Samuel Seabury, the first Bishop of the Episcopal Church, was born in Groton, Connecticut, November 30, 1729. After ordination in England in 1753, he was assigned, as a missionary of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, to Christ Church, New Brunswick, New Jersey. In 1757, he became rector of Grace Church, Jamaica, Long Island, and in 1766 rector of St. Peter’s, Westchester County. During the American Revolution, he remained loyal to the British crown, and served as a chaplain in the British Army. After the Revolution, a secret meeting of Connecticut clergymen in Woodbury on March 25,1783, named Seabury or the Rev. Jeremiah Leaming, whichever would be able or willing, to seek episcopal consecration in England. Leaming declined; Seabury accepted, and sailed for England.
After a year of negotiation, Seabury found it impossible to obtain episcopal orders from the Church of England because, as an American citizen, he could not swear allegiance to the crown. He then turned to the Non-juring (those who did not swear allegiance) bishops of the Episcopal Church in Scotland. On November 14, 1784, in Aberdeen, he was consecrated by the Bishop and the Bishop Coadjutor of Aberdeen and the Bishop of Ross and Caithness, in the presence of a number of the clergy and laity.
On his return home, Seabury was recognized as Bishop of Connecticut in Convocation on August 3, 1785, at Middletown. With Bishop William White, he was active in the organization of the Episcopal Church at the General Convention of 1789. With the support of William Smith of Maryland, William Smith of Rhode Island, William White of Pennsylvania, and Samuel Parker of Boston, Seabury kept his promise, made in concordat with the Scottish bishops, to persuade the American Church to adopt the Scottish form for the celebration of the Holy Eucharist.
In 1790 Seabury became responsible for episcopal oversight of the churches in Rhode Island; and at the General Convention of 1792 he participated in the first consecration of a bishop on American soil, that of John Claggett of Maryland. Seabury died on February 25, 1796, and is buried beneath St. James’ Church, New London.
So….. Seabury, not the most exciting reading and at first I wasn’t even sure why I picked him as the person for this article. But then it occurred to me that we often find ourselves wondering why things happen the way they do and in the wondering, we doubt God’s plan and control of our lives. But here we have a story of a man, who because of political issues, could not be consecrated in England as had been the plan. Instead he went to Scotland and in doing so, agreed to influence the American Episcopal church to use the Scottish form of celebrating the Holy Eucharist, a form still used today. Seabury was probably flustered and frustrated when he had to leave England and abandon his plans there. But God knew what he was doing and God knew where he wanted Samuel Seabury and God knew his plan for the Episcopal Church in the United States. God knew! What a comforting thought to know that in the seemingly random unraveling of our plans, lay the means to put us on a path to accomplishing God’s great plan for our lives. Sometimes we’re lucky enough to look back and understand why we were turned in a different direction, sometimes we’re not that lucky. But the basis of faith is belief that in the turning, God is in control, God knows where we need to be and God knows how He is using us to accomplish His plans for the future!
Eternal God, you blessed your servant Samuel Seabury with the gift of perseverance to renew the Anglican inheritance in North America: Grant that, joined together in unity with our bishops and nourished by your holy Sacraments, we may proclaim the Gospel of redemption with apostolic zeal; through Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Psalm 133 Isaiah 63:7-9 Acts 20:28-32 Matthew 9:35-38