By Helene T. Carter
(Augusta, GA) -“Indeed, this is a sad day in the life of the Paine College community,” said President George C. Bradley as he reflected on the passing of Rev. Dr. Jeffery R. Thomas, Assistant Professor of Religion. “Dr. Thomas fervently served the students in a professional and kind manner. He will be missed by all of us and by the students whose lives he touched.”
As Dr. Thomas rendered service to the students of Paine College, he also faithfully served as Pastor for Trinity CME Church in Augusta, Georgia. Although his tenure was short, his ministry impacted the lives of many.
“The Paine College and CME Church communities have suffered a great loss,” commented Brandon P. Brown, Vice President of Institutional Advancement. Vice President Brown and Rev. Thomas shared a common bond as they are both graduates of Paine College and were selected to serve as national ambassadors for the Black College Fund in the Lina McCord Internship program. They traveled extensively throughout the country and abroad and served as advocates for the United Methodist Church and higher education.
Dr. Thomas graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy and Religion from Paine College in 2001. While at Paine, Dr. Thomas earned prestigious fellowships and became a Bill and Melinda Gates Millennium Fellow, Fund for Theological Education Undergraduate Fellow and an Andrew W. Mellon Social Science Research Council Fellow. Dr. Thomas also received numerous awards that included being named the UNCF Pre-Alumni Council Male of the Year (2000). He was inducted into the Alpha Kappa Mu National Honor Society; named to the National Dean’s List; and received the Paine College Distinguished Recognition Award.
In 2001, Dr. Thomas received a Presidential Scholarship to attend the Claremont School of Theology in Claremont, California where he earned a Master of Divinity degree. During graduation ceremonies he was honored with the Church of the Good Shepherd Preaching Award and the Edwin and Frances Witman Pastoral Care Award. After receiving his Master of Divinity degree, Dr. Thomas received another Presidential Scholarship from the Claremont School of Theology to pursue a Ph.D. He then earned a Master of Arts degree and completed a two-year clinical residency at the Clinebell Institute for Pastoral Counseling and Psychotherapy.
In 2009, he completed all requirements for the Ph.D. His dissertation was titled: The Liberative-Prophetic: A Socio-Theological and Psychospiritual Analysis of Skid Row, Los Angeles. Dr. Thomas was awarded the Ph.D. in Theology and Personality with an emphasis in pastoral counseling and psychotherapy. During the graduation ceremony, he was awarded the highest academic award given by the school: The President’s Award for Academic Excellence. In 2010, Dr. Thomas was invited to teach an adjunct class on Social Conflict and Ministries of Care at Claremont.
Dr. Thomas was licensed to preach the gospel in 1995, ordained in 2002 and became an elder in 2006 in the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church. He served in various capacities of numerous churches including the Raise Bridge CME Church in Waynesboro, GA; Westwood United Methodist Church, of Los Angeles, CA and the Holman United Methodist Church, also of Los Angeles. He also served as the Senior Pastor of the Central City Community Church in Skid Row, Los Angeles in the epicenter of America’s largest homeless population. He and the church were featured on the nationally syndicated television show The American Bible Society Presents. His work also can be seen in, Skid Row: God, by Sam Slovick; Finding God in the City of Angels, produced by the Institute for Signifying Scriptures at Claremont Graduate University; the upcoming documentary movie, Lost Angels, produced by Big Time Productions and the CBS Television show The Bold and the Beautiful. His ministry also was featured in the Los Angeles Sentinel, the Los Angeles Times and the Los Angeles Downtown News.
Dr. Thomas possessed a reservoir of knowledge that was shared with his students and all who were touched by him. He lived his passion to empower the underserved and marginalized individuals and worked tirelessly to help families to become self-sufficient, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually whole.
The Paine College community extends heartfelt condolences to the family of Dr. Thomas.
Funeral services will be held on Saturday, July 13, 2013 at 1 p.m. at Trinity C.M.E. Church located at 2930 Glenn Hills Drive, Augusta, GA 30906.
Photo caption: Rev. Dr. Jeffery R. Thomas, Assistant Professor of Religion at Paine College.