> Commemoration: Thomas Bray

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Tuesday February 15, 2022 All Day
Annually on February 15

Thomas Bray,

Priest and Missionary,

d. 15 February 1730


Prayer:

O God of compassion, who 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.




From Holy Women, Holy Men:

In 1696, Thomas Bray, an English country parson, was invited by

the Bishop of London to be responsible for the oversight of Church

work in the colony of Maryland. Three years later, as the Bishop’s

Commissary, he sailed to America for his first, and only, visitation.

Though he spent only two and a half months in Maryland, Bray was

deeply concerned about the neglected state of the American churches,

and the great need for the education of clergymen, lay people, and

children. At a general visitation of the clergy at Annapolis, before

his return to England, he emphasized the need for the instruction

of children, and insisted that no clergyman be given a charge unless

he had a good report from the ship he came over in, “whether ...

he gave no matter of scandal, and whether he did constantly read

prayers twice a day and catechize and preach on Sundays, which,

notwithstanding the common excuses, I know can be done by a

minister of any zeal for religion.” His understanding of, and concern

for, Native Americans and Blacks were far ahead of his time. He

founded thirty-nine lending libraries in America, as well as numerous

schools. He raised money for missionary work and influenced young

English priests to go to America.


Bray tried hard to have a bishop consecrated for America, but failed.

His greatest contributions were the founding of the Society for

Promoting Christian Knowledge and the Society for the Propagation

of the Gospel, both of which are still effectively in operation after two

and a half centuries of work all over the world.


From 1706 to 1730, Bray was the rector of St. Botolph Without,

Aldgate, London, where, until his death at the age of 72, he served

with energy and devotion, while continuing his efforts on behalf of

Black slaves in America, and in the founding of parochial libraries.


When the deplorable condition of English prisons was brought to

Bray’s attention, he set to work to influence public opinion and

to raise funds to alleviate the misery of the inmates. He organized

Sunday “Beef and Beer” dinners in prisons, and advanced proposals

for prison reform. It was Thomas Bray who first suggested to General

Oglethorpe the idea of founding a humanitarian colony for the relief

of honest debtors, but he died before the Georgia colony became a

reality.


Source: Holy Women, Holy Men (p. 224): https://diobeth.typepad.com/files/holy-women-holy-men.pdf


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