Rev. Susan Pendleton Jones is embracing her new roles at Belmont and in Nashville after successful careers in North Carolina, seeking her own unique path to “Let Hope Abound” in her new community.
Since first arriving in June to accompany her husband, Belmont President Dr. Greg Jones, Susan has become a familiar face and name within the Belmont community and beyond—serving as an extension of the President’s Office wherever needs arise, a role she says she and Greg have played for each other since first meeting at Duke Divinity in graduate school.
“Our shared vocation has given our lives so much meaning,” Susan said. “Since the earliest days of our careers, our lives—personally and professionally—have intersected, and when Greg accepted this position at Belmont, we knew it would be no different.”
Thinking back to those first days at Duke, when Susan was a third-year student and Greg just beginning, she fondly remembers studying, learning and working on projects together. “I even shared my Greek flashcards with him,” she said laughingly. And the model of how they’ve shared their vocation with each other has continued ever since.
When Greg was a faculty member and took sabbatical, Susan stepped in to teach his classes. And when Susan went on maternity leave while serving as the Pastor for a local church, Greg took over her duties. With similar backgrounds and passions, serving in many ministry roles over the years and both caring for the development of people and their spiritual identities, Susan says this has been a natural partnership that has only strengthened with time.
Now, at Belmont, Susan has assumed a new role—Senior Fellow for Christ-Centered Visioning. A volunteer position housed in the President’s Office, this appointment will allow Susan to continue serving as one of Greg’s key partners, while providing her with a platform to further Belmont’s mission through her own passions.
When considering the things that sit closest to her heart, it’s an easy answer for Susan to point to children—loving and caring for their development. And it’s because of the example Jesus sets from his own life. “When we look at how Jesus spent his time and what he gave his life for,” Susan said, “we see in scripture that he blesses three things with his own hands —bread, wine and children. As a community, we are very familiar with blessing the bread and wine, many of us do it before every mealtime, but we often forget about the third—his dedication to children. When we are intentional to care about what we see Jesus bless in the Scriptures, we can better follow him and serve each other.”
The Joneses both see the importance of what Greg calls an over-investment in the young, recognizing the power of children and the role they play in our lives. Susan is eager to continue her interest and passion for caring for children through her role at Belmont. She sees that work playing out in many ways—most notably through BASIC (the Belmont Accelerator for Social Innovation Collaboration) and the work the University is doing alongside The Store, a non-profit focused on empowering people seeking self-sufficiency by providing choices for healthy food, and its wrap-around services. Through these efforts, Susan will work with many partners to further Belmont’s work to heal and meet the needs of people throughout the community.
“Greg and I are so excited about the incredible efforts taken every day across our campus to further our mission as a Christ-Centered institution,” Susan said. “I look forward to collaborating with so many individuals and teams to further the transformational work that is changing so many lives across our city and beyond.”
She’s also eager to invest in the internal Belmont community and is beginning her focus with staff members. Soon, she and Greg will launch “Life at the Table,” an initiative that invites staff from across campus to come together and share life—engaging in meaningful conversations over meals.
“I’m very excited to continue to strengthen the internal Belmont community and play a role in the incredible culture that has been developed across this campus,” Susan said. “Working at Belmont is more than just a job—it’s a true vocation. And when we connect on a personal level more frequently, we build upon our vocation. When we know each other better, we can serve each other more intentionally.”
Beyond her passions for community and interpersonal connection, Susan is a builder—in more ways than one. With a deep appreciation for architecture and the role it plays in the Spiritual realm, she’s already incredibly involved in Belmont’s growing campus footprint.
“All buildings speak,” she said. “Each building tells a story. The question is—what will they say? How do you create buildings in a way that allows them to speak of flourishing life?
Susan began her work in architecture while working at Duke Divinity School and contributed to the construction of the new Divinity Chapel and classroom addition. Reflecting on how to intentionally curate and create spaces that speak of goodness and peace, she can point to many special aspects of those that she worked on. From commissioned art pieces, to sculptures, to limestone inscriptions—each intentional piece serves as an effort to connect people and speak life.
“The ways in which spaces are designed impacts our lives in many ways,” she said. “We hope they will offer a sense of welcome, hospitality, belonging and more—we want to create spaces on Belmont’s campus that reflect the good life that God intends. We want to build bridges, rather than walls. We seek spaces that connect and unite, rather than those that divide and separate.”
This work will continue through the Joneses’ time on campus, as Susan works alongside the University’s existing team to contribute to a variety of construction and architecture projects across campus.
When Greg thinks about Susan’s top skills, it’s this ability to see the divinely-inspired in all things—from one-on-one relationships with people, to large group speaking engagements, to the design of buildings.
“Susan is exceptional at discerning beauty in all things,” Greg said. “Her ability to find and celebrate the pieces of our lives that make us beautiful people is a gift to our community. As has been true of each season of our lives, I look forward to walking through our journey at Belmont together, seeking opportunities to serve and love people well.”