Black in Time

Men & Boys Day observance honors late St. Agnes’ leader

 

Special to the Miami Herald

Men’s Day in African-American churches recognizes men and boys for their achievements, accomplishments and potential. On Sunday at the historic St. Agnes’ Episcopal Church, 1750 NW Third Ave., the 29th annual Men and Boys Day observance will begin at 10 a.m. The theme for this year’s program is “The Value of Family.” A special tribute will be made remembering the life and times of the Venerable John Edwin Culmer (1891-1963), priest and archdeacon, on the 50th anniversary of his death.

Tall in stature and achievements, Father Culmer was a distinguished religious and civic leader on community, state and national levels. As a child, I remember him standing well over 6 feet with a hearty laugh and ready smile. He was a husband and the father of five.

According to the archives of the Episcopal Church, “As an Episcopal priest, archdeacon, author, and civic leader, Culmer courageously confronted racial injustices in the Church and society. He was an advocate of integration and equality.”

His widow, Leome Scavella Culmer, said, “He was a man who valued family and church.” He was the priest at St. Agnes’ from September 1929 through June 1963. His profile is available at www.episcopalarchives.org.

This year’s speaker, Florida State Sen. Oscar Braynon II, is a fifth-generation member of St. Agnes’ congregation. The senator’s maternal and fraternal fore-parents were Miami pioneers. The Ward-Franks (Jennings) and Braynon families are steadfast examples of honor and courage and important influences in his life. He credits his collective family for support and helping him attain major accomplishments in rapid succession.

Sen. Braynon, one of the youngest politicians ever elected in Miami-Dade County, began his political career as a council member from 2003-08 and vice mayor from 2005-07 in the city of Miami Gardens. He was elected to the House of Representatives, 2008-2011, and then in a special legislative election to the Senate March 1, 2011.

Interviewed by the Tampa Bay Times a day after his election to the Senate, he said, “It seems kind of surreal that a kid who grew up in Miami and played in Rolling Oaks Park is now going to the State Senate.” His profile is available at www.flsenate.gov/Senators/s36.

The presentation of the achievements of the late Father Culmer and the accomplishments of Sen. Braynon are intended to motivate and inspire boys and men in the congregation and throughout the community to reach their potential.

According to Oscar Braynon Sr., proud father of the senator and St. Agnes’ senior warden, “This observance includes all men, biological fathers and surrogate fathers, and it recognizes the role of boys in the life of the church. We will be responsible for the entire church service including readings, ushering and the music. Women are encouraged to come and enjoy the service. The Men and Boys Choir is ready to show the results of many rehearsal hours, and we look forward to hearing my son’s message.”

Along with his father, the senator’s mother, Patricia Jennings Braynon, his wife Melissa and sons Oscar III and Brandon will be in the congregation, too.

The Men’s Day Committee has been planning this special observance for many months with Harold Meadows, chairman; Steven Carroll, co-chairman; and the priest in charge, Denrick Rolle.

St. Agnes’ priest for over 30 years and now retired, the Rev. Canon Richard L. Marquess-Barry, a protégé of Father Culmer, witnessed the growth of the Braynon family. This year’s Men and Boys Day will be a celebration for all, and the tradition continues. The public is invited to attend.

Dorothy Jenkins Fields, Ph.D., is a historian and founder of the Black Archives, History and Research Foundation of South Florida, Inc. Send feedback to djf@bellsouth.net.

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