Readings for Elie Naud (Ellias Neau), Huguenot Witness to the Faith, 7 Sept. 1722
“Hear, O Lord, and have mercy upon me; O Lord, be my helper.” (Psalm 30:11)
The Psalmist’s prayer is perhaps the same kind of prayer Daniel might have prayed in our Daniel reading for Elie Naud today as Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den. Today we remember Elie Naud, an educator of the children of the down trodden. He was a man before his time.
“Elie Naud (also known as Elias Neau) was a French Huguenot (French Reformed) born in 1661. It was an era when French Roman Catholicism was increasingly dominant and the persecution of Protestants was becoming more violent. Naud fled France and landed in England, where he sojourned briefly before settling permanently in New York City.” (Great Cloud of Witnesses for September 7) So from the start Naud was familiar religious persecution. It is always curious to me how a Christian Church can persecute anybody in the Name of Jesus who would rather die than harm.
In New York City, Naud became a member of L’Eglise du Saint-Esprit, a French-speaking parish which eventually joined The Episcopal Church, and later of Trinity Church, Wall Street, where he served for fifteen years as a catechist among slaves and Native Americans, preparing them for baptism.
Naud’s educational efforts were not appreciated by people who blamed the slave riots on the education the slaves received. “Naud founded a school for the children of the poor and for the children of slaves. Upon the recommendation of the Rector of Trinity Church, the Bishop of London, acting for the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (SPG), licensed Naud as a missioner “to slaves and ragged people in the New World.” Naud also worked to influence Parliament for the passage of British laws that would demand Christian instruction for the children of slaves and Native Americans and schools for their education. Only through these means, he believed, could an equal and free society be created. During the New York City slave riot of 1712, Naud remained faithful to his vision despite threats of death from those who believed education of slaves fueled such uprisings.” (Great Cloud of Witnesses for September 7)
During this period we were still a colony of slave holders and thought it was right to do. It is through the thoughtful prayers and insight of people like Elie Naud that the beginning of change was coming. Change always brings opposition. I think the resistance to social change happens because people don’t think deeply about what life is like for those who are disadvantaged by institutional discrimination. We all want an equal chance at success for ourselves and for our children. No one wants to raise children as intentional second class citizens. Naud did God’s work in very bigoted times. I believe we are better now but there is still work to be done.
Let us hear what the Spirit is saying to and through God’s people. John+