New Union of Black Episcopalians Forming

A diocesan chapter of the Union of Black Episcopalians (UBE) will be established soon, according to the Rev. Shannon MacVean-Brown, transition priest at St. John’s Episcopal Church, Speedway, who is leading the effort.

MacVean-Brown, who was active in the UBE chapter in the Diocese of Michigan, said she was eager to join an Indianapolis chapter when she moved to the diocese in 2014, but discovered that a chapter named in honor of the Rev. Tollie Caution had gone out of existence a year or two earlier.

MacVean-Brown and Indira Samuels, a member of Christ Church Cathedral who had also been active in the Diocese of Michigan’s chapter, set to work making phone calls, visiting churches and drumming up interest.

“We’ve got 15 members, and two churches—St. Timothy’s and the cathedral—also have memberships,” MacVean-Brown, who preached at UBE’s Midwest Regional gathering in October, said. “People have expressed an interest in making sure we are focused on education and service: on educating people about the issues and history of the black church, and then also on being a resource to our communities.”

The new chapter, which is set to become an official UBE chapter at the organization’s annual meeting in the Bahamas in July, includes both black members and allies, said MacVean-Brown. “I’ve had several white members of the diocese who asked if UBE was just for black people. They didn’t know what it was, but they wanted to be supportive.”

Bishop Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows joined UBE not long after she was baptized and has been a member since 1991.

“The Union has played a critical role in telling the story of how the African diaspora has shaped the Episcopal Church from its very beginning,” said Baskerville-Burrows, who served on the UBE board as a seminary representative in the late 1990s and has twice been co-dean of the group’s national conference. “As our diocese participates in the work of racial healing and increasing our diversity, the formation of a UBE chapter is good news for all of us.”

The bishop said she will speak about the new chapter at a service commemorating Absalom Jones, the first black Episcopal priest, on Saturday, February 10 at 3 p.m. at Christ Church Cathedral.