Absalom Jones vs. Catherine Booth

Hey, look! You survived the first round of the Elate Eight and have returned for more Saintly Kitsch. Kudos to you! Yesterday, in a hotly contested battle, Benedict the Moor narrowly defeated Camillus de Lellis 52%to 48% to nail down the first spot in the Faithful Four.

Today Absalom Jones faces Catherine Booth. To get here, Absalom defeated Henriette Delille and Marianne Cope, while Catherine took down Joan of Arc and Constantine. The kitsch keeps coming!

Absalom Jones

When it comes to kitsch on Absalom Jones, keep an open mind and a loving heart for all the renditions of brother Absalom.

You’re likely very familiar with this portrait by Raphaelle Peale, who was the son of Charles Willson Peale, an American painter. W. R. Jones & John Boyd made an engraving this rendition based on Peale’s painting.

You can find Absalom Jones stained glass windows in St. George’s Church in Dayton, Ohio. They explain the symbolism in the window as a reflection of Jones’s rejection of slavery as an American man who achieved many vital firsts in the church and the community. Willet Stained Glass created the window. Forward Movement featured another window from St. George’s on our August, September, October 2020 covers of Forward Day by Day and Adelante Dia a Dia.






This pitcher, created in 1808, includes a silhouette of Jones with Masonic symbols and is believed to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the first African American Masonic order. Co-founded in 1798 by Absalom Jones, he was named First Worshipful Master, and in 1815 he was elected the First Grand Master of the First African Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania.






A blog appropriately named Unrecognized Revolutionaries included a post by then-fifth grader Laila H. with her drawing of Jones. Shout out to that teacher for what looks like an excellent project for those students. When we see images like these and many others I’ve seen, we can celebrate the spirit of the artists’ intention in their portrayals of Jones’ image.

Closest to my heart is this peg doll of Absalom Jones painted by Christopher H. at The Cathedral of Saint James in South Bend, Indiana, as part of their beautiful collection of all of the Lent Madness saints for this year. I’m blown away by this level of commitment and inclusion! Visit their Facebook page to see all the saints and get a glimpse of the diversity represented in God’s holy people.

You can find Absalom Jones t-shirts, icons, and acrylic blocks, but you have Google for that.

--Miriam McKenney

Catherine Booth

Well, hello! Come in, my friend, come in, sit down, make yourself comfortable. I’m sure you’re oh, so tired after your long journey to my door. Settle down, relax, I’ll just hang your coat right here…

Wait, what’s that? I’m curious about your t-shirt. It has a wonderful quotation from Catherine Booth on it, and you might not know this, but I’m quite the fan. “If we are to better the future, we must disturb the present” is indeed one of her better known sayings. But, I have to ask, what will it take for you to disturb the present typeface on that shirt? I’m not saying Comic Sans would be more tasteful, but, you know… well… ok, fine, I am saying it. Perhaps if you want to better the future, you should disturb the typeface, especially before you spend $18.45 on Zazzle.

Here, I’m sure you’d love something to eat, it’s been a long day after all. Catherine Booth, together with her husband, fed the hungry working masses in London – a tradition that continues in the Salvation Army to this day. In her honor, I’ve made you some crumpets and tea, and I’ll serve them on this exquisite Wedgewood Sweet Dish set featuring her visage.  I suspect you might find more of them for $26.99 on eBay. They’re an exquisite pale blue jasper, with “hand applied white bas-relief figures” of both General William Booth and Army Mother Catherine Booth, and I think there’s no better way for us to show admiration for their lives of discipleship then by eating crumpets from a plate with their faces on it.

Wait, what’s that? You say my crumpets are upsetting your stomach? Well, that’s nothing compared to the opposition that Catherine Booth received to her place as a trailblazing woman preaching the gospel, or the general opposition the work of the Salvation Army received. Have I shown you this delicate piece I inherited from my family. It’s a silver-plated locket with… an illustration of an uprising against the work of the Salvation Army? What kind of sick people are my relatives to frame this business? Catherine said the gospel would spur opposition, but I… don’t think she sought it out. I can hardly believe they bought this for $31.65 on Zazzle, taking up to 15% off with discount code ZWEDDINGPLAN.

Wait, you’re heading for the door? You have to leave now? To vote for Catherine in Lent Madness? Very well, then, very well.

Before you go, here, let me give you some reading material as you go. It’s one of my favorite works of fiction, Kindnapped by River Rats: William and Catherine Booth. Jack and Amy come to London searching for their uncle without anything – and “attempting to live on the streets is frightening, dangerous, and an opportunity for the worst elements of the city to take advantage of them” Where can they find safety? Can the General and Catherine Booth be trusted to care for them? I won’t spoil the ending, my friend. But let’s just say that, you won’t be surprised.

--David Sibley

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98 comments on “Absalom Jones vs. Catherine Booth”

  1. When the plague came, the African Church
    Vowed they’d not leave the sick in the lurch:
    Risking illness or worse
    The afflicted they’d nurse.
    (You can find this in online research)

    1. Brave Episcopalian Black priest vs. brave preaching woman - both still relevant and helping and healing for today. Thanks for all your great limericks!

  2. Both such worthy candidates! But I must go with my candidate for The Golden Halo, Absalom Jones! #GoAbsalom

  3. Wow, I'm the second commenter today! Woot woot! And here's a toot for Absalom Jones. On the heels of the original BLM Movement, he quietly rescued his beloved with and then himself from bondage. Oh, that it were so easy today. Although I must say I do love that quote from Catherine. Tough choice, but hey, that's how it is!

  4. I was torn between the two, but reading that Absalom was involved with the Freemasons turned me against him, and I voted Catherine. Besides which, we share a first name!

  5. After just listening to Oliver Twist (on you tube) how can I not honor Catherine Booth.

  6. Oh, my goodness. My biggest voting challenge yet. I voted for both Jones and Booth in the previous rounds. I thought Jones was a shoo-in due to his membership in the Freemasons, as my father and grandfather (and maybe ancestors farther back) were; but then I saw the blue Wedgewood dishes, and my mother was a minor collector and big fan of Wedgewood. (When the candidates are so equal, one does take to the kitsch level to decide.)

    Well. Rather than flip a coin, I'm going with Jones. As a person who fought against such odds to learn to read, to free his wife and himself from enslavement, to work on behalf of other enslaved people, to start a congregation that grew to 500 members in its first year, even to object to segregation in churches, and to stop the slave system while providing aid to many -- he gets my vote today.

    1. PS: as a professional typographer back in the day, I have to say that I love the type on that t-shirt!

  7. Well done, Miriam McKenney, with your tr0lling of the SEC by turning the Forward Day by Day itself into kitsch! Now I want peg dolls of Tim and Scott. But I had to go with Kidnapped by River Rats, and if that wasn't over the top enough, there's Wedgwood! David Sibley blew me away with his inspired, Pulitzer-caliber prose. A+! Drat WordPress that it doesn't support Comic Sans. You WON'T BE SURPRISED that I voted for Catherine Booth.

      1. Thank you, Steven! Love the SEC peg dolls! Someone put a lot of love into that, and it is much appreciated.

      2. I love that George T. Dog is there at Scott's side.

        And I notice that the video comes from the hometown parish of the current Secretary of Transportation.

  8. Two very worthy candidates, indeed, but I will stick with Absalom. I've been to a few Absalom Jones celebrations at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, so I'm sticking with the guy I know best, but have grown to better appreciate Ms. Booth as a result of her place on the quadrant and the opportunity to read about her, both in the blog and the comments section.
    There are no losers here, other than me in my local Lent Madness competition.

  9. Wedgwood versus china:
    Where are the recipes this year? In honor of today's vote, I have found a recipe for southern biscuits, requiring flour (self-rising), shortening/lard, and buttermilk. (Warning: product placement ahead):
    And a recipe for crumpets, requiring a few more ingredients, including yeast, but they look, as Mary Berry would say, "scrummy":

    1. King Arthur Baking also has a wonderful recipe for sourdough crumpets that only takes sourdough starter, sugar, baking soda and salt. These would be lovely served on Wedgewood (placed on a doily I think). I am voting for Catherine.

  10. I voted for Catherine before and she gets my vote again. Feeding the hungry is top of my list.

  11. There is a stained glass window depicting Absalom Jones in Grace Episcopal Church, Vineyard Haven, MA also. It is placed alongside a window honoring Bishop Burgess, first Black Diocesan bishop in US. He and his wife Esther were active in our parish, particularly in their retirement years.

  12. I won't be surprised if Absalom takes this round given the ethno-American bias at play in the responses and the lessons still to be learned from BLM; nevertheless I'm going for Catherine given the international spread of Sally Ann's influence, action and efforts of caring for all in need regardless of race, colour or creed. Guess I'm showing my Canadian bias but hey, loved ALL the kitsch.

  13. Has anyone else decided that the saints at this level are equally tied and is instead of voting by saint voting by the amount of humor found in the kitsch? I love the blogs this round! David Sibley, you get my vote for today; I loved your style. Thank you for the chuckle!

  14. C'mon people - we NEED a Catherine vs. Catherine semi-final!!! What a classic rivalry to compete at such a pressure packed time. #voteCATHERINE!!!!

  15. Oh, Wedgewood crumpet plates! The level of Kitsch has been elevated. Forgive my typos, my pinky fingers are extended. On kitsch alone, my heart says vote for Catherine. But my head tells me Absalom is heading for the Golden Halo. Perhaps the SEC can get some knock-off Catherine Booth crumpet plates for the Lentorium? Big seller potential, no doubt.

    1. I have a lot of folks to research now. I hadn’t heard of all of them. Thanks, Judy!

    2. What beautiful windows, and amazing story of St. Cyprian in Roxbury. Thank you for sharing this jewel.

  16. As a scholar and professor of American religions Absalom always would have had my vote because he's one of my top 3 favorite American religious figures. But as a Daytonian YOU HAVE CAPTURED MY HEART by including the window from St. George's. Yes, fine, capturing the Dayton vote may be a niche opportunity, but I know I have personally gotten at LEAST 4 people in Dayton to become regular voters over the years, so we are small but mighty!

  17. Another tough choice as both are worthy in deeds and kitsch. But I voted for Absalom Jones in hopes of a runoff between him and Benedict the Moor. Now THAT will be interesting!!!

    1. Same! I had to vote Absalom even though I have only good thoughts of the Salvation Army and I fear having to vote between Absalom and Benedict the Moor who I fell n love with this year.

  18. Voted for Absalom because he is my choice for the Golden Halo. Also in today political climate the Catherine quote turned me off.

  19. Both, as always, excellent blogs! Today David’s is particularly clever! ALMOST pulled my vote from Absalom, and both such worthy Saints! This holy season especially tho, #BLM. Plus, as an LGBTQ+, I’m ultimately too ambivalent about the Salvation Army to vote for it. (Even as I do appreciate its co-founder Saint Catherine.)

  20. Usually go for uplifting the women faith leaders, but I am also an African-American Episcopalian. Is this a secret ballot? A vote for other than Absalom Jones might be frowned upon although UBE is a non-endorsing body. My sisters and I vowed this year though to vote for all the Catherines. Yes, one of us is a Catherine. So tough. Masonic pitcher did it for me. How did I not know the lodge history? Fascinating!

  21. I voted for Catherine for the irony that her face is portrayed onWedgwood china. So why isn't her quote embroidered on a cashmere sweater??

  22. I love the write-up of Catherine's kitsch, it made me laugh out loud! But I've chosen Absalom to go all the way to the Golden Halo, so he gets my vote again!

  23. For trivia buffs, here's a bit: Emma Wedgwood, whose grandfather founded Wedgwood pottery, married Charles Darwin. That fact did not affect my vote, but I did enjoy making the connection.

  24. My mind is very much focused today on Saint Oscar Romero of El Salvador on this anniversary of his martyrdom, and with many Salvadorans still fleeing to our border . His picture hangs in our chapel. But with this choice of two saintly champions of equality, I'm sticking with Catherine.

    1. Has Oscar Romero ever been in Lent Madness? If not, SEC, put him in next year, please!

      1. I too thought the type on the tee shirt was intentional and well done. Love Booth. Stayed at the Salvation Army as a child with my mother and siblings during a very hard time. I learned enough Roman Catholic while there to get a spot in the Catholic girls home for the next seven years. Have to love SA for accepting my family even though we were obviously not of their faith.

      2. Yes! He was beatified by Pope Francis in 2018! I think his inclusion is a great idea, Jack.

        1. And Saint Oscar Romero was recognized by The Episcopal Church long before Rome got around to canonizing one of their own.

  25. Choosing between saints is madness indeed, but I truly enjoyed David Sibley's write-up of Catherine Booth.

  26. The chapel in our church, St. Peter's Lewes DE is dedicated to Absalom and the thought is that he was baptized by one of our former rectors since he was born on a near by plantation. We also have an icon to him in our foyer so all feel welcome in our church. Absalom all the way