I am proud to say that I have had the honor of being a part of the AoP family from the very beginning! I never will forget the day Dr. Dwight Moody walked into the administrative offices of the historic Fisk Memorial Chapel in Nashville, TN and proceeded to tell me about this new and exciting venture that involved the cultivation and development of young preachers. He told me of his vision for what was then a pilot program, he spoke of the generous gift made by the Lilly Foundation and how he wanted to afford young preachers throughout the nation an opportunity to become master practitioners of their craft and to explore their call to ministry in a positive and constructive arena.
Being a young preacher, my heart swelled with anticipation because I had known of no such endeavor in the country. The rest is history! From there, Fisk University became Nashville’s first partnering institution of higher education, I was honored to be a part of the original Young Preachers’ Leadership Team which helped to develop AoP from its inception and I have personally been involved with the AoP network ever since!
AoP is unlike any other organization in the country. Many denominations or conferences have programs targeted at youth, but with AoP, young preachers are not a mere appendage, but the purpose for its existence.
Many young people who struggle with the call to preach, navigate the journey of development and discernment alone, without a network of support or even a mentor. AoP has offered me, along with hundreds of other young gifted preachers, a network of mentorship, peer support and a place to receive positive critique and reinforcement of our unique voices. We’ve formed friendships that have extended far beyond the conference itself.
For me, every young preacher in America and even the world would benefit from the AoP experience. The bible speaks clearly in Hebrews 10:25 on the importance of fellowship amongst believers and in Proverbs 27:17 of the role that iron has in sharpening iron. AoP exemplifies both of these qualities in the way that helps to nurture the lives of young ministers of the Gospel. Because of this, AoP has been and continues as a trailblazer among national organizations for the way in which it embraces future ecclesiastical leaders and helps to better prepare them for passionate and capable leadership.
The AoP has seen me through many developmental stages of my preaching and pastoral ministry, how I understand my call to preach and the confidence by which I stand to proclaim the Gospel. AoP inspired me so much to develop my skills as a practitioner and church leader that at the recommendation of my mentor and Dean of the Fisk Chapel, Dr. Jason R. Curry along with Dr. Moody, I have now come full circle and am a graduate fellow at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy studying the connections between faith and philanthropy.
My life and ministry have been impacted greatly by the work of AoP and its auxiliary programs. It is my prayer that the community of AoP continues to expand so that it may reach more places and impact more lives for the up-building and edification of the Kingdom of God!
Winterbourne LaPucelle Harrison-Jones, MDiv, Youth Pastor Emeritus, Mount Olivet Baptist Church of Rochester, NY, and Graduate Fellow, The Lily Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI Return to Testimonials