Despite instructions to hold their applause until the end of the ceremony, the audience could not resist cheering for Archie Jones Sr. as he strode across the stage.
On May 16, Jones received his master of divinity (M.Div.) degree at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) nearly 60 years after his last exam. What made the day even more unique was Jones’ granddaughter Alicia Jones, 26, walking across the stage to receive her diploma just before him.
Jones attended SEBTS from 1954-1957 and received his bachelor of divinity (B.Div.). Some years later SEBTS discontinued the B.Div. and gave graduates the opportunity to upgrade their degree after some extra coursework. Jones was made aware of the chance to convert his bachelor’s degree to an M.Div., but felt it was not the time. The prospect of graduating along with his granddaughter inspired Jones to finally take the necessary steps to convert his degree.
The Joneses are a big family, and many of them showed up to celebrate the exciting day. After the ceremony they gathered on the seminary grounds talking, laughing and taking pictures. For Alicia the day was especially meaningful. “It means a lot because ever since a very young age, my grandpa has been someone I look up to and want to imitate,” she explained.
Archie Jones, left, and Alicia Jones received their master of divinity degrees May 16 at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
The senior Jones has a big impact on his family. They are quick to joke about his “Santa Clause beard” which seems to match his personality so well. His smile and unhesitant hugs are not the only thing that have multiplied in the family. He has also led them to appreciate theological education at SEBTS and a commitment to mission service.
Originally from Mocksville, he has led a very active ministry in North Carolina and in Southern Baptist life. He has pastored both Belhaven Baptist Church, Belhaven, and at Robinhood Road Baptist Church, Winston-Salem.
Jones started the Spanish Mission in Mocksville, and was also the first person appointed as director of N.C Baptist Men (now known as Baptists on Mission). Jones and his first wife Julie served with the International Mission Board (IMB) in Ecuador until she became ill, and died in 1978. Three years later Jones and his wife Caroline traveled to Chile where they spent 14 years in ministry with the IMB before retiring in 1995. Currently Jones is doing some teaching at the Birmingham Spanish Bible Institute.
Rarely alone in his efforts, Jones’s family has joined him in ministry and participation in Baptist ministry. Seven members of the Jones family have studied at SEBTS. Three family members currently hold positions with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. His wife Caroline began her ministry career working with N.C. Woman’s Mission Union (WMU), served as president of N.C. WMU when they returned to the state after their missionary service in Chile, was on staff at FBC Mocksville and later served on the staff of National WMU.
“I go on mission trips with all of my kids,” said Jones. “I’ve been on 37 volunteer trips in 17 different countries since retiring.”
Alicia added that her grandfather has been on mission trips with most of his grandchildren as well. In fact, he was on her first trip to visit the Roma people in Hungary, where she is currently engaged in ministry.
She graduated after participating in SEBTS’s 2+2 program which gives students two years of training at seminary, and then helps them to complete their degree with two years of international mission work.
Alicia plans to return to Hungary where she will coordinate volunteer teams and continue her ministry with the Roma people.
One of Alicia’s favorite ministry strategies is using oral Bible stories to teach and disciple women and children. With this approach the Bible often comes alive for them like never before. Even this is something she has in common with Jones who is known as a great story-teller as well.
“Psalm 61:5 says ‘You have given a heritage to those who fear Your name,’” said Alicia. “I tell people that’s what happened to me [I’ve been given a heritage] and it’s a blessing. At a young age I was able to understand and accept the ways of God. It’s a great example to have before me.”