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James Thornton, MDiv Graduate 1990
I came to NYTS in 1987, not really knowing or understanding what a theological education was all about or even how NYTS would transform my life. Suffice it to say that my life and my vision of the world through my journey through the MDiv program changed my perspective of life and made an indelible imprint that remains until this present day.
During my journey at NYTS I learned that we are called to be God’s instruments in the city. We are called to see God’s divinity in all humanity regardless of one’s religion, orientation, native origin, or ethnicity. The word of the psalmist is true, “How good and pleasant it is for human kind to dwell together in unity.” (Psalm 133:1)
The first person that I encountered upon my arrival to NYTS was Dr. Keith Russell. He was the president at the time and was also my preaching professor. He taught us that we had to live with the text and allow God to speak to us through God’s word as we work, live, and even relax in our respective environment and community. These wise words continue to inform and inspire me to this day.
Today as the senior pastor of the Salem Missionary Baptist Church, Brooklyn, NY, and adjunct professor of Ethics in the Certificate Program in Christian Ministry at NYTS, words are just too inadequate and limiting for me to capture in the space allotted the impact that NYTS has had and continues to have on my life. NYTS is a place where practice and intellect come together. One’s knowledge of the Word is only as effective as one’s efforts to practice the lessons learned in community.
I am reminded of the words that Dr. Emily Gibbs spoke to our Introduction to Ministry Class, “If the church in your community burned down, would the people in the community feel that they had lost a viable resource or just that another building burned down?” In other words the church is not the building but the people who practice the teaching of Jesus in community and beyond.
I am delighted that for the past 30 years my relationship with NYTS continues to grow stronger. I was most humbled that on May 1, 2017, I received the Distinction in Ministry Award from my beloved alma mater, NYTS. This would not have been possible if it was not for the grace of God and the teachings and impact that NYTS continues to have on my life and ministry. To God Be the Glory!