May 15, 2009

John Jay

Diplomat, Judge, and Church Leader

May 17, 1829

Everliving God, we give thee thanks for the witness and work of John Jay, called by thee to service in his nation and thy Church: We beseech thee to give us a like spirit of devotion to the causes of justice, freedom, and peace, and the wisdom and will to give ourselves in thy service; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with thee and the Holy Spirit, livest and reignest, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Everliving God, we give you thanks for the witness and work of John Jay, whom you called to service in his nation and your Church: Give us a like spirit of devotion to the causes of justice, freedom, and peace, and the wisdom and will to give ourselves in your service; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit, live and reign, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Preface of Baptism

Zechariah 8:1-8
The word of the LORD of hosts came to me, saying: Thus says the LORD of hosts: I am jealous for Zion with great jealousy, and I am jealous for her with great wrath. Thus says the LORD: I will return to Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem; Jerusalem shall be called the faithful city, and the mountain of the LORD of hosts shall be called the holy mountain. Thus says the LORD of hosts: Old men and old women shall again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with staff in hand because of their great age. And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in its streets. Thus says the LORD of hosts: Even though it seems impossible to the remnant of this people in these days, should it also seem impossible to me, says the LORD of hosts? Thus says the LORD of hosts: I will save my people from the east country and from the west country; and I will bring them to live in Jerusalem. They shall be my people and I will be their God, in faithfulness and in righteousness.

Psalm 119:9-16
How shall a young man cleanse his way? *
     By keeping to your words.

With my whole heart I seek you; *
     let me not stray from your commandments.

I treasure your promise in my heart, *
     that I may not sin against you.

Blessed are you, O Lord; *
     instruct me in your statutes.

With my lips will I recite *
     all the judgments of your mouth.

I have taken greater delight in the way of your decrees *
     than in all manner of riches.

I will meditate on your commandments *
     and give attention to your ways.

My delight is in your statutes; *
     I will not forget your word.

Luke 10:25-37
Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.” But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

John Jay (1745-1829) was a major figure in the early days of American politics, serving on numerous diplomatic missions, and as the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. He moved New York’s adoption of the Declaration of Independence at a meeting held July 9, 1776, in White Plains.

Jay was not only pivotal in the creation of this nation, and the peaceful settlement of the Revolution, but in the early constitution of the Episcopal Church. He supported Bishop Provoost of New York, and was a close friend of the first Presiding Bishop William White, who was chaplain to the Continental Congress that Jay headed as President. As a deputy to the first General Conventions he influenced the development of the church’s political structure in a way that won the approval of the Church of England, and personally paved the way for Canterbury’s consecration of the post-Seabury generation of bishops. He was also one of the charter members of the Episcopal Church’s first corporate effort: Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, founded in 1821.

Jay was a man of high moral principles, and as the church is called to examine the history of slavery, it is important to note Jay’s early role in ending it, from as early as 1777. He was a founder (in 1785) of the New York State Society for Promoting the Manumission of Slaves, and the African Free School for their education. Jay was a major voice in the debates that eventually led to the phased abolition of slavery in New York State beginning in 1799, with the passage of an Act he was able to sign as Governor. Years later, in 1854, journalist Horace Greely noted that “no one could take more credit for ending slavery in New York state than Chief Justice Jay.”

It is true that Jay had his faults and was no stranger to controversy. He tangled with Bishop Hobart over the relative merits of denominational versus free Bible societies — and to prove his point was a founding member of the American Bible Society, and for a time served as its President. And unlike the more idealistic abolitionists of the next generation (including his son William), although Jay eventually freed all slaves in his possession, he defended the gradual approach on the pragmatic grounds that liberation without education and skills was of no service to the one set free.

Jay was a graduate of Kings College (now Columbia University), a warden of Trinity Church in Manhattan, and a founding member and senior warden of St Matthew’s, Bedford, New York It is altogether fitting to commemorate the life of this servant of Christ, an exemplar of lay ministry in his tireless work for justice, freedom and peace.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

Scripture is from the NRSV, the Paslm from the BCP.


Vicki McGrath said...


Thanks for this. I never knew all of these details about Jay. And this is an interesting connection to St. Matthew's. I grew up in a neighboring parish (St. Stephen's, Armonk).

Makes one proud to be a native New Yorker.


Jane R said...

Thank you, Tobias. A lot of things I didn't know about Jay.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Thanks, Vicki and Jane. There's even much more about Jay, but I wanted to keep this limited to highlights. The dioceses of NY and NJ are supporting adding a commemoration to the Calendar at GC. We'd noted that there are no US lay men on it apart from seminarian Jonathan Daniels. Surely a church that keeps encouraging the ministry of the laity ought to highlight it in such an exemplary character. The church still seems to subtly encourage that the best way to serve is through ordination....