St. Cyprian’s to celebrate founding clergy

St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church will mark the 100th anniversary of the death of its founding clergy, the Rev. Peter Williams Cassey, with a celebration of his life and ministry Sunday.


Father Cassey was the Vicar of St. Cyprian’s Church from 1901 until his death in 1917 and was a pioneer in justice, compassion and cultural diversity in his own time.

The celebration will begin at 3 p.m. with a Holy Eucharist.

A friends and family barbecue dinner will follow with music by Lonesome Bert &Peacenix to end the evening.

Cassey, born Oct. 13, 1831, was a fourth generation freed African-American, and his parents, Joseph and Amy Cassey, were prominent abolitionists in Philadelphia.

Cassey received the best classical education available at the time, speaking and fluently reading Greek, Hebrew and Latin. In 1853, he moved to San Francisco, and in the late 1850s, he moved to San José, California, where he formed an abolitionist group to help free slaves.

While in San José, Cassey started St. Philips Academy for African-American, Mexican and Chinese students because no children of color could attend public schools in the area at the time.

He also founded several churches in California, and in 1866, he became the first African-American to be ordained in the Episcopal Church west of the Mississippi River.

In 1880, Cassey moved to North Carolina, and then a few years later to Northeast Florida.

While he was serving other churches in the Jacksonville area, in 1895, he began traveling to St. Augustine to lead services for a growing number of African-Americans worshiping in the Episcopal Church tradition.

In 1900, the present St. Cyprian’s Church was finished and Bishop Edward Gardner Weed appointed Cassey as Vicar.

Cassey lived just a few blocks from the church in the Lincolnville neighborhood until his death on April 16, 1917.

In 2015, the General Convention of the Episcopal Church voted to include Cassey in its liturgical calendar of prominent people to be commemorated.

Founding Clergy Celebration Schedule

3 p.m. Holy Eucharist Celebrating the Rev. Peter Willams Cassey

The Rev. Dorsey Henderson will preside. Bishop Henderson is an assisting bishop in the Diocese of Florida, and a retired Bishop of the Diocese of Upper South Carolina. The Rev. Jerry Drino, Ph.d. will preach. Drino is on the staff of Trinity Cathedral in San José, California, and the coordinator of the Rev. Peter Williams Cassey Project.

4:30 p.m. Gathering on the Commons at St. Cyprian’s

David Nolan, local historian, will speak about Lincolnville during the time that Cassey lived in the neighborhood and served at St. Cyprian’s.

5:30 p.m. Barbecue Chicken Dinner catered by Country Road Provisions

6:30 p.m. Lonesome Bert and Peacenix will perform an Earth Day concert

The public is invited to St. Cyprian’s, located at 37 Lovett St., in the historic Lincolnville neighborhood.

For information, call 829-8828.