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The Rev. Walton Jones named new rector of Trinity Episcopal Church

The new rector at Trinity Episcopal Church is eager to start learning about his new church members at his first service today.

The Rev. Walton Jones comes to Natchez from Meridian, where he was the associate rector at St. Paul’s Church. Before that, he served the church as an assisting priest. Years before that, he began playing in rock and blues bands.

Jones was chosen for rector by the church’s search committee, a board of eight church members whose sole purpose was to find a new rector. The committee sifted through names submitted by Bishop Duncan Gray III and the congregation, as well as self-nominations. After 14 months of searching, the committee unanimously agreed on Jones.

“Early in the search process we conducted a parish survey which revealed traits and qualities our members wanted the rector to possess,” said George Dickens, the church’s senior warden and a member of the committee. “Walton displayed definite talents in all areas of the survey, his references were impeccable, his telephone and personal interviews were forthright and enlightening, and Walton was the person we were looking for.”

Jones received a degree in computer science from Mississippi State University but decided halfway through that wasn’t his calling vocationally, he said. Jones then worked as a youth minister at the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepard in Columbus, while his wife finished her doctoral degree in agronomy at MSU.

Jones said he hopes to use his youth ministry background to help his new church grow. He would like to see Trinity Episcopal offer more youth programs as well as involve the youth in the diocesan and statewide programs available.

“Youth ministry allows me to use a lot of my gifts all at the same time,” Jones said. “When you’re able to use the gifts God has given you to God’s glory, that’s about as good as it gets. You can do that just as well in all age groups; I just happen to have done a lot of youth ministry. But for the most part, most all of the same things apply. It’s about building a community and finding God in that community, and then with that community serving the outside world.”

After working as a youth minister, Jones attended seminary school at the University of the South, known as Sewanee, where he received his master’s in theological studies in 2007. Meanwhile, Jones’ wife Keri taught at Sewanee.

Before his seminary days, Jones had been playing in rock and blues bands and has continued to do so since high school.

“I play guitar, and I’ve done a lot of music leadership in the church on guitar — less so on the piano,” he said. “There are much more able church organists and pianists out there, but I’d give them a run for their money in a blues band.”

He also plays the keyboard.

Jones said he is excited to begin his work in Natchez and sees much potential in his new home.

“I feel there’s so many treasures here at Trinity and in Natchez as well,” Jones said. “There’s so much to offer. I’m excited about getting here, doing God’s work and having a lot of fun doing it.”

Jones arrived in Natchez Monday with his wife and their 2-year-old Phoebe. In May, the couple is expecting Phoebe’s little sister, Jones said. The three Natchez newcomers found dinner in the fridge, the kitchen already stocked, handwritten notes and a list of people to call if they needed anything.

“We’ve been offered help every step of the way,” Jones said. “My first service is this (today), so I haven’t actually met everybody, but we’ve definitely been welcomed.”

As of Tuesday, Jones was looking forward to his first service, he said. Although scheduled for two funerals before his first service, Jones said today’s service will be much different.

“I’m excited about a regular Sunday service and getting a feel for what Sunday morning feels like and seeing how I fit into that,” he said. “I’m looking forward to preaching to the congregation for the first time.”

Jones also has some other goals in mind as he begins to meet the members of his new church.

“My short-term goals are all about listening and learning and loving the people of Trinity Church and of Natchez as well,” he said. “I’ve got to do a lot of listening and learning before I can say, ‘OK, well here are the goals and here are the visions and here’s where we’re going to go.’”

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