Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The World is a Bit Emptier These Days

Dr. G. Daniel Jones, the pastor Emeritus of Grace Baptist Church in Germantown, Philadelphia, died recently, and I sensed a bit of a vacancy in the world.
I arrived at the Second Baptist Church of Germantown in the Spring of 1992.  It was my first pastorate and my first experience living in a real city; I had grown up in suburban Ohio.  It was my first time living in a racially diverse environment as well, indeed being in the minority. The overwhelming majority of my church members were black.   I was in a challenging new place.

Dr. Jones called me my first week in Philadelphia and offered to come by and visit with me.  Our two churches had a long and cooperative history.  As we talked Dr. Jones, in his melodious Virginia accent, offered to be my cultural and civic guide.  He said that as I came across things I did not understand, I was free to call him; and he perhaps could unpack the situation for me.  I did that on a number of occasions.  He would give me some background and gently suggest some possible courses of action.  In those first years of ministry he helped me to feel welcome, more confident and competent.  He was God’s good gift to me.

As I reflect upon G. Daniel’s passing, I am aware of all the people who have shaped me, encouraged me, and sometimes challenged me to grow up a bit.  None of us are self-made people.  All of us, for better or for worse, show the fingerprints of those who have walked with us along the way. I am grateful for those people who have made me a better person, a more competent minister, and a more faithful believer.
I am also aware of the responsibility that comes with the investment others have made in me.  I too am to be mindful to share with others the investment that has been made in me.  To whom much is given much is required.  All of us have spheres of influence, regardless of who we are, where we are, or what we do.  All of us can sow encouragement, comfort, and challenge in the life of someone else.

I am grateful for the good gifts Dr. G. Daniel Jones gave to me years ago.  Upon news of his passing, the world felt a bit emptier for me.

To Timothy, my dear son: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord...I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.   For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.  (2 Timothy 1:1-5)

Jim Kelsey
Executive Minister, American Baptist Churches of New York State