Thursday, February 15, 2007

Thomas Bray

Thomas Bray
Priest and Missionary, 1730
February 15

Isaiah 52:7-10, Luke 10:1-9, Psalm 102:15-22 or Psalm 85:8-13

O God of compassion, you opened the eyes of your servant Thomas Bray to see the
needs of the Church in the New World, and led him to found societies to meet
those needs: Make the Church in this land diligent at all times to propagate the
Gospel among those who have not received it, and to promote the spread of
Christian knowledge; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with
you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Appointed missionary visitor [Commissary] to the Maryland colony, Bray visited
it once, for two-and-a-half months, around 1699. During that visit, he founded
lending libraries and schools, providing for the instruction of children and the
advancement of education. He was concerned for native and African Americans –
the latter Black slaves. Returning to England, he encouraged English clergy to
go to serve in America. He was an early founder of voluntary associations – that
characteristically American social institution later described by another
visitor to these shores, Alexis de Tocqueville – notably the SPCK and SPG both
of which are still going strong. Learning of the plight of prisoners in English
jails he instituted "Beef and Beer" dinners on Sundays in prisons. His proposals
for prison reform included the initial suggestion to Gen. Oglethorpe to
establish a colony for the relief of "honest debtors" – which resulted in the
foundation of Georgia. He seems to have seen missions as a partnership – his
compassionate, pragmatical, and immediate response to human need – what do we
have on hand? – as well as his vocation as evangelist and idea man, prompt for
us the question, how can we respond to the needs of the world in our own day?

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