Camden, N.J. — On June 9, a 25th anniversary celebration was held for the Rev. James C. Jones, evangelist and senior pastor of Mt. Calvary Missionary Baptist Church in Camden, N.J., at the Mansion on Main Street in Voorhees, N.J.
The keynote speaker was the Rev. Dr. William J. Shaw, senior pastor of White Rock Baptist Church in Philadelphia. From 2000 to 2009, Rev. Shaw served as the national president of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. (NBCUSA, Inc.) the largest African-American religious organization in the nation with more than one million members throughout the United States, the Caribbean, Africa and Europe. He offered a tribute to the dedicated service and extensive accomplishments of Rev. Jones.
Rev. James C. Jones has spent his pastoral career in service to God and the communities of Camden and vicinity. In 1987, Rev. Jones chose to move to Camden from his hometown of Glassboro, N.J., at a time when many ministers were fleeing the City.
“Ministry is about more than being a pastor,” said Jones. “The most rewarding aspect of my work is evangelism. This gift, which God gave me, allows me to support the salvation of all with whom I come in contact.”
Rev. Jones, who is renowned for his compassionate prison ministry outreach, was one of the first clergy members in Camden to reach out to the prison population. Rev. Jones ardently petitioned local and state officials and was eventually granted access to the former Riverfront State Prison, and was subsequently invited to the Camden County Jail, where he conducted worship services, witnessed to prisoners, and worked to remove the stigma associated with incarceration. “Everyone in jail is not a bad person,” he said. “Good people make bad decisions. God forgives us all.”
Rev. Jones has helped transform the thoughts and behaviors of numerous convicts and addicts; several of whom became members of Mt. Calvary as their lives improved.
Pastor Jones is a member of the Economic Recovery Board and the former president of the Concerned Black Clergy of Camden. He fervently advocates for the communities of Camden and has been instrumental in coordinating forums to heighten the awareness of the City’s residents regarding economic recovery.
Mt. Calvary Missionary Baptist Church also serves its community through their Board of Christian Education, Community Development Corporation, Black History programs, Spanish Heritage programs, the Bible Bowl, Children’s Church, Youth Church, Seniors Ministry, the Food Bank, Street and Nursing Home Ministries, and many other church activities and ministries.
Boasting the longevity the Rev. Dr. William J. Shaw 56 years as pastor, White Rock Baptist Church holds their history and pride dear in their mission as a church.
With the church’s vision, “We are a Christ-centered, spirit-led, God-serving, Bible-believing, worshiping, praying, tithing, loving church joyfully covenanted together to present Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior to the farthest reaches of our influence,” the members of White Rock embrace a long history in the city.
White Rock Baptist Church, located at 5240 Chestnut St., will celebrate their 114th church anniversary on Oct. 28. With more than a century of providing worship, White Rock continues to influence those in the community and beyond.
Patricia Manis Ligon is on the usher board and has been a member of White Rock for more than 50 years. She is grateful for the positive influence White Rock has had on her life.
“My family grew up in this church and I’m on the usher board, women auxiliary and I do health initiatives, she said. “White Rock has been so instrumental me, I enjoy coming to church and enjoy coming to choir rehearsal. Rev. Shaw when he gives the message, it’s so penetrating — I’m like a sponge.”
Ligon also believes the work White Rock does outside of its sanctuary walls, is just as monumental to its worship within the church.
“I like it because we do a lot of things, March of Dimes and so forth, church picnics and there are a lot of groups that sponsor things,” she said. “We also do our spiritual initiatives and sing at different places.”
White Rock works diligently in the community to sponsor educational advocacy projects. It hosts various study and service areas including an adult mission circle, golden achievers, a helping hand circle, a women’s mission union, a youth ministry and more.
The church also prides themselves on spiritual nurturing including programs, “Care and Compassion on Call,” “Parent and Youth Group” and “Just in Time Ministry.” In addition, a few of their community outreach ministry programs include, “Scouting Program,” “Exodus to Excellence,” “Community Stabilization Project” and “White Rock Federal Credit Union.”
Rev. Shaw feels working together is key to advocating for the community.
“As a church we seek to become institutional advocates, so it’s not just left to individuals,” he said. “We have a program called Exodus to Excellence, a program in the summer where youngsters come to learn skills for coping. We traditionally had a scouting program that reaches out to young boys and young girls, we try and get boys and girls to develop personal skills and learn to work in groups.”
White Rock also hosts a science program where young individuals come in on Saturdays to meet with representatives from the church and work on projects and science. These programs are not restricted to White Rock and in some cases, the turnout holds more non-White Rock members than members, Rev. Shaw explained.
White Rock Baptist has not only been in Williemae B. Johnson’s life since she was 10 years old, it is also the place where she met her husband.
Johnson is 94 years old and has continued to hold White Rock close to her heart throughout the years. Through a few location changes in the church’s history, Johnson has always considered White Rock to be her “home church.”
“It’s my life, I’ve been here all my life and my husband and I were children here,” she said. “He was chairman of the trustee board and both of us went through church school, we’ve been active in this church all our lives.”
Johnson and her husband both sang in the church’s choir and after her husband passed in 1995, the church showed great support to her and her family.
Elizabeth Young can also identify with White Rock being ‘home.’ She has been a member since the age of 11 and is certain she will never stray.
“I’ll never go anywhere else, I’ve been an usher ever since I was a child,” she said. “This is just my home church I love it and Rev. Shaw is a good pastor and for him to be here that long — he has to be good.”
Youngest of six children, Rev. Shaw was born in Marshall, Texas. He was licensed to preach in June 1946, served as supply pastor of New Bethel Baptist Church at age 15, graduated Valedictorian from high school at age 16, and graduated summa cum laude from Bishop College at 19. At 22, Rev. Shaw was called to the White Rock.
Rev. Shaw received his bachelor of divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary in 1957 and earned his doctor of ministry degree from Colgate Rochester Divinity School at Crozer Theological Seminary in 1975.
In 1999, Rev. Shaw was elected president of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. He served two five-year terms and maintained his initiatives to lead in both national and local efforts.
“The work of the national body must not take away from the work of the local body,” he said. “It’s relational and not hierarchal.”
White Rock has initiatives for global outreach including sending a church representative to East Africa to be exposed to the culture and to learn what their needs are and to maintain a good working relationship. While global outreach is important, White Rock prides itself on its goals to enrich their community.
“We relate to what is happening in the community and respond,” Rev. Shaw said. “We try to see ourselves as a hub for folks reaching out to what is around us.”