Jerome Douglas is currently an MDiv student at Reformed Theological Seminary Orlando, working in brand marketing by day, and also as a pastoral intern at Christ Community Presbyterian Church. He lives with his wife, Dr. Analise Douglas, and their daughter, December, in Hartford, Connecticut.
Born and raised in D.C., his best friend first introduced him to the Lord. Looking back, he would describe the Christianity of his childhood as cultural Christianity. His family attended church most Sundays, and his grandfather was a preacher. Even though you could find them in a church on a Sunday, they did not do much with their faith during the week. He reflected, “Now that I’m older and better understand what the faith looks like, as I look back, I think about how my mom and my cousins and my aunt’s lifestyle looked outside of Sunday. Church was a part of who we were, but it wasn’t something you practiced during the week. It was, ‘Hey, God loves you, God forgives you.’ It was a very lax view of the faith.” Even though it wasn’t perfect, those years attending church gave him a foundation.
When he got a little older, he started attending a Bible study at the University of Maryland, but when his cousin started one at Howard, he returned to D.C. to help him. At the very first Bible study, he met his future wife, Analise. She was preparing to return home to Mississippi for medical school. Jerome decided to follow.
It wasn’t until he met the youth director at Analise’s church at New Hope Baptist Church, Jim Adams, that, as he explained, his faith really “jumped exponentially.” Jim put him in touch with Elbert McGowan, who was a Campus Minister with Reformed University Fellowship at the time. The two quickly hit it off. He explained, “He was just a transparent, down-to-earth dude who loves the Lord. I got with that quick. So I started to go to RUF. Back when I was in D.C., it was a very charismatic, very flamboyant type of faith. And then, when I got to RUF, I got a chance to couple that with solid theology. I feel like that’s how I explained my walk: I had this very emotional… experience in DC, but when I got to RUF, El really showed me how to do it the right way.”
At 20 years old, Jerome enrolled at Jackson State while Analise did medical school at UMM. Since he was a little older than the rest of his class, he would hang out with the RUF interns, Tré and Cyril, after class sometimes. Around the fire pit, they would read the Bible, walking through the scriptures in depth together, and discussing theology.
In four months, Jerome went from hanging around in D.C. to sitting fireside in Jackson talking about the Lord. He recalls that being a fruitful time for him, “That’s pretty much how my four years went. Being all in with RUF and then helping out at New Hope Baptist Church as one of the youth leaders helping with the Bible study.”
Things with Analise were also going well. After making the big commitment to be in Mississippi together, Jerome felt the only obstacle left to getting married was money. One of his mentors encouraged him to go for it anyway: “You like her. She likes you. You are growing in the Lord together.” So they took the leap and married during his first year of college when they were both 21.
They had wise people like El and other mentors who were really helping them go the right way. He explained, “We did six or seven months of premarital counseling with two different couples. So we were really prepared for it. We still use it to this day.”
After graduating, Jerome began working at Johnson & Johnson while his wife began her residency at Rutgers University in New Jersey. There they found their first church together, an Acts 29 church called Church at Bergen. Jerome was able to use many of the gifts and training he got from RUF there as a small group leader.
He was also part of a pastoral cohort, but it was not until 2020 that he finally embraced the call to ministry after going back and forth about it for a while. Cyril had given him a book titled Am I Called? at the start of the pandemic. He recalls seeking God about next steps, “Lord, I have finally reached the role at Johnson & Johnson I wanted, but I feel like things aren’t necessarily complete for me. Is there something more you want me to do?” After reading the book, he concluded there was. He explained, “This is it. This is how I feel. I do feel called to ministry.”
One of the first things he did was to confirm this call by following the book’s direction to bring others into the discernment process. He spoke with Cyril and El. He also discussed it with his wife and asked what she thought. Analise’s response shocked him: “The minute I met you, I already knew you were gonna be a pastor. I was really waiting for you to come around to it.”
He checked with his pastors, and they, too, affirmed the gifts they had gotten to see in him as part of the pastoral cohort, building sermons and leading different groups. Finally, he ran it by his close friends, who also saw God’s leading in that direction.
One reason he had hesitated to pursue ministry in the beginning was due to the baggage he carried from his upbringing around the role of pastor. “I didn’t really think I could be a pastor or wanted to be one because of the baggage I saw growing up with being a pastor. I didn’t really understand it outside of a Baptist view of church. The one head guy running the show. And so that’s what I thought about when I thought about being a pastor. I had no idea there were other ways you could do church government.”
A love for studying the Bible and teaching it to others then led Jerome to pursue formal seminary training. “I still, to this day, get a kick out of taking someone from not understanding a biblical text to making it a little bit clearer for them. I felt like that was unique about me.” He considers both his love for scripture and teaching it as stirrings from God that he does not want to waste.
He looked into five schools, but Reformed Theological Seminary was an easy sell. All the men he looked up to at the time–his pastors, mentors, and close ministry friends–were all RTS guys, and he wanted to be like them.
The first thing the Douglases did when they knew they were moving to Connecticut was to try to find an Acts 29 Church. They liked that Acts 29 churches were young, growing churches. He explained, “One thing about our family is we like to be a part of the initial makeup of a church.” But the Acts 29 church they did find was being dissolved.
They tried out church after church that they ultimately passed on because they felt God’s word was not being faithfully preached. After their string of several misses, they eventually found a place to call home: Christ Community Presbyterian Church.
While they now meet in the basement of a Baptist Church, at that time, they didn’t have their own building, so they met in the pastor’s backyard. Like other Reformed churches they had checked out, the congregation was predominantly white, and after their past experiences, they walked in guarded. Jerome recalled, “So we sit down, and we listen to the service, and, honestly, the dude is just faithful to the gospel. That’s really why we are there.” Jerome had a practice of connecting with pastors before visiting their churches. Between his connection with their pastor and his experience at their service, he decided that is where they would worship and invest.
He elaborated, “This may not have everything we prefer. But it is faithful to the gospel. The liturgy is solid and it’s taking us through the gospel story every week. I can feel comfortable having my wife and my daughter grow up in this church, at least for now; for at least the next five years. I’m trying to be a pastor, so I need to find somewhere I can grow where there is someone willing to help me train. And because that church had all that available to us, we stuck around.”
The pastor is genuinely invested in promoting diversity and inclusion. He pioneers many of the church’s racial efforts. Jerome explained what a weight that lifted for him, “For me, it didn’t feel like I had to wear all that on my shoulders cause he had already been doing the work before I got there. I’m glad he’s here because he can help me speak in a way I couldn’t in the past, from a pastor’s perspective.”
Jerome has yet to come across any conversations in his church that have given him pause. People ask a lot of questions. One Sunday, when he mentioned the racial makeup of prisons in his sermon, people were curious. Although he sometimes finds it burdensome, he really respects and appreciates people’s openness to learn and confront hard truths. He shared, “People are like, ‘I recognize there’s a problem. I’m not sure how to figure out all the answers, but I’m glad you’re here. Can you help me figure it out?’”
While he figures out what’s next, right now he’s focused on training and making sure he’s learning as much as he can and then using it. He takes advantage of every opportunity he’s given to preach in a small group or evangelize.
When he dreams about the future, the idea of planting an RUF on an HBCU campus or planting a Black church are compelling. “As I think about what the people I’ve met need, they need representation. They need folks who look like them and who they can relate to. I think there needs to be a space where people can feel connected. We would also benefit from the Presbyterian church polity system. When I think about Black church, that’s where my mind goes.”
“Jerome Douglas Jr.” on Instagram is the best place to find him and follow his journey.