By Morgan Bryce
This is the third installment of a four-part series of prominent Opelikans and their favorite Christmas memories or traditions. On behalf of the Opelika Observer staff, we hope you and your family have a wonderful holiday season ahead.
One of Rev. Clifford Jones’s favorite challenges of the Christmas season is to find and present a different viewpoint of the Biblical tale of Jesus’ birth to share with his congregation.
“Through my messages, I want to reenergize people and remind them of the true nature and spirit of the season. I enjoy trying to find nuggets that does not change the story but at the same time bring more emphasis on the Christmas message,” Jones said.
Jones and the rest of his 15 other siblings grew up on a small family farm in Laurel, Mississippi. Growing up with a deep appreciation and love for the farming lifestyle, he attended the nearby Alcorn State University, where he majored in agricultural education.
After graduating in 1969, Jones took a job with the USDA in Massachusetts as a soil conservationist. During his 12-year stint in the state, he enrolled in the nondenominational Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, receiving a master’s degree with a major in religious education and minor in marriage and family relations.
In 1981, he was transferred by the USDA back to the South, taking over as a district soil conservationist in Coosa County. Several years and positions later, including time spent as a soil services liaison for Tuskegee University, he returned to the position of district soil conservationist in Russell County.
It was during his time working in Russell County that he pursued a career in the ministry, serving as the pastor of Pleasant View Baptist Church in Salem in 1992. A year later, he accepted the call take over as pastor of Opelika’s Greater Peace Baptist Church where he has remained since.
During his 25-year tenure, Jones said Christmas has developed into a cherished season at the church, with traditions including children’s recitation of Bible verses on Sunday mornings during December and a large annual congregational singing of timeless Christmas carols. Through programs like these, he said he hopes to reverse the over-commercialization of the Christmas season and return it to its original focus.
“We celebrate His birth because had He not been born, then He could not have died for our sins. His birth brought us to the realization of the fact that we have an opportunity to spend eternity with God in Heaven,” Jones said. “If we fail to accentuate the true meaning of Christmas, then we will drift more and more away from that.”