Feast of John Gloucester (April 13)   1 comment

Above:  John Gloucester

Image in the Public Domain


JOHN GLOUCESTER, SR. (1776-MAY 2, 1822)

First African-American Presbyterian Minister

The Reverend John Gloucester comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via Samuel Eli Cornish (1795-1858), whom he mentored.  Gloucester’s feast day is April 13, the anniversary of his ordination.

Gloucester, born a slave, became the first ordained African-American Presbyterian minister.  He, born Jack in 1776, was a native of eastern Tennessee.  Jack was devout from a young age; he preached to other slaves.  He married Rhoda, with whom he had four children:  John, Jr.; Jeremiah; Stephen; and Mary.  Presbyterian minister Gideon Blackbury (1772-1838) purchased our saint then freed him in 1806.  Jack became John Gloucester.  Blackburn taught theology to Gloucester, who, in 1806-1807, became the first African-American student at Greeneville College (now Tusculum University, Tusculum, Tennessee).  Our saint, licensed to preach in 1807, traveled with Blackburn to Philadelphia that year.  Gloucester founded the First Colored (African, since 1966) Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia, in 1807.  The Presbytery of Philadelphia sent our saint to Charleston, South Carolina, then recalled him in 1809.  Gloucester’s ordination occurred at Baker’s Creek Presbyterian Church, Maryville, Tennessee, on April 13, 1810.

Gloucester purchased the freedom of his wife and four children in 1810.  He brought them to Philadelphia, where he served as the pastor of the First Colored Presbyterian Church.  The couple had a fourth son, James, born in the City of Brotherly Love.

Gloucester died of pneumonia on May 2, 1822.  He was about 46 years old.

All four sons became Presbyterian ministers.  Three of them founded congregations.

Jeremiah Gloucester founded the Second Colored (later African) Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia, an offshoot of First Colored Presbyterian Church., in 1824.

Stephen Gloucester (1802-1850) became a pioneer of the Underground Railroad in Pennsylvania.  The he withdrew from civil rights activism, after a white mob burned down the edifice of the Second Colored Presbyterian Church in 1842.  In 1844, he led a faction that withdrew from the Second Colored Presbyterian Church and formed the Central Colored Presbyterian Church.  This congregation changed its name to the Lombard Street Central Presbyterian Church.  It has become the Lombard Central Presbyterian Church.

James Gloucester moved to Brooklyn, New York, where he founded the Siloam Presbyterian Church in 1849.

The legacy of John Gloucester, Sr., has continued via many people, some of whom he mentored.


O God, you raised up John Gloucester, Sr., the first ordained African-American Presbyterian minister.

Thank you for his legacy of faithful service to you in the face of systematic and ubiquitous racism.

May we, inspired by his example, resist societal, individual, and institutional bigotry

and proclaim the liberating Gospel of Jesus Christ to those you send to us and to those to whom you send us;

In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Ruth 1:9-18

Psalm 24

Galatians 3:23-29

Matthew 28:16-20





One response to “Feast of John Gloucester (April 13)

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Pingback: Feast of Arthur Tappan, Lewis Tappan, Samuel Eli Cornish, and Theodore S. Wright (November 5) | SUNDRY THOUGHTS

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: