James Theodore Holly was born a free African-American in D.C. in 1829. He became an Episcopal priest in 1856, serving as rector in New Haven. In 1861, he resigned to take a group of African-Americans to settle in Haiti. His wife, mother, and two children died the first year. But Holly stayed on with two small sons, believing God was with him. In 1874, Holly was consecrated as first bishop of Haiti, and the first black man raised to the office of bishop in the Episcopal Church. During his tenure as bishop, he doubled the size of the diocese, established medical clinics, and took over the Diocese of the Dominican Republic in 1897. He died in 1911.
In looking at the dates, Holly went to Haiti at the beginning of the Civil War in the U.S. What a dramatic move; and then what a dramatic experience in Haiti! Holly must have heard these words from Jesus in a unique way: “Do you not say, ‘Four months more, then comes the harvest?’ But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting.” Holly could have waited until the war was over; he could have bailed when so many in his family died; but he heard the urgency of Jesus’ call, he heard the demand to act now, no matter what.
I think too often we are afraid, paralyzed by fear or some strange sense that certain things have to be in place before we act (four more months, then we will act). Just hearing our Lenten speaker from St. John’s talk about their church’s garden confirmed this truth. Instead of months of planning, gathering data, negotiating opinions, he just jumped. They fought a lot, people had to chip in to make it work, and they made mistakes. But they also had a harvest to feed the poor, right here in Huntington.
As individuals, I wonder what work we are hindering because of our fears or concerns about propriety? As a community, I wonder what work we are hindering because of our fears or concerns about propriety? Our text and Holly’s witness encourage us to let go of our fears and anxieties and jump into the harvest. Jesus reminds us that God has already sown the field, and has invited us to jump into the work God is doing. We are the only ones in our way. Our invitation is to jump. Amen.