Blessed Deaconess Alexander Honored by Episcopal Church

The General Convention voted to add Deaconess Alexander of Georgia to Holy Women, Holy Men.

Today, the General Convention of the Episcopal Church added Deaconess Anna Ellison Butler Alexander (1865-1947) recognizing her as a faithful witness of our faith in Christ by including her in Holy Women, Holy Men. Her feast day will be September 24.

Anna Alexander was born to recently emancipated slaves on Butler Plantation in MacIntosh County, Georgia. She became the only African American set aside in the order of deaconess in The Episcopal Church. Deaconess Alexander labored long and hard for the education of poor blacks in Georgia’s Glynn and MacIntosh Counties. She helped establish Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in Pennick, which is west of Brunswick, Georgia. She also established and helped run the St. Cyprian’s School at St. Cyprian’s Church, Darien.

She taught children to read—by tradition, from the Book of Common Prayer and the Bible—in a one-room schoolhouse. The school was later expanded to two rooms with a loft where Anna lived. She ministered in Pennick for 53 years, leaving a legacy of love and devotion still felt in Glynn County. Deaconess Alexander served in difficult times, however. The diocese segregated her congregations in 1907 and African-American congregations were not invited to another diocesan convention until 1947. Similarly, it was only in the 1950s that a woman set aside as a deaconess was recognized as being in deacon’s orders. However, her witness—wearing the distinctive dress of a deaconess, traveling by foot from Brunswick through Darien to Pennick, showing care and love for all whom she met—represents the best in Christian witness.

The propers for celebrating this feast day are online here: Deaconess Alexander Propers.


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