Where did you go to school? Paine College in Augusta. I moved there from Victorville , Calif., which is about 90 miles from Los Angeles. It’s between L.A. and Las Vegas.
Do you still have family out there? No, they’re all in Georgia. My mother and most of the rest of my family are in Atlanta. We’re originally from Donaldsonville in deep southwest Georgia. They were there in the time of slavery. My great-grandfather was a sharecropper. My mother is Jeweline Jones.
What took you to California? We went to take care of a family member who was ill -- my uncle. He died in 1999 of congestive heart failure. My mom was a childcare counselor in a boys’ home and she retired in 2004. I graduated that year from Victorville High School.
Where are you attending seminary? Candler School of Theology in Atlanta. It’s a United Methodist school. I get my CME training from the Interdenominational Theological Seminary in Atlanta.
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When were you in Augusta? From 2003-2007. I got a B.A. in history with a minor in religion.
Had you always wanted to be a preacher? When I was a senior in high school, I acknowledged the call when I was 17. I became a pastor in 2006. Bishop Othal Lakey gave me my first student appointment then, at Holsey Memorial CME Church in Sparta, Ga. That was before seminary. I was considering Emory or Yale but Emory offered all-paid tuition, so it behooved me to go there.
How often do you go to class? I go Tuesday to Friday; I drive back and forth. I relocated to Columbus in August.
What happened to the previous pastor? He relocated to another appointment in Louisiana. His name is Earl Griffin. He was here a year. Bishop (Kenneth) Carter spoke to me about coming here and I accepted the appointment.
How long were you at the Sparta church? 3½ years. We were able to pay off the $50,000 mortgage and we added 10 percent to the membership. The income also rose 28.3 percent through tithes and offerings.
What’s your view of stewardship? I preach a biblically based stewardship message. I don’t think you coerce people into giving but they need to be informed about it. I’m not into bake sales or raffle sales to raise money for the church. We get our funding from tithes and sacrificial offerings.
How many members are here? We have 472 on the rolls. After spiritual growth, I believe numerical growth follows. If the church is meeting needs and praying, I think people will flock to it.
Do you love preaching? I love to preach.
Who’s a mentor? Rev. James E. Markham. Since 1982, he’s been the pastor of Emmanuel Temple CME Church in Victorville, Calif. Rev. Gloria Coburn of Barstow, Calif.; Rev. Dr. Paul W. Gardner Sr. and Rev. J. Ronzell Maness of Augusta. Bishop Henry M. Williamson, Sr. of Dallas; and Bishop Kenneth W. Carter of Atlanta. Another is Dr. David Yonggi Cho. He has the largest church in the world: Yoido Full Gospel Church (Assemblies of God) in Seoul.
Brothers and sisters? I have two older brothers: Terrence Jones, who lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., and Nathaniel Jones, who lives in Atlanta.
What do you want to develop in your tenure here? I want to expand our outreach ministry, including a health ministry to people with HIV/AIDS and cancer. It’s my passion. We’re having a prayer vigil at noon March 7. March 6-12 is the HIV/AIDS National Week of Prayer. We want anyone to come who’s in need of prayer. HIV/AIDS is an epidemic in the African-American community. I want the church to speak to the needs of those afflicted, to be a guiding light and a comfort.
Where did this particular focus come from? My first year at Candler, I did an internship at Central Presbyterian Church in Atlanta. I did this for 1½ years. I worked a lot with the homeless and came in contact with people with HIV/AIDS. They expect people to shun them. At St. James, we want to have a human touch with people, no matter their sexual orientation. Unfortunately, there’s still a stigma with HIV/AIDS, that it’s a gay disease. That’s not always the case. We want St. James to be known as a church that goes beyond its comfort zone.
Playing devil’s advocate -- what would you say to someone who says, “Pastor, we don’t need a bunch of people with AIDS in our church.” I’d say what Jesus said: “I came not for the well but for the sick.” When it’s all said and done, I want to make sure God is well-pleased with me.