About Our Rector...

On December 26, 2002, the Vestry called the Rev. Fr. Martini Shaw to be the seventeenth Rector of the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas, Overbrook and immediately went to work expanding and continuing the momentum of the Church’s mission. Father Shaw’s vision of spiritual growth and community involvement recalls the legacy of our founders and promises as a continuance of outstanding St. Thomas leadership.

Fr. Shaw is a native of Detroit, Michigan. In 1982 he earned two undergraduate degrees from Wayne State University, one in Psychology and the other in Biology.

In 1988, Fr. Shaw earned a Masters of Divinity Degree from McCormick Theological Seminary in Hyde Park (Chicago). Never one to shy away from rigorous challenges, Fr. Shaw also earned a Certificate in Anglican Studies from Seabury-Western Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois the same year. In 2008, Fr. Shaw earned the Doctorate of Ministry degree from the Graduate Theological Foundation, with completed course work at the University of Oxford, (Oxford, England.)

Following commencement from graduate school, Fr. Shaw was ordained an Episcopal priest in 1988 and was assigned to parish duties at St. John the Evangelist Episcopal Church in south suburban Flossmoor, Illinois. In 1990, Fr. Shaw was selected by his bishop and congregation to become the Rector of St. Thomas Episcopal Church, the oldest African-American Episcopal congregation in the state of Illinois.

Fr. Shaw has also served as an instructor of Biology and English as a Second Language at Columbia College and Richard J. Daley Community College.

Founded in 1878, St. Thomas has a long and proud history of rectors who have been outspoken on social justice issues. During his twelve year tenure as pastor of the congregation, Fr. Shaw initiated a dialogue with other Catholic and Protestant congregations in Bronzeville to renovate the Wabash YMCA. The “Y” at 3757 South Wabash, 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.

Under Fr. Shaw’s leadership, four Bronzeville churches formed the Renaissance Collaborative, a non-profit development initiative, to transform the shuttered Wabash YMCA into a modern facility complete with housing for more than 100 potentially homeless people. The result was an $11 million renovation that now offers the same opportunities and sense of hope the “old” Wabash YMCA offered generations years ago.

Fr. Shaw was active in a number of other Chicago community organizations and has held key leadership positions in several organizations. 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; and later he was appointed to serve as the Chairman of the Monitoring Commission for Desegregation Implementation for the Chicago Board of Education.

As Chairman, Fr. Shaw 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: Chase House Early Childhood Centers; Chicago Anti-Hunger Federation; the Chicago Human Relations Commission; the Episcopal Diocese’s Commission on Affordable Housing; the Illinois Council Against Hand Gun Violence; the NAACP and a number of other worthy community organizations.

In 2001, Fr. Shaw announced his candidacy for the Illinois State Senate. Although he was running against the 20-year machine-backed incumbent, Fr. Shaw ran a strong second in a four person race. Fr. Shaw’ independent grassroots campaign garnered the most attention given to any 2002 state legislative race. Over 40 articles appeared in the local press, including the Chicago Tribune and a 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 African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas, Philadelphia, PA. The church was founded in 1792 as the first Black Church in the Episcopal Church, U.S.A. It is also the oldest African American Church in the City of Philadelphia. Fr. Shaw proudly now serves as a successor to the Rev. Absalom Jones, the first Black Priest of the Episcopal Church, and first Rector of St. Thomas Church.

Fr. Shaw presently serves as a trustee for the Episcopal Church Building Fund; Board member for the Philadelphia African American Museum; Advisory Board member for the Episcopal Church Office of Black Ministries; member of the NAACP; member of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.

Fr. Shaw is also a member of the Cathedral Chapter; member and National 2nd Vice President of The Union of Black Episcopalians; member and superintendent of the Inter Faith Cabinet (Philadelphia School District; member of the Recruitment, Training Deployment of the Episcopal Church; Dean, Schuylkill Deanery, Diocese of Pennsylvania; Member, Bishop Search and Nominating Committee, Diocese of Pennsylvania; Consultant, Episcopal Church New Visions Initiative.

Pictures of Father Shaw | The Rector's Report 2013 | Rector's Welcome Message