Liberal activist to be installed as minister of Unitarian Universalist Congregation
The Rev. Dr. Neal R. Jones will be officially installed as the minister of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Columbia (UUCC) during a special service on Sunday, January 27, at 4 p.m. The congregation is located in Shandon at 2701 Heyward Street.
Though Rev. Jones has been serving as the congregation’s minister for the last eight years, the UUCC is just now installing him because he recently earned ministerial standing with the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, the denomination to which the UUCC belongs.
Raised Southern Baptist in North Carolina, Jones has served as the pastor of a United Church of Christ, a Moravian, and another UU congregation. He has a B. A. in political science from Wake Forest University, a M.Div. from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a Psy.D. from Baylor University. Before becoming the minister of the UUCC in 2004, he was the psychologist for the Pastoral Counseling Center of Palmetto Health.
As minister of the UU Congregation of Columbia, Jones has earned a reputation as a liberal activist. He participated in the popular movement to remove the Confederate flag from the Statehouse dome, and he has been a regular speaker at the NAACP’s King Day at the Dome. He opposed the so- called Marriage Amendment to the state constitution, which prohibits same-sex marriage, and he opposes capital punishment. He actively supports reproductive rights, public education, and universal health care. In 2007, he joined four other ministers as plaintiffs in a successful lawsuit to halt South Carolina’s “I Believe” license plate, and in that same year he founded the Columbia chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church & State.
Jones presently serves on the national Board of Trustees for Americans United. In 2009, he received the "Thunder and Lightning" Award from the SC Progressive Network for “providing a prophetic voice in the public square.”
Jones’s installation service sermon will be delivered by the Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United. Also speaking will be the Rev. Dan King, a former member of the UUCC and the current minister of the First Parish Church of Kingston, Mass., and the Honorable Gilda Cobb- Hunter of the SC House of Representatives. A reception will follow the service of installation.