FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) – Gerald and Anne Jones provided funding for the Choir Rehearsal Room, a part of the Dec. 1 dedication of Southwestern’s new J.W. MacGorman Chapel.
The Joneses, who sing in the choir in their Arkansas church, said they were glad to help with the funding of the chapel and look forward to seeing its many benefits.
“We've been Baptists ever since we were born. My wife says she was born in a Baptist church in the kitchen. I guess we've just supported Baptists all the time,” Gerald said. “Paige [Patterson] was our pastor in First Baptist Church Fayetteville for several years, and we've known [him and Dorothy] forever and wanted to support that part of it, too.”
Anne agreed, saying that the impact the president and first lady had in their lives prompted them to want to support the building of the chapel.
“While they were here and he was minister of our church, they blessed our lives in a very special way and we have kept contact with them through the years and wanted to help,” she said. “I hope it will continue to reach lots of very talented young people and that they will go out from there prepared to serve the Lord.”
The rehearsal room also includes a collection of Richard D. “Dick” Baker’s work. Baker, a distinguished alumnus and well-known hymn writer, died of Parkinson’s disease in September. Yet, the first lady’s efforts in preserving his work will allow Baker’s legacy to go on, Baker’s daughter, Lori Simmons, said.
“Mrs. Patterson contacted him a few years ago about wanting to have a copy of each of the songs that my dad had written through the years to hold on to and archive,” Simmons said. “So, years ago he began doing that—taking things to her [and] sending her whatever additional pieces he had written.”
Those pieces will now be on display in the choir rehearsal room in the chapel.
“My father's hope was that it would be somewhere available if someone was looking to learn about it or needed a copy of it to help students in the field of Gospel music at the seminary,” Simmons said. “He was very honored and thrilled that someone was going to take it and provide it in that way.”
While this is not the first time Southwestern has honored Baker, his daughter says he would see it as the highlight of all accolades.
“He had such a love for Southwestern Seminary,” Simmons said. “The seminary has a music chair that was established in his name several years ago, and he was always very proud to be associated with the seminary. They were gracious to honor him through the years in different ways, but this probably is the highest of any of the honors that they could do for him—providing and protecting his music, putting it in that new building.”
The Choir Rehearsal Room was dedicated during Christmas at Southwestern, a production of the School of Church Music, held on the evening of Dec. 1.