Family-like environment, close relationships and intimacy are attributes a small church environment can bring to its congregation, and it’s those qualities that Jones Temple Church of God in Christ prides itself on.
Pastor Roland Thompson is proud to pastor Jones Temple, as he finds it to be a church filled with loving people. After contributing to building the sanctuary itself, Thompson truly feels a close connection to his congregation.
“Well I have been here 40 years and I became pastor 10 years ago—before that I was the head elder,” he said. “I also helped build the sanctuary. It was a little lot and it took us, a small congregation, about 20-some years.”
Jones Temple was founded in 1927 when senior Bishop Charles Mason sent Elder Daniel Jones Sr. from Georgia to Philadelphia. Daniel Jones III, the founder’s grandson, said his grandfather told his wife, Estella, “The Lord has called me for work in Philadelphia.”
The name of the church was changed to Macedonia Temple shortly after its start in Philadelphia. This was its official name until Bishop C. Range Sr. proclaimed the church should have been named after its founder, Pastor Daniel Jones Sr. The church was then given its current name, Jones Temple Church of God in Christ.
Pastor Thompson and the congregation work to maintain the “community feel” Jones Temple has provided to Philadelphia throughout the years.
Jones Temple works to reach out to all generations of the church by hosting a children’s ministry, a youth or teen ministry, men’s and women’s ministries, weekly Bible studies and a young adult ministry. Along with this outreach, Jones Temple hosts prayer nights on Tuesdays and Fridays. Pastor Thompson notes that along with their other prayer services, he makes sure their Sunday service is fulfilling — even if it goes over the scheduled time.
“We start our morning service at 11:30 a.m. and normally we’re out by 1:30, but if the spirit gets a hold of us we’ll be out a little later,” he said.
Children and youth are also important demographics for outreach for Jones Temple. Thompson and the congregation make an effort to reach out to the youths, valuing them for maintaining the longevity of the church.
“We are also training our children to be able to take our place, because without youth in the church, the church is a dying church. We have a lot of older members and we’re trying to train our youth through Sunday school and evangelism,” Thompson said.
In an effort to conduct outreach for the church, Jones Temple plans to visit various areas of the city with cards that will state, “Jones Temple, the church of hospitability.” With pictures of the church and other materials, Jones Temple plans to reach the community to promote growth and visit different areas every other month.
“Church growth is very important,” Thompson said.
Daniel Jones feels the dedication to uplift the surrounding communities is an important aspect of Jones Temple and its goals and initiatives.
“We feed the community and minister to the needs of the people of the community. We have pioneers that would have the young ladies of the street come, sit and eat; food was always left out for them,” he said. “When they come they would have the opportunity to come and get nourished—they know they have a shelter here where they can come and be nurtured, both with food and spiritually.”
The work outside the church is equal to that within it, and Kelli Britt has felt encouraged by the relationships she has built within Jones Temple. Britt feels she has positively benefited from the intimate church setting.
“I’m a member; it’s an honor and pleasure to be under the leadership of Pastor Thompson, I’ve been a member for about 18 years and this is my family church,” she said. “One thing about this church is that the people of Jones Temple are so warm and compassionate, and this is the church of hospitality.”
Although Jones Temple works to maintain a distinct separation of church and state, it consistently encourages the congregation and community to register to vote, regardless of party affiliation. The Rev. Chester Williams of Jones Temple has particularly made it a point to educate community residents on voter ID laws and the importance of having their voices heard in the upcoming November presidential election.
“We set up tables across the community stressing for people to fill out brand-new registrations,” he said.
With a grand goal of reaching out to the city from a small church with intimate appeal, Thompson feels his members truly benefit from their setting and relatively small size.
“Some of the things we do here are unique; we have a lot of love, and most of all we have the spirit of the Lord in the house. There isn’t a time that I can recall that we had service where the spirit of the Lord didn’t come in. People had cancer that God has healed. God has done great and miraculous things in this place. God has blessed us with faithful members,” Thompson said. “It’s like family—when you’re not there and you don’t come, you’re missed.”