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At first, many Black Loyalists were attracted to the religion of the white establishment, the Anglicans. By joining the faith of the most powerful elements in society such as the landowners and proper British men, the blacks felt that their place in society would be assured. Religion was one way that white masters held themselves apart from black slaves. Freedom, respectability, and Christianity all seemed to be linked together. In the first years in Nova Scotia, hundreds of blacks were baptized as Anglicans.

The reality of the situation was somewhat different. From the start, the Anglicans treated the free blacks as second class worshipers. Blacks were relegated to separate pews in the back of the church or on balconies, and if the churches were very full, as in Halifax, they were excluded entirely. There, Rector John Breynton encouraged the black Anglicans to form their own congregations, attended to by semiliterate lay preachers who would lead prayers and read from the Bible. This innovation spread, and in most communities the blacks were eventually completely excluded from white Anglican churches, by social convention and expensive pew fees if not by official rules.

This sort of discrimination encouraged many blacks who had initially been baptized into the Anglican church to join dissenting sects like the Baptists and Methodists. Some of the remaining black Anglican congregations were decidedly unconventional. In Brindley Town, Bishop Inglis was shocked to discover a lay preacher named Joseph Leonard performing baptisms, marriage, and communion. When Inglis confronted him, he showed no guilt, but only expressed his desire to be ordained as a minister. Inglis rejected him on the spot.

At the same time, the Anglicans were probably the most generous of the various charities that supported the poorest Black Loyalists. Through the Bray Associates and the Society for the Propagation of the Gospels (SPG), the Anglicans funded several black schools and fed and clothed many people who probably otherwise would have starved. Of course schoolteachers, the best job a literate black man could hope to find under the circumstances, were almost always Anglicans. Dissenters were fired or ordered to fall into line. And in general an Anglican could expect a better chance of relief than members of other religions.

Nearly all of the prominent black Anglicans were both schoolteachers and lay preachers. Their names include Stephen Blucke, Thomas Brownspriggs, Isiah Limerick, and Joseph Leonard.

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Lawrence Bruce photograph adapted by Jason Buchanan
Anglican Cathedral

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Joseph Leonard

Isiah Limerick

Thomas Brownspriggs

Stephen Blucke