Charlotte Has Been Impacted at All Levels
Since 1982, Dr. Clifford A. Jones Sr. has been the senior minister of Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, a predominantly African American church in Charlotte that is celebrating its 130th anniversary this year. Jones earned a Master of Divinity and Master of Theology from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and a Doctor of Ministry from Boston School of Theology. Recently Natural Awakenings caught up with him to get his take on recent events.
NA: We know COVID-19 has disproportionately affected African Americans in Charlotte. How has the congregation of Friendship Missionary Baptist Church been impacted? What do you see as the impact on Charlotte as a whole?
Dr. Jones: FMBC has not been able to gather for worship or have our support youth summer school. All the things we normally do as it relates to facilities usage have been postponed. Charlotte has been impacted on all levels: health care, school system, economically, socially, literally all levels.
NA: Late May also brought protests to cities around the world, including Charlotte, as a result of the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. What are your observations of the local protests? You’ve witnessed similar events for years—what’s similar and what’s different with the current situation?
Dr. Jones: [I’m] deeply saddened, and protests are a reaction to a system of racial disparity, injustice and racism. The root causes are the same; the faces have changed and are younger.
NA: What gives you the greatest hope in these tumultuous times?
Dr. Jones: I believe in the principles of our American system—if [they’re] equitably practiced, this can be a land of the free and home for all. I believe in the Christian Church and the teachings of the Holy Bible.
NA: You are a contributor to the book Consuming Passion: Christianity and the Consumer Culture. What is the main tenet of this book, and do you see any particular parallels with recent events?
Dr. Jones: The main focus is the possible impact of believers who would move systemically and faithfully to use resources to address the economic disparities in our world.
NA: Your website says you are especially proud of the Nelson Mandela Award you received at the National Baptist Convention, USA in 2013. Why?
Dr. Jones: That is the highest honor given by the NBC/USA Inc. in recognition of mission outreach globally. It is more of a testimony to FMBC’s commitment to a ministry to the least of these, than it is to anything I have done.
NA: I realize it isn’t really possible to nail down dates, but do you have any plans at this time to celebrate your 130th anniversary? A virtual celebration? Something in a future year?
Dr. Jones: Absolutely! Due to COVID-19 and in the interest of the safety and well-being of everyone, the anniversary celebration as originally proposed will not occur. We recognize the impact that the pandemic has had on families and have shifted our focus for this year’s celebration to solely mission.
emphasis will be on significantly increasing support of our annual mission
initiatives held in December for children: Angel Tree and the Spirit of
Christmas. The Angel Tree initiative is designed for children of incarcerated
parents, and the Spirit of Christmas is designed specifically for children who
meet the definition of homeless under the McKinney-Vento Act.
We are reevaluating opportunities at later dates where members and friends can fully engage to increase our impact and exposure, as we continue “growing in our faith, relationships and communities.”
Friendship Missionary Baptist Church is located at 3400 Beatties Ford Road in Charlotte. For more information or to attend Sunday worship live at 8 or 10 a.m. (currently virtual), visit FriendshipCharlotte.org. FMBC is also on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. To connect with Dr. Jones, email [email protected].