Grace Baptist Church of Germantown is an old-school congregation with a long history rooted in ministry, strong family values and the Word of God. Very recently, the congregation celebrated the 30th anniversary of their beloved senior pastor, the Rev. G. Daniel Jones. Jones has had an amazing journey shepherding Grace, a church in the heart of the community seeking ever to win the community’s heart.
The Grace congregation has a history of stability and longevity — it’s these unique attributes that have kept the church intact for over 100 years.
Lunita Williams, a member since 1984, revels in her fellowship at Grace Baptist Church, “I was a member here when I was a teenager, then I moved away to Detroit. When I returned, I came here … my mother, my stepfather, and sister were members,” said Williams, the church financial secretary. Reflecting on = Jones’ 30th anniversary, Williams admires Jones’ ability to recall the names of all the members: “He knows all of the members by name.”
Before his wife died, Kenneth Jackson was married for 64 years; he’s been a member of Grace for almost the same time, “I joined Grace soon after I got married.” Says Jackson, “I’m a senior usher and a trustee; also I help (maintain the church) air and heat (systems).” Jackson, too, admires Jones’ ability to recall each church member’s name. Jackson noted feeding the homeless and the church’s after-school program as two significant outreach endeavors to serve the community.
“I’ve been a member of Grace for 34 years,” said Sara Carter. The music ministries have made a huge impression on her life, “I was born and raised in (the music ministries), and now, I’m one of the choir directors of the young people’s choir; and I also (oversee) the praise and worship team, … I’m also music director for the Pennsylvania Baptist State Youth Ministry.”
Commenting on Jones’ 30th anniversary, Carter shared, “It’s just wonderful, I was 4 years old when Pastor Jones came to Grace; he’s just a wonderful mentor, a father figure, and just a great spiritual leader, and it’s been a pleasure being under his ministry all these years.” Carter loves Jones’ preaching style and how he weaves great stories into his sermons, “(The stories) are very personal and they’re funny, and he keeps the sermons light and upbeat, and it’s just wonderful to just sit under his teaching and preaching and it’s helped me grow in my spiritual walk.” Carter would recommend Grace to someone considering a church affiliation because it’s a loving church, and she admires the deep concern Jones has for his members.
Laqueta Lynn is the facility manager for the church saying, “I’ve been a member for 5 years.” She was attracted to the church because her mother was a longstanding member. Commenting about Jones’ tenure, “Pastor Jones is a wonderful person, he has always guided us in the right direction spiritually and in everyday life (issues), he’s just a good old Southern gentleman.”
“(Pastor Jones) has been an inspiration for me personally, helping me cope with the death of my parents, and he’s been an inspiration for me to walk (in faith) when my marriage broke up. He is a leader, he has expanded our church, most of all … he is a compassionate human being,” shared Karen Gardner.
“I’ve been a member since I was 11 years old; I’m 95 and a half (years old),” shared Salivia T. Sharp-Wilkens, the eldest living member of Grace. Reflecting on the history of senior pastors that have shepherd Grace, Sharp-Wilkens offered, “Each one was different. Each one was an admirable man. I think Grace has been so fortunate to have ministers who have ministered, who were respectful, who loved their wives — their eyes didn’t wander. They loved (the congregation of Grace Baptist Church), and they were leaders.” During her tenure as a member of Grace, one historical life moment she vividly recalls was the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, when thousands of Americans were killed or injured when the Japanese attacked the American naval base in Hawaii. This attack is frequently cited as a major tipping point in World War II.
Tyrone L. Beach Sr., 68, is the chairman of the deacons, and he joined the church the same year Jones came on board as the senior pastor. According to Beach, “One of the things that (Pastor Jones) really got me involved in was studying the Word and Bible study … I found that he was a visionary” in assessing the church and expanding its ministries. Beach cites the expansion of a leadership board that encompasses a full representation of the church’s leadership as one crucial accomplishment he credits to Jones. Tyrone and his wife Patricia have been married since 1957; they have two adult sons. His wife is the church organist and one of the chorus directors.
“Grace affords an option for people, and if you’re looking to establish relationships, it’s the place for you. (As the Pastor, I) pride myself in knowing every member personally, and no member is a number. Members are often encouraged to engage in some form of ministry that would interest them,” offered Jones. As the senior pastor, Jones is also proud that Grace is a very fiscally, chronologically, and organizationally stable church.
Jones is an old school preacher, his total years of pastoring comes to 47 years, he shepherd a church prior to arriving to Grace. In reflecting on his ministry success, Jones imparts some keys to his success to advise new pastors on how to lead their respective congregations, “First of all, get to know the congregation, establish trust and build relationships. Once (this) is done, then some creative changes can take place.” Jones cautions against new pastors leading with a “heavy handed” approach.
Jones is a pastor who is very engaged with his flock; he personally visits his sick members, and he personally visits those bereaving the loss of loved one. Other officers may make such visits, too, but Jones ensures that he is immersed in such evangelistic outreach.
Jones felt his calling in ministry came about in his early youth, being greatly influenced by his grandfather. Jones served in leadership and chaplaincy roles in high school and as an undergrad at Virginia Union University, a historically Black school. “I also became the president of the student body, during my tenure there, as a senior,” shared Jones. After graduating from Virgina Union with his degree in mathematics, “I acknowledged a continuing call to ministry and I enrolled in seminary (Andover Newton Theological School),” shared Jones. He eventually earned his Doctorate of Divinity degree from Howard University’s Divinity School.
Under Jones’ leadership, Grace is undergoing a multi-million dollar capital campaign to revitalize the Grace Christian Community Center. Jones has expanded the center’s evangelical outreach, “It’s our gift to the community,” said Jones. The Grace Christian Community Center provides a variety of children services, youth services, senior services, feeding programs, tutorial programs and counseling programs. The church is also actively involved in prison ministry, serving the homeless, and ministering to HIV patients.
Jones’ leadership roles are incredibly vast and diverse, an abridged listing includes: national president of the 6,100 member Ministers Council of the American Baptist Churches, U.S.A.; founding president of two local Councils (American Baptist Churches of the South, and of Metropolitan Philadelphia); he served on the executive committee of the General Board-American Baptist Churches, U.S.A., serving as the board’s chaplain; vice president of Baptist Ministers and Pastors Conference of Philadelphia and Vicinity; for 20+ years he served as vice chairman of Philadelphia’s Baptist sponsored City-Wide Revival; executive board member of the Pennsylvania Baptist State Convention; member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity; and he is a 33° Mason as well as grand chaplain of the Prince Hall Free and Accepted Masons of Pennsylvania.
Jones speaks fondly of his wife Geraldine E. Jones, who is physically disabled and a recent retiree in middle management with Action Aids of Philadelphia. Mrs. Jones is a licensed clinical social worker; her ministry roles have included: Sunday school leader, Leadership Development of Christian Education, served on the hospitality committee and she’s the founder of the Women’s Christian Retreat. The Joneses are the parents of one son, Bryant D. Jones, a graduate of Morehouse College, and of Drexel University where he earned an M.B.A.