Rev. Neal Jones, Psy.D.
Neal Jones has been the minister of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Columbia for the last eight years, starting as part-time in 2004 and then full-time in 2007.
Before serving as our minister, he was the clinical psychologist for the Pastoral Counseling Center of Palmetto Health, where he conducted therapy with individuals, couples, and families, performed personality assessments for the clergy candidates of three denominations, and managed a satellite pastoral counseling center in Sumter, SC. Neal preaches and lives a practical spirituality that seeks personal wholeness, relational respect, social justice, and ecological responsibility.
Neal’s father was a factory worker and his mother a secretary in Smithfield, a small tobacco town in eastern North Carolina, where Neal was born and raised. The Jones family belonged to a small, white-framed Southern Baptist Church, and Neal and his younger brother Chris attended public schools. Neal earned his B.A. in political science from Wake Forest University and his Master of Divinity from Southeastern Baptist
Theological Seminary, and he completed a residency in Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) at the N.C. Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem.
Neal was ordained by his home church in 1986, but he never served a Baptist church. The dogmatism and judgmentalism of the Baptist religion pushed him to join a more progressive denomination, the United Church of Christ, and he served as the minister of a UCC congregation in Rockwell, NC, and then of a Moravian church in Winston-Salem, NC. In 1996, Neal went back to school to earn a doctorate in psychology at Baylor University.
While attending Baylor, he discovered the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Waco, Texas, and was soon hired as their part-time minister. Discovering Unitarian Universalism was a spiritual homecoming for Neal. For the first time, he experienced a religious community that respected the inherent worth and dignity of every person, that encouraged a free and responsible search for truth and meaning, that worked for peace and justice, and that recognized the interdependent web of all existence. He has been a passionate “evangelist” for Unitarian Universalist principles ever since.
On December 2, 2012, the Columbia UU called Neal as their permanent minister, and on January 27, 2013, the congregation formally installed him as their presenter, with Rev. Barry Lynn, Executive Director of Americans United for Separation for Church & State, as the keynote speaker; the Hon. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, Representative from Orangeburg in the House of Representatives in the General Assembly; and Rev. Dan King, Neal's mentor minister and pastor of the First Parish Church in Kingston. Neal was presented a stole made by all the children of the congregation.
Neal’s psychologist internship brought him to the University of South Carolina and Columbia, which has been his home since 1999. He lives in the Shandon neighborhood, within walking distance from the congregation.