life was hearing prayers of thanksgiving for the beauty of dreadlocks – hair like hers – at St. Ambrose Episcopal Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. “They were talking about blessing people with locks, and me and my sister were really happy. It was very comforting because when we are at my mom’s church, we are the only two brown-skinned people there,” Davila told Episcopal News Service recently.
St. Ambrose, a historically Black congregation founded in 1868 on the city’s southeast side, intentionally incorporates Afrocentric icons and art, lively jazz-inspired music and inclusive prayers. The church also gives permanent recognition – even on needlepoint kneelers – to Raleigh native Anna Julia Cooper, the Rev. Pauli Murray, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and other Black Americans who are commemorated in The Episcopal Church’s calendar of saints, as a way to “disrupt,” or separate, Christianity from a legacy of white supremacy, said the Rev. Jemonde Taylor, rector.
The Rev. Pat McCaughan is a correspondent for Episcopal News Service. She is based in Los Angeles, California.