WILDWOOD – Rev. James Jacob said he is not one to sit around in his church office.
“My ministry is out in the street.”
Jacob had spent a fair amount of time in the streets over his lifetime, often looking for his next fix. Long before entering the seminary, Jacob was a heroin addict.
“I began addiction recovery through Overcomers Outreach, whose founder was a Lutheran. Through the men in the program ministering to me, I came to realize that the 12-Step program was biblical,” he said.
After receiving the call to ministry through a vision of Jesus, Jacob entered seminary and eventually earned a Master’s degree.
He was ordained in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America in 2002 and will be installed by the New Jersey Synod Bishop Tracie Bartholomew at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Wildwood Sept. 16 at 3 p.m.
“The public is invited, and we have sent invitations to local clergy and public officials,” Jacob said.
After the ceremony, Jacob plans to hit the ground running. There is a Men’s Breakfast scheduled for Sept. 22 at 8 a.m., with keynote speaker longtime Wildwood girls basketball coach Dave Troiano, a member of Holy Trinity.
Jacob has been the unofficial pastor of the church for three months and can’t wait to get to know the community better.
In July, each synod in New Jersey sent three teens and two adults to Washington to tour and work in three different missions in the nation's capital. A video presentation of the trip was played in church and Wildwood High School student Corinne McDowell will show the video at school as part of an assignment.
“I want to welcome everyone in the community to take part in the ministry of this church. All ages, income levels, gay, transgender, immigrants, people in recovery anyone who is marginalized into the full life of the church,” said Jacob.
He described the congregation of Holy Trinity as traditional, but progressive and willing to not just imitate Christ, but act for justice.
“Sometimes people forget that Jesus stood for peace and love for those on the fringes of society. The best thing I can do as a human being is be the best human being I can be.”
Jacob said he goes to a gym with his son and there are motivational signs placed throughout the facility.
“At the entrance are the words ‘No Judgement Zone.’ I think that would be a great slogan for the church. When you leave the gym there is another banner, ‘You Belong.’ That’s another good one,” said Jacob.
Despite the church being built around 1922, with long wooden pews and towering stained glass windows, Jacob said Holy Trinity is looking to be welcoming to people who have never been a part of a church.
“We want to be a place where tradition meets inclusivity. We recognize that the culture is changing. People are looking for spirituality, but not necessarily in the church. We want to bring people back into the fold so they can hear the Gospel,” he said.
Jacob said one way to do that is to address social issues, raise money for a cause, help people, minister to people. That seems to be what millennials are interested in; I believe the church can do those things better,” said Jacob.
To that end, Holy Trinity hosts a Head Start school program, Family Promise, a housing ministry for families in need of temporary shelter and a shore retreat for non-profit organizations.
The latter two use the Luther Inn, a motel owned by the church.
Starting a recovery service is on Jacob’s agenda in the coming months, as well as getting to know his new community.
He currently shuttles between his home and wife Carolyn in Salem County and the Luther Inn, where he stays a couple of nights each week.
“I really want to become entrenched in this community and welcome everyone in. My business card says ‘No labels, Just love.’ That’s what we want more of at Holy Trinity.”
Holy Trinity Lutheran Church is at 2810 Atlantic Avenue in Wildwood. Services are Sundays at 8 a.m. for a spoken-word service (no music) and 10:30 a.m. for a traditional service.
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