The Very Rev. Canon Martini Shaw
Seventeenth Rector (2003 – Present)...


The Very Rev. Canon Martini Shaw Seventeenth Rector (2003 – Present)

is a native of Detroit, Michigan.   He earned two undergraduate degrees from the Wayne State University, one in Psychology and the other in Biological Sciences.

Fr. Shaw earned a Masters of Divinity Degree from the McCormick Theological Seminary (Chicago, Illinois).  Never one to shy away from rigorous challenges, Fr. Shaw also earned a Certificate of Anglican Studies from the Seabury-Western Theological Seminary (Evanston, Illinois) the same year.  He later went on to earn the Doctorate of Ministry Degree in Liturgy from the Graduate Theological Foundation, with all completed course work at the University of Oxford (Oxford, England).

Following commencement from Seminary, Fr. Shaw was ordained to the Sacred Order of Deacon and Priest in 1988 and was assigned to his first parish duties as curate at the St. John the Evangelist Episcopal Church in south suburban Flossmoor, Illinois.  In 1990, he was elected to become the Rector of St. Thomas Episcopal Church (Chicago), the oldest black Episcopal Church in the state of Illinois.

In addition to serving as a priest, Fr. Shaw also served for several years as an instructor of Biology and English as a Second Language at both the Columbia College and the Richard J. Daley Community College (Chicago).

Founded in 1878, St. Thomas (Chicago) has a long and proud history of rectors who have been outspoken and activists on social justice issues.  During his twelve-year tenure as rector of the parish, Fr. Shaw initiated a dialogue with other Roman Catholic and Protestant congregations in the community to renovate the former Wabash YMCA.  The “Y”, at 3757 S. Wabash Avenue, was once the only “Y” in Chicago that served African Americans, and until the last quarter of the previous century, had remained one of the African American community’s most treasured social and athletic institutions.  It was here where the national observance of Negro History Week was conceived by Carter G. Woodson, which is now nationally observed as Black History Month.  Under Fr. Shaw’s leadership, four churches formed the Renaissance Collaborative, a non-profit development initiative, to transform the then shuttered Wabash YMCA into a modern facility, complete with housing for more than 100 potentially homeless individuals.  The result was an $11 million renovation and restoration that now still offers the same opportunities and sense of hope that the “old” Wabash YMCA offered generations of the past.

Fr. Shaw was active in a number of other Chicago community organizations and has held key leadership positions in several of them.  Mayor Richard M. Daley twice appointed him to key boards:

  • The Community Development Advisory Commission, where he advised city planners and policy makers on how to disburse millions of federal dollars awarded to the city through the Community Development Block Grants Program;
  • Chairman of the Chicago Board of Education Monitoring Commission for Desegregation Implementation, where he was empowered to oversee the implementation of the 1979 Federal Consent Court Decree that mandated desegregation in Chicago Public Schools;
  • Other organizations and affiliations included: a.) Board of Directors – Chase House Early Childhood Centers; b.) Chicago Anti-Hunger Federation; c.) National Council of Christians and Jews; d.) Chicago Human Relations Commission; e.) Illinois Council Against Hand Gun Violence; f.) and a number of other worthy groups and entities.

In 2001, Fr. Shaw announced his candidacy for the Illinois State Senate.  Although he was challenging a 20-year machine-backed incumbent, he ran a very strong second in a four-person race.  His independent grassroots and community campaign garnered the most attention given to any 2002 state legislative race.  Over forty articles appeared in the local press, including the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-times report that stated: “even if Shaw loses, he is a rising star on the South Side and will be heard from again.”

In 2003, Fr. Shaw became the 17th rector of the Historic African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas (Philadelphia).  The parish was founded in 1792 as the first black church within the Episcopal Church.  It is also one of two oldest black churches in the city of Philadelphia.  He proudly serves as the successor to the Rev. Absalom Jones, the first black priest of the Episcopal Church, and first rector.   St. Thomas (Philadelphia), like St. Thomas (Chicago), has historically been an active voice in advocating for causes of social justice and equality.

Fr. Shaw most recently served:

  • Trustee for the Episcopal Church Building Fund;
  • Advisor to the Episcopal Church Office of Black Ministries;
  • Member, Recruitment, Training and Deployment Commission of the Episcopal Church;
  • Member, Episcopal Church New Visions Initiative;
  • Member, Philadelphia School District Interfaith Cabinet;
  • Chaplain, Bishop Nominating Committee for the Diocese of Pennsylvania;
  • Chapter Member, Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral

In addition to his duties as a rector, Fr. Shaw presently serves as:

  • Honorary Canon of the Philadelphia Cathedral;
  • Dean of the Schuylkill Deanery, Diocese of Pennsylvania;
  • Chairman of the Episcopal Church Committee for Historically Black Colleges and Universities;
  • Member, Council of Advice for the Office of Black Ministries of the Episcopal Church;
  • National Vice President of the Union of Black Episcopalians;
  • Trustee, the Lakenau Medical Center, Wynnewood, PA;
  • Board Member, Partners for Sacred Spaces;
  • Member of the Society of Catholic Priests of the Episcopal Church and Anglican Church of Canada;
  • A member of the NAACP;
  • A member of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.