Rev. Dr. Weldon G. Thomas Receives Distinguished Alumni
The Northeastern Seminary Distinguished Alumni Award was established in 2009 to recognize graduates of Northeastern Seminary who exemplify faithful service in ministry. Recipients demonstrate such characteristics as innovative approaches to ministry, engagement of their cultural context, perseverance in the face of challenges, excellence in biblical preaching and worship, equipping others to serve, and transformation of self and others through spiritual formation.
Rev. Dr. Thomas graduated from Northeastern Seminary with the doctor of ministry degree in 2013. He came to the doctoral program with a master of divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary, and a bachelors of arts degree from the University of Maryland, where he studied urban and African American studies.
In 2005, Dr. Thomas moved to Rochester N.Y. and began his service as senior pastor of New Bethel Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, a 95-year-old urban congregation in the fertile crescent of northeast Rochester. Under Dr. Thomas’s leadership, New Bethel is home to a vibrant multi-generational congregation of approximately 500 members. Community-wide ministry and outreach programs offered by the church include a food pantry and health and wellness education and advocacy programming to support underserved communities of Rochester.
The active ministry of New Bethel became the platform of Rev. Thomas’s doctoral dissertation, “The New Bethel CME Church and The Rochester Faith Collaborative: The Mutual Benefits of The Collaboration Between Both Groups.” His research gives light to how leveraging partnerships can serve as a model for sharing resources and addressing issues faced by the local community. The topics discussed in Dr. Thomas’s research focused on identifying social factors in determining the health of a community, paired with a focus on HIV/AIDS education and prevention.
Thinking back on his time at Northeastern Seminary, Dr. Thomas recalls the spiritual formation elements of each course of study being the most influential aspects of his experience. Dr. Thomas expresses his gratitude to Dr. Rebecca Letterman whose knowledge of spiritual formation to this day continues to impact him and his ministry. He is also grateful for the formative forces of Dr. Nelson Grimm’s emphasis on leadership and church administration and Dr. J. Richard Middleton’s biblical scholarship on his experience. When asked about his time at Northeastern Seminary, Dr. Thomas noted, “Pursuing a doctor of ministry degree at Northeastern has been one of my most important educational accomplishments. The skills I acquired have helped to sharpen my iron.”
Dr. Thomas’s accomplishments in pastoral leadership are many and span beyond the City of Rochester to Philadelphia, Pa., Winston-Salem, N.C., and Washington, DC. As pastor at St. John Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, in Washington, DC, Dr. Thomas initiated a $1.6 million building construction and renovation project. This past September, the congregation of St. John recognized his excellence and dedication by naming their education building in his honor. During his time in Washington, Dr. Thomas also served as president of the Black Methodist Clergy Association of Greater Washington, DC. He has served the Christian Methodist Episcopal denomination in a wide range of roles from Presiding Elder of the New York-New England District, to Director of Christian Education for the New York-Washington Region, and member of the Board of Institutional Chaplains. In addition, Rev. Thomas served as an active reserve chaplain in the United States Air Force and retired after 22 years of honorable service.
Outside of the pulpit, Dr. Thomas’s dedication to the community has built a legacy of collaboration and service. A few key pillars of this legacy include his service as community representative for Action for a Better Community Head Start Policy Council, member of the Rochester Better Life Collaborative, convener of the Rochester Faith Collaborative, Church United member, participant in the creation of the Interdenominational Health Ministry Coalition, and member of the Board of Directors of the University of Rochester Christian Fellowship campus ministry. An avid writer, Dr. Thomas has contributed to publications such as “The African American Devotional Bible: Meditations on Quality Leadership,” published in 1997 by Zondervan Press. He has also authored a book of poems titled “30 Years of HER: Reflections and Love Poems of a Happily Married Man.”