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MMBB News & Notes: Spotlight on Rev. Dr. Zina Jacque

April 01, 2023


We’ve all heard Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 (NIV), “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot…” Reverend Dr. Zina Jacque’s life has been a testament to embracing seasons of change.

“I think in our ministries, and even in our retirement, we have seasons. We must embrace all of our seasons. For instance, we need not be afraid of winter because winter’s snow enables spring’s bloom. Without winter, plants don’t put down deep enough roots and cannot store up enough energy. Spring needs winter, and we need all of our seasons. Recognize that the seasons are God-given,” declares Rev. Dr. Jacque.

She has been both an agent and an embracer of change throughout her life’s journey. Rev. Jacque brought change to several organizations when she became the first Black Dean of Admission at a women’s college— Mills College —in 1986; the first Black person to be the President of the Board of the Samaritan Institute of the Northwest Suburbs; and the first Executive Director of the Boston Ten Point Coalition, an ecumenical group of Christian clergy and lay leaders working to mobilize the community around issues affecting high-risk Black and Latino youth. In other firsts, she founded and served as the first Executive Director of the Pastoral Counseling Center of Trinity Church Boston and served as the first Black female pastor at Community Church of Barrington, IL, from 2006 to 2021. Today, she serves as the first Black Chair and President of National Senior Communities, a portfolio of 28,000 residents who reside in 16 communities across the United States.

Of breaking ceilings, she proclaims, “My granddad taught me ‘There is one unique you. Complete and eternal in impact. See and go.’ What he meant was that each of us is created with gifts and talents, and we are fitted for many opportunities in life. We must ‘see’ those opportunities and be willing to ‘go’, even if the path is not clear. I have spent my life seeing and going. Even if I am the first out of the gate, by God’s grace, I will hew a path so that I will not be the last. If God has crafted a place for you, see it and go, and you will be a success in the way of the kingdom even if it’s not in the way of the world.”

On the flip side, Rev. Jacque’s graceful acceptance of seasons of change was most evident when her husband Andre, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. His steep decline began in 2018, which prompted Rev. Jacque to discuss leaving the Community Church of Barrington to care for her husband full-time. However, in the midst of her departure, she explains, “The pandemic hit, and I could not leave the church in that uncertain period. Things were also shifting with Andre. In some ways, the Community Church was my stability because life at home was getting complicated. So, they were glad I stayed; I was glad I stayed.”

Rev. Jacque continues, “My beloved died in October 2020. However, the church was on its way to finding her next pastor. I knew my time there had reached its end, and there was more for me to do in God’s vineyard. Still, I will always be grateful to Community Church because they shaped me as a pastor, and I will always love them.” When she joined Barrington’s Community Church as pastor almost 15 years earlier, it was declining, with only a few dozen members. When she left it, the church was flourishing. She affirms, “If they hit another bad spell or another winter, they’ll know what to do with it. They’ll understand it and the lifecycle of the church. I am really proud of that.” Thus began a second act in Rev. Jacque’s vocation. In 2022 at 65 years of age, she assumed a position as Assistant to the Pastor for Small Groups at the Historic Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria, VA. Alfred Street Church is a congregation of 12,000. The Small Groups Ministry or “The Village” provides an intimate religious experience as volunteer facilitators meet weekly with small groups, sharing guides based on the sermons. Currently over 800 people are enrolled in the Village.

Rev. Jacque elucidates, “Jesus came in the flesh, not disembodied. It was a hug; it was a fish fry with red wine, and He often healed with his touch. That is why the Village is an incarnate ministry. The Village’s tagline is ‘from crowd to connection,’ so I want people to know we hear their voices and see their faces.”

When asked what her advice is to retiring or retired ministers, Rev. Jacque’s answer demonstrates that she practices what she preaches. “I’ve coined this phrase, ‘seniors are having an encore performance.’ You only get an encore when you do the first part right. They only call you back out for an encore when you’ve performed well. I think those of us in ministry who have been faithful and consistent receive an encore,” she expostulates. “Retirement is when you take all God has shown you and use it not for any end; nobody is evaluating you, nobody is giving you a paycheck. You simply do what rises up in you, what brings you joy based on all the experiences God has made possible for you. In a funny way, that’s exactly what I’m doing now at Alfred Street Church, although I am getting a paycheck. My job is the culmination of what I love to do inside and outside the church.”

Rev. Jacque concludes, “What I want for my brothers and sisters who are retiring is to discern what gives them joy and to find a way to share it in the kingdom however that happens, in the church, outside of the church, in community theater, in carpentry or some other field.” By embracing her season of retirement, Rev. Jacque has discovered a new season of joy.

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