Seminary News

Couple Graduate from GRTS Urban Cohort Together

Joe and Jesse Jones do a lot together. On May 3 they walked the aisle during the Grand Rapids Theological Seminary commencement exercises to receive their Master of Arts Degree in Ministry Leadership together at Cornerstone University.

The couple were part of the first Urban Ministry Cohort Program through Grand Rapids Theological Seminary.

The program, started in 2007 with a generous donation, was designed to provide innovative and disciplined theological education to urban ministry leaders to help further their education.

Joe has just been named president/CEO of Grand Rapids Urban League and is involved with his former company, E.E. Milestone & Associates, a strategic communications firm in Grand Rapids.

In addition, Joe and Jesse work as a team at their inner-city church, Brown Hutcherson Ministries. Joe serves as an associate pastor and together they teach a Sunday school class and minister to married couples.

Jesse, a Human Resource Manager at Porter Hills Village in Grand Rapids, and her husband have four children; twins Eric and Erica, 28; Miles, 14; and Micaela, 12, as well as three grandchildren.

So why would such a busy couple choose to take on the big commitment of this master’s program?

“We both felt the need for a seminary education,” said Joe. “But saying our lives were busy is an understatement. Financing would also be difficult. But we’d been praying and the desire was there.”

About that time, Doug Fagerstrom, former president of GRTS, called them up and told them about the Urban Ministry Cohort Program.

“It made perfect sense to us – an answered prayer,” he said.

The classes met one night a week with a group, or cohort, of 14-15 students.

 “The whole program has been a great benefit to our ministry,” said Jesse. “We have learned so much biblically. We already had the hands-on experience. From what we have learned, some things are changing, some are staying the same. Our preaching and teaching are better as a result.”

New cohorts are now forming. For more information, visit