The Synod Standing Committee has appointed Dr Paul Jones as the new Director of Education Ministry and Principal of Trinity College Queensland. James O’Callaghan finds out what has led Paul to where he is today, and his vision for Trinity College Queensland.
When Paul Jones was doing his undergraduate studies, the vice principal of his college pulled him aside and said with a smile, “I think you have the right gift mix and personality to do some further studies, come back to Australia, and teach.”
“I prayed a lot about his suggestion, and discerned that it was what God was directing me to do,” Paul says.
Paul grew up as a missionary kid spending much of his formative years in Africa and was nurtured in faith by his parents. After attending Bible college and owning
his faith for himself, Paul discovered a genuine passion for teaching.
“I have worked as a pastor, I’ve worked in factories and bookstores and I’ve worked in an education institution as a secondary teacher, but the thread that has been running through all those different jobs has been either education or theology. In some ways, this job as principal brings all of those together.”
Paul’s travels have taken him to every continent (bar Antarctica), with his theological studies taking him to Canada and the United Kingdom in addition to his undergraduate studies in Australia.
This deep theological underpinning is present when Paul speaks of his favourite passage of the Bible, 2 Samuel 14:14.
“We must all die; we are like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be gathered up. But God will not take away a life; he will devise plans so as not to keep an outcast banished forever from his presence.” (NRSV)
“The reason I love that verse is that it states the bad news, and then the good news,” he says.
“I think the church needs to understand that that is always the case; good news isn’t good news unless you understand the bad news first. You tell someone that Jesus died for their sins, but unless you understand that you are a sinful person, that you are in need of Jesus, then that’s not really good news. I think these two always have to be held together, and once you grasp the bad news, then the good news becomes amazing news.”
Since he first stepped out of the elevator into Trinity College Queensland in November 2016 as a lecturer in Old Testament and Homiletics, there has been a significant growth in numbers of students attending the college and a resurgent vitality within the college community.
Paul attributes part of the college’s growth to the faculty’s hard work in building trust and establishing initiatives that benefit the whole church.
“Students are excited about learning and the library is always full,” he says.
“The student body at Trinity College reflects the diversity of the Uniting Church, and I really enjoy teaching in that context.”
Paul’s vision for Trinity is that it becomes a place of study not just for people training for ministry.
“I would love to see teachers, chaplains, architects, businesspeople walking the halls here because they want to figure out their own faith,” he says.
In addition to his duties as principal, Paul will continue lecturing, which he regards as key to understanding the educational ethos of the college.
“I want to know every student and candidate by name,” Paul says. “And teaching is part of who I am. If I have to stop teaching, it would be like cutting off my right arm. I want to keep teaching because it is who God made me.”
Trinity College Queensland represents an integral piece of the whole-of-church puzzle, training the next generation of ministers. The Trinity distinctive supports an honest approach to theological education with honest answers.
With this in mind, Paul says the college is looking to create a generation of people who understand the culture, the Bible and people well.
“The church has been a community that is focused around a book, so it is important that we understand how to read that and make sense of it for today,” he says.
“Not as some ancient document that once made sense for some other people, but how it is God’s living work for today. I think that one of the most important things that Trinity does is help communities of the Word to interpret and embody that Word.”