SBC DIGEST: Jones leaves Ark. college, joins Calif. foundation; photojournalism conf. treks to Nashville; worship leaders' jaunt to Sam's Club goes viral

by Arkansas Baptist News, Christian Index & BP Staff, posted Tuesday, December 19, 2017 (3 months ago)

Tom Jones leaves Williams Baptist College for Calif. post

Tom Jones
Photo courtesy of the Arkansas Baptist News.
WALNUT RIDGE, Ark. (BP) -- Tom Jones has resigned as president of Williams Baptist College to join the California Baptist Foundation's executive management staff.

Jones called it a "humble honor and privilege" to have served as the Arkansas Baptist-affiliated college's sixth president since 2012.

"I am gratefully indebted for the wonderful opportunity the board of trustees has given me these past five and a half years," Jones said. "During that time, I have been blessed to serve with incredible board members, faculty, staff and denominational leaders who have unfailingly expressed their support for the university," which assumes university status next summer.

Among Jones' achievements during his tenure at the 76-year-old college in Walnut Ridge: 7 percent growth in Williams' enrollment last fall to 500-plus students; the addition of 42 acres for a campus footprint of nearly 250 acres; various expansions in academic and athletic programs; construction of a new residence hall; renovations to the athletic annex, the campus dining room and student success center; and several major gifts, including a $3 million estate in 2016.

"Though Gail and I are looking forward to this new challenge and what it means for our family, we are confident in the future of WBU and the people who accomplish so much through their extraordinary commitment to our Lord," said Jones, whose resignation was effective Dec. 1.

Board chair J.R. Cox, a Walnut Ridge businessman, said, "We are excited for Tom and Gail as they pursue this new opportunity, but we are also sad to see a very effective president and these wonderful friends move away. The good news is that Dr. Jones is leaving Williams in great shape, which will be a tremendous asset as we move ahead with our search for the next president."

Cox announced that Kenneth Startup, history professor and former academic dean at Williams, will serve as interim president.

An eight-member presidential search committee is being chaired by Bob Magee, professor of music and chair of Williams' department of fine arts. The committee has posted a presidential profile for nominations at

The California Baptist Foundation, now in its 60th year, currently manages more than $100 million, having distributed $39 million in earnings to Baptists and their ministries over the last 10 years.


Photojournalism conference treks to Nashville from Fort Worth

NASHVILLE (BP) -- The Southwestern Photojournalism Conference, which has been held in Fort Worth the past 25 years, is venturing to Nashville, Feb. 15-17, at downtown First Baptist Church near the Country Music Hall of Fame, Ryman Auditorium and popular sites in the Music City.

Started by Southern Baptist photojournalists, the conference provides a time of personal, professional and spiritual growth for visual communicators and students from across the country as they focus on the challenges, rewards and motivations for their work.

"Those who attend this conference are very serious about their work," said Jim Veneman, visiting professor of journalism and new media at California Baptist University and one of the conference organizers since its founding. He noted, however, that the conference is more "inspirational" than "technical."

"There isn't much talk about f-stops and shutter speeds. It is more about visual communicators sharing their work, telling about what challenges them, and what inspires them," Veneman said. "There is also a lot of relationship building. With the constant deadlines and the demands for producing creative, imaginative work, the media is a high-pressure occupation. This Nashville moment will provide a time of support and encouragement."

"This is a unique photography conference," said Bob Carey, another of the original organizers who chairs the department of communication & new media at Gardner-Webb University and is a National Press Photographers Association past president.

"We focus on the 'why' of photojournalism," Carey said. "We bring in speakers who view their photography as a calling more than just a job. It is exciting to see how God has moved in so many of their lives and visual work.

"I encourage young people, professional photographers and anyone interested in photography, even if they are beginners, to attend and see the possibilities of using their visual gifts in their lives."

Carey added, "So many young photographers have come through the years, met award-winning photojournalists and seen quality photojournalism, and it has impacted them to see how God can use their gifts to reach the world.

The conference will be preceded by a time focused entirely on university students. Assignments will be made and the conference faculty and staff will provide personal direction and help throughout the experience.

"The student workshop is always exciting -- to see the students, who are the future of visual communication, working alongside and learning from veteran photojournalists," Carey said.

The 2018 Southwestern Photojournalism Conference featured speakers include Louis DeLuca, photojournalist with the Dallas Morning News; Bill Fortney, photographer, writer, pilot and X-Photographer with Fujifilm; Patrick Murphy-Racey, photographer and Sony Artisans associate; and photographer Steve Babuljak of Oakland, Calif. The sessions will be moderated by Sonya Singh, a Southern California writer, editor and photographer.

For more information and registration go to


Worship leaders' jaunt to Sam's Club goes viral

DOTHAN, Ala. (BP) -- Things went viral after Slade and Danielle Alday and a group of friends went to Sam's Club in Dothan, Ala.

Alday, a worship leader in the Bowen Baptist Association in Bainbridge, Ga., 55 miles to the southeast, and his wife had gone to dinner with a group of worship leaders from an interdenominational church in Donalsonville, Ga.

Someone needed to go to Sam's Club, so they all went.

One of them began playing a keyboard there and the group began to sing. An onlooker recorded about three and a half minutes of "Our God is Awesome" and posted it to Facebook, where it had tallied nearly 11 million views as of Dec. 18.

"It was impromptu," Alday, who also is a member of the Sons of Jubal chorus of Georgia Baptist worship leaders, told The Christian Index of the Georgia convention in a Nov. 17 article. "The Holy Spirit just showed up in a mighty way. In this time when people can't get along for various reasons, we were all together. We were just singing praises to God."

The video can be viewed in the Index article at

In the video, Alday can be seen in a black shirt while Joy Buczek, a member of dinner party, plays "Our God is Awesome" on a keyboard set up for display.

"When we were walking around we turned the corner and there were these keyboards," Alday recounted. "Like any curious musician, Joy wanted to mess around on them and started playing some songs.

"We started singing in our little group and began having a worship time."

Prior to what is seen in the video, the group had already sung "Total Praise," "My Life Is in Your Hands" and "Every Praise," Alday said. By then, he estimated they'd been singing for 10 or 15 minutes before realizing they had an audience.

"I heard people saying 'Amen.' So, I turned around and they had their hands raised; some were crying. It was a beautiful moment."

Those who had joined in asked the group to sing louder. "A Sam's Club employee named Christian Melton joined in," Alday added. "My, what a voice. She sounded like Whitney Houston."

In addition to being shared on Facebook, the concert had trended on Twitter; a segment about it was on the "Today" show; and Kirk Cameron posted it on his Facebook page.

Alday said the experience reminded him of John 12:32. "Jesus said, 'If I be lifted up I will draw all men unto me,'" he stated. "In that little bit of time the Gospel was proclaimed around the world. People responded. It was mind-blowing."

Compiled by Baptist Press senior editor Art Toalston with reporting by the staff of the Arkansas Baptist News and Scott Barkley of Georgia Baptists' Christian Index.
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