Grad Shares His Commitment to Making Church a Welcoming Place for All

2018 graduate JJ Flag shares his story
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Jamel “JJ” Flag had what he describes as a “Pentecostal experience” attending a service at Miller Chapel for the first time in the winter of 2015. “I felt like I’d met God all over again, and I said to God ‘if this is where you want me to be, this is where I want to be’,” he says.

Still, his journey to PTS was not a smooth one and he was not always sure that this is where he wanted to be.

JJ began to sense a call to pastor around the age of 16, but always struggled to fit within the mold of what people thought a pastor should be. In his mid-20s, after working in several churches and nonprofit organizations, a pastor he had never met before at a church in Panama City, Florida wrapped his arm around JJ and told him it was time to embrace his calling.

“I want to help expand people’s understanding of what it means to be disabled and how people with disabilities can make a difference in the church.”

A short time later, JJ met his wife and moved to New Jersey. He started to feel a deep sense that he wasn’t doing what he was meant to do in life. It was then that another pastor, a graduate of PTS, encouraged JJ to join a denomination where he could begin the process toward ordained ministry. Yet even then he says he didn’t have the most positive perception of seminary – until his first visit to PTS and that fateful experience in Miller Chapel.

JJ has always loved helping people understand the Bible, and he credits his time here with finding his own voice when preaching. “PTS has strengthened my confidence in my ability to convey the Bible’s messages and to articulate my faith in a relevant way,” he says.

JJ is committed to the church and it being a place of welcome to all. Having been born with a disability, many experiences throughout his life, along with his theology, have shaped his conviction that the church must be a more inclusive place.

“Accessibility and inclusivity aren’t things the church always does well,” he says. “I want to help expand people’s understanding of what it means to be disabled and how people with disabilities can make a difference in the church.”

After seminary, along with working in the church, JJ will be pursuing doctoral studies.

For those contemplating seminary at PTS, JJ wants them to understand that while they will face challenges, they can find community here if they are willing to work at it and provide it at the same time. He also credits the support and loving sacrifices of his wife and family with helping him make it through successfully.

“It takes a strong support system to reach your goals, and having family, friends, and mentors to pray and talk with throughout the journey makes it so much easier.”

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Lindsay Clark, Class of 2018

“Trenton Psych was a fantastic place to work and learn, a seminal part of my Seminary experience and the most important thing I did at Princeton.”