Antioch Episcopal church to hold first baptism on Easter Sunday following merger and under new name of St. Anna’s

St. Anna’s Episcopal congregation with Rev. Jill Honodel (center right, back), in front of the church in Antioch. Photo courtesy of St. Anna’s.

Deaconess Anna Ellison Butler Alexander was born in 1865 to recently freed slaves and died in 1947. She ministered in rural Georgia, focusing on the education of poor black children. Photo: Diocese of Georgia.

Named for denomination’s only African American deaconess

By Allen Payton

St. George’s Episcopal Church in Antioch recently merged with St. Alban’s in Brentwood and together have taken on the new name of St. Anna’s. The congregation is the first Episcopal church in the nation to be named after an African American woman, Anna Ellison Butler Alexander. A daughter of freed slaves, she was also the denomination’s only African American deaconess, serving in Georgia in the early 1900’s. She is a new saint in the Episcopal tradition.

This Sunday the church will hold its first baptism since the merger and renaming.

“We are thrilled to baptize Wynter J’adore Smith on Easter Sunday,” said Rev. Honodel. “Not only is she related to Betty Smith, one of the members of the first board of Saint Anna’s (and the long-time leader of Antioch’s Rivertown Jamboree), Wynter will be the very first person baptized in St. Anna’s Episcopal Church named after Anna Alexander of Pennick, Georgia.”

“We are very excited, and we’ve planned some lively music for the service,” she continued. “We’ll also be reading a sermon from St. Chrysostom an early church Father from the original Antioch in Syria from the 4th century.”

“We are developing our relationship with the people of The Church of the Good Shepherd in Pennick, Georgia, the church founded by Saint Anna,” Honodel shared. “In fact, some of the members were taught to read by her directly during the era of reconstruction immediately following the emancipation proclamation.

Honodel has been invited to attend the renaming of a chapel in Saint Anna’s name at the Diocese of Georgia on May 3rd.

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. Photo: Diocese of Georgia

Anna Alexander will be recognized as a saint of the Episcopal Church in Lessor Feasts and Fastswith which every seminarian and clergyperson in the Episcopal Church is well acquainted.  The book provides the Collects (prayers) and readings specific to the saint of their assigned day (their feast day). Saint Anna’s day is on September 24th.

“We will certainly have a special Feast Day planned for her,” Honodel stated. “We may start the day off with Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing known as the Negro national anthem written in 1900 as a poem by James Weldon Johnson and set to music by his brother John Rosamond Johnson in 1905.”

The church will also have a public, community celebration on July 21st. The public is invited to attend. St. Anna’s Episcopal Church is located at 301 E. 13th Street in Antioch. To learn more about Anna Alexander, click here. For more information about the church visit www.saintannas.org or their Facebook page.

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