Trustees - Princeton’s Strongest Supporters
BY HEATHER ROOTE FALLER
Todd Jones graduated from the University of Pittsburgh as a classics and political science major, thinking he was headed for law school. As a college student, Jones worked full time for three summers at a camp at Fox Chapel Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The church was led by assistant pastor Jim Welch (M.Div., 1965) and pastor and head of staff Chris Matthews (M.Div., 1965). [Current PTS Trustee John T. Galloway Jr. succeeded Matthews in 1980.] “Seeing what that church was doing, I wondered if this could be something God was calling me to be a part of,” Jones said. “I felt drawn to what kind of difference a vital, faithful church could make in the world.”
Jones followed that call to Princeton Seminary. At the opening Convocation service in 1976, Jones heard Bryant Kirkland preach in Miller Chapel. “I still remember him telling us about those transformational moments that God offers that had occurred for him during his years at PTS,” said Jones. “He said, ‘I can’t tell you when or how they will come. I can tell you how they came to me. But I promise you if you remain open, those moments will come, because that’s what God does through the Holy Spirit.’ I remember that like it was yesterday,” said Jones.
Jones has been following the Spirit since that “yesterday” years ago. After PTS, he went to Scotland, to Edinburgh University’s New College Divinity School for a year of study, and then to pastorates at four churches over the past twenty-nine years. “Churches that are healthy make an impact, not just through lives of their members, though that’s no small thing, but through ministry and mission,” he said. “The churches I’ve served have had visions beyond their walls.”
Jones’s first call out of Seminary was as associate pastor at the Presbyterian Church of Basking Ridge in Basking Ridge, New Jersey. The pastor at the time was John Calvin Knox Jackson (M.Div., 1953), whose preaching inspired Jones to consider the “impact preaching can have on the church.”
Four years later Jones was called to Westminster Presbyterian Church in Columbia, South Carolina, where he was the only pastor, and in 1991 he moved to the First Presbyterian Church of Spartanburg, a 2,000-member congregation, where he stayed for eleven years. In the fall of 2002 Jones was called to the First Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Tennessee, where he continues to serve its 4,000 members.
In 1997 former PTS President Tom Gillespie informed Jones that he had been asked to serve on the Board of Trustees. “I was overwhelmed and surprised, and I didn’t have to think whether I’d say yes. I’ve felt an incredible sense of indebtedness to Princeton,” he said.
As a trustee Jones has served on many committees, including the Library Committee and the Development Committee. Having led stewardship campaigns in three of the four churches he’s served, Jones said, “People are healthiest when they’re generous.” Currently he is chairing the Seminary Relations Committee and serving on the Facilities Committee.
Jones values the Seminary’s mission to be “a community that gathers scholars who can light fires in people’s lives that sustain them for a lifetime.” He explained, “I was a textbook case of what’s supposed to happen to you in seminary: all the foundations were shaken and I started to rebuild a faith that fit—not a faith that was all figured out, but one that was real and exciting and that I could live into.”
Those Spirit-filled moments Kirkland boldly promised did come, and have continued throughout his ministry. “Every time I baptize a baby or serve the Lord’s Supper, every time I step into the pulpit to read scripture or pray or preach, I think about Professor Bill Beeners’s lessons, those experiences that he shared that have been so sustaining and formative.” He remembers Professor Bruce Metzger’s lectures on the New Testament and course on the person and work of Christ. And, “I still draw on so many things that emerged out of Professor Diogenes Allen’s classes, especially the question of suffering and the problem of evil,” he said.
The problem of suffering and evil weighs heavily on today’s pastors. “The professors created sparks that became sustaining flames,” Jones said. “Pastors live every day with people sustaining losses, living in the midst of brokenness. We’re often that way ourselves. We need a source of sustenance and life and renewal for us.
As a pastor, Jones found a way to preserve the vital spark that sustained his ministry. As a trustee, he seeks to nurture the Seminary so that it can help keep the Spirit ablaze in future generations of pastors. “I’ve made a major commitment to the library. The library is a treasure, and PTS has been blessed with remarkable resources. I’m excited about the vision of a theological library to serve the church in the world,” he said. “I give to Princeton joyfully, because the Seminary has given so much to me, and because I believe deeply in its mission."