by Lauren Crews and Leslie DeVooght
St. Augustine is a city of firsts. It is recognized as the first colony in the continental U.S. The oldest Christian community began there, and in 1738, it became the site of the first free settlement for ex-slaves at Fort Mose. On July 1st, the city will reach another historical first mile-marker when Jacksonville native Juana Jordan assumes the position of Sr. Pastor at the First United Methodist Church in St. Augustine.
“In the process, we fell in love with her, and found that WE were the ones blessed by her friendship, passion, and passionate preaching. She has changed our church.”
Jordan, a graduate of Emory University Candler School of Theology, was ordained as a full elder in 2017. She is in her eighth year as a full-time pastor, five of which she served as Sr. Pastor of Harris Chapel United Methodist Church in Fort Lauderdale before being appointed back home to Jacksonville to plant a new faith community. She spent her first year getting re-acclimated to the area, serving as Pastor-in-Residence at the predominately white Southside United Methodist Church.
Southside UMC Senior Pastor Bruce Jones explained that Southside was to support Jordan as a sending community in her mission. However, he says “in the process, we fell in love with her, and found that we were the ones blessed by her friendship, passion, and passionate preaching. She has changed our church.”
Having served in predominately African-American churches, the Jacksonville assignment gave Jordan a pause of uncertainty, but she soon discovered a community of acceptance and love. “They loved me in a way I had never been exposed to before by white people and my time there gave me an opportunity to learn and love them right back.”
While serving at Southside, Jordan said she felt God begin to solidify her calling to build a multi-ethnic church in the Jacksonville area that would connect the diverse people of God. She and a small core group focused on the La Villa and Old Brooklyn areas of Jacksonville to establish a new church plant. They began with a prayer walk through the area, and Jordan immediately started making contacts which led to a baby shower for a stranger, a community cookout, and later a Christmas party for the area’s children.
Pastor Bruce Jones says, “Juana brought to the table passion, creativity, and intimate knowledge of Jacksonville. She grew up here, after all.” Although Jordan worked tirelessly and made fantastic inroads into the community, it was determined that the neighborhood wasn’t established enough to support a new church.
Last Spring, the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church re-assigned her to the 193-year-old church in St. Augustine. “It is a humbling opportunity, that God would pick me,” she noted.
Soon after the announcement of her new appointment, the inter-denominational, ministerial alliance of African-American pastors who meet monthly to support one another and pray together over St. Augustine invited her to joi