Faith Matters for Aug. 9, 2014

Prayer — and a weekly teleconference — has kept the Jones family connected.

The 14 siblings (nine women and five men) and a host of other family members from five to seven states gather at 7 a.m. each Saturday for the prayer line and “minichurch” service.

“It brings us closer. It bonds us,” said sister Anna Jones, of Baton Rouge. “The main thing is keeping God first in our lives and staying connected with family whom we love so dear.”

The Jones family started the teleconference prayer sessions in 2008 after the death of family patriarch Mose Jones.

“We didn’t know what would become of it, how long it was going to last or what kind of impact it would make on the family as a whole … It’s really been a blessing,” said brother Leroy Jones, of Baton Rouge.

Anna Jones said she wakes up early each week in anticipation of the teleconference.

“I live for that Saturday morning. I don’t miss it regardless of where I am. Whether I’m out of the country or not, I call in,” said the Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church member.

The weekly lineup consists of prayer requests, praise reports, prayer, songs and a short teaching. It also has a monthly theme.

“It’s set up like a church service,” said Leroy Jones, a minister at Counsel of God Ministries in Baton Rouge. “God is moving on that prayer line … We’ve been faithful and God honors faithfulness.”

Brother Frederick Jones, of Pineville, is coordinator of the prayer line.

“It’s almost like a full, little minichurch,” said Frederick Jones, a minister, lawyer and law professor at Louisiana College. “This means everything to me … having a support base of siblings until church is not my first place of fellowship. My family is.”

The family has also taken six siblings retreats to such destinations as Hot Springs, Arkansas; Memphis, Tennessee; Cozumel, Mexico; and, most recently, Branson, Missouri.

The Jones family, originally from Winnsboro, has always been a close-knit family led by former sharecropper Mose and Beatrice Jones, who believed in God and the power of prayer.

“They raised us to depend on God, to pray, to have faith in God, and that’s the foundation they gave us growing up,” Leroy Jones said. “We saw them demonstrate love. We saw how they lived their life the best they could before the Lord, and it was just a beautiful thing.”

He said the faith of their parents who were Baptists spread to the children — five of the siblings are ministers — and their children’s children. One Saturday a month is dedicated to the younger generations, he said.

“To pass that along to the children is a lost art in this day and age,” Leroy Jones said.

The prayer line may provide a place of inspiration and fellowship for other relatives who may not have been raised in a household of faith, he said.

“We got some aunts and cousins who might not ever go to church, and Saturday morning they’re right there on the prayer line. That’s their church,” Leroy Jones said.

Sometimes, the line can get emotional as family members have had to deal with other deaths, trials and struggles. Anna Jones said they find strength in each other.

“When one hurts, we all hurt, but when one is happy we’re all happy,” she said.

“We strengthen each other during those times,” Frederick Jones said. “It’s been a support like no other and it can be highly emotional. But for the most part, it’s been tremendous and a lot of love.”

Said Leroy Jones, “We have family members that are battling addictions. They are battling all types of things that really have them in bondage that they need to be set free ... We join forces with each other. We really feel each other’s pain, because we’re family and that’s important to us.”

Anna Jones recalled a distant cousin, Celie Stanford, who left Louisiana for California years ago as a child. Stanford got to know the family through the prayer line before her death.

“She would come on the prayer line on Saturday morning at 5 a.m.,” Anna Jones said. “She united with the family through the prayer line and when she died, a lot of us traveled to Los Angeles for her funeral. If it had not been for that prayer line, the family would not have actually known her.”

The teleconference can have its share of levity, mainly from 80-year-old “Uncle Hank” McDonald, of Chicago.

“This is an uncle that was always kind of quiet and reserved,” Anna Jones said of her mother’s brother. “But we gave him a purpose. And his purpose every Saturday morning is to greet everyone coming on the line. He is so happy and jolly.”

His greeting and nicknames often garner much laughter.

“He keeps things entertaining and keeps it going. He lives for this,” she said.

“What we’ve built on Saturday mornings there’s no substitute for it,” Frederick Jones said.

Rich legacy of St. Alma

St. Alma Baptist Church will reach into its distant and recent past for its 140th anniversary celebration.

The service is set for 11:30 a.m. Sunday at the church, 12861 La. 416.

“This anniversary marks 140 years of Christian service in the Lakeland community and gives us opportunity to revisit our rich history and legacy,” said the Rev. Mary Moss, St. Alma’s pastor. “Our history includes being the second oldest congregation in the Lakeland community and in the early 1900s, served as the community school for local elementary students. The school offered grades one through eight and was held in the one-room church. We are proud of our heritage and legacy.”

Another link to the St. Alma past is the speaker for the occasion: the Rev. James A. Terrance. He served as the St. Alma pastor from 1994 to 2003 before leaving to become the pastor of Friendship Baptist Church in Kansas City, Missouri.

The theme for the anniversary isFamilies Coming Together in Christian Fellowship.”

“We look forward to the coming together with past and present members who will gather together in worship with an appreciation for the great cloud of witnesses who laid the foundation upon which we stand,” Moss said. “I am honored that God chose me to join past great preachers and pastors of this church who built on the foundation which has already been laid by Jesus Christ.”

Terrance will also be the speaker for the 142nd church anniversary services at 8 a.m. Sunday at Shiloh Baptist Church, 185 Eddie Robinson Drive.

St. Mark celebrates 125th

Following the Holy Spirit has been vital to the growth and history of St. Mark United Methodist Church in Baton Rouge.

St. Mark recognizes the role of the spirit with the theme “Surrendering to the Holy Spirit” during its 125th anniversary celebration at 10 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 17, at the church, 6217 Glen Oaks Drive.

The theme is taken from John 14:15-31 and Romans 8:22-27.

“We have not forgotten the fact that St. Mark began as a group of believers in the pioneers’ days of Baton Rouge,” said the Rev. Derrick D. Hills, St. Mark’s pastor since 2008. “After meeting in the homes of Christians espousing the Methodist tradition, the Holy Spirit moved them after some time to charter and organize as a local church. This idea of Christians surrendering to the Holy Spirit is the reality that gave birth to St. Mark and it is the reality that will continue to keep us alive, vital and growing for 125 years more.”

The speaker for the event will be the Rev. Clifton Conrad, senior pastor of Camphor Memorial United Methodist Church.

Faith Matters runs every other Saturday in The Advocate. Terry Robinson can be reached at (225) 388-0238 or email trobinson@theadvocate.com.