The key to his long life is simple according to the Rev. Dr. Whalen S. Jones.
“The grace of God smiled upon me and kept me and brought me to where I am. I feel wonderful,” said Dr. Jones, who just celebrated his 104th birthday.
The founder and pastor emeritus of Messiah Baptist Church in Los Angeles, Dr. Jones possesses a sound mind, good health and an unwavering commitment to Christ after more than 10 decades of living. Also, he regularly attends Sunday worship and for several years, he instructed the Teacher’s Bible Training Institute.
In appreciation of his many contributions, Pastor Perry J. Jones and the Messiah congregation hold ‘Pastor Emeritus Rev. Dr. Whalen Jones Day’ every year.
“Pastor Perry and his wife, Pamela, are so gracious to have ‘Pastor Emeritus Day’ on an annual basis. They love Dad. It isn’t always that way when the founder is still around, but they understand Dad’s position and Dad has always supported Pastor Perry. They are just wonderful people,” said Melvina Jones, daughter of Dr. Jones.
During the special service on July 21, Dr. Hozell French saluted Dr. Jones as a mentor, Dr. Finian Ebueli commended his missionary work, Sister Lucille Burris sang a musical tribute, and the Rev. Steven Murphy delivered an uplifting sermon.
Also highlighting the celebration was the Los Angeles City Council’s designation of the intersection of Adams and Wellington Road as ‘Doctor Whalen S. Jones Square.’ Albert Lord, representing Council President Herb Wesson, made the presentation.
The ministry of Dr. Jones began in 1937 when he accepted the call to preach the Gospel of Christ Jesus. Following his ordination and graduation from the Bible Institute of Pennsylvania, he received his first pastoral assignment in 1943.
“How happy I was to be called as the pastor of Eureka Baptist Church in Wildwood, New Jersey. There were about 35 members in the congregation and my pay was $8 a week,” he wrote in his book, ‘Test, Trials, Blessing & Victory.’ However, Dr. Jones lived in Philadelphia, which meant an 82 mile commute each weekend.
Two years later, Dr. Jones was called to lead Second Baptist Church in Bethlehem, PA, and he recalled, “What a delight this was! I would only be 52 miles from my home. Also and very importantly, I had fallen in love with and married Miss Margaret Young.”
Their union, which lasted 67 years until Mrs. Jones passing in 2012, resulted in the birth of six children, 13 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.
Melvina shared, “Growing up with Mother and Dad, there’s never been any inconsistency between the way they are on Sunday and during the week. It’s been just a blessing. They were model parents.”
While serving as pastor of Second Baptist, Dr. Jones earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Eastern Baptist College and Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. Years later, he received an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Eastern College and earned a Doctor of Ministry degree at California School of Theology.
In 1954, the Lord sent Dr. Jones west to Los Angeles where he organized Messiah Baptist Church. After 34 years as Messiah’s senior pastor, Dr. Jones retired in 1987 but he holds pleasant memories of his tenure.
He said, “God permitted Messiah to grow and prosper in every way. How I thank God for allowing me to pastor a ‘Godly group’ of people.”
Offering guidance to new pastors, Dr. Jones advised, “Give yourself to the Lord, ask completely for His leadership, be willing to follow that leadership, preparing for the best that you can give in that ministry, and then serve Him faithfully.”
(Dr. Jones’ book, ‘Test, Trials, Blessing & Victory,’ is available by contacting Messiah Baptist Church, 4500 West Adams Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90016, (323) 734-7920.)