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Sometimes, in life, all a person wants is a listening ear. Sometimes, talking to someone is enough to lessen the impact of troubles and to minimize pain.
Sometimes, it is the tool that opens Pandora’s box. Sometimes, it serves as a magnificent means to clarify our thoughts and expose our needs. Talking opens the dam of difficulties.
Listening provides a vehicle for the overflow to escape without causing damage. It also offers an effective route toward healing.
When I met Jonathan Kelley, I was struck with his ability to listen. His gentle demeanor evoked a sense he would fill the bill for anyone who had a tale to tell, who wished to be heard, who wanted guidance, and just needed someone to talk to.
Who is this man? I could start with a list of credentials that would ease any concerns about his educational background and tested ability.
In addition to his ordination in 1979 as a Presbyterian minister, he has a master degree in divinity from Harvard Divinity School, a doctor of ministry degree from Princeton Theological Seminary, as well as a graduate certificate in pastoral psychotherapy from the Blanton Peale Graduate Institute in New York City.
He is a licensed professional counselor in North Carolina and a Fellow of the American Association of Pastoral Counselors.
A comparative newcomer to this part of Brunswick County, Jonathan is eager to offer his ministry in counseling and psychotherapy to individuals, couples, families, and adolescents without regard to race, gender, sexual orientation or religious affiliation.
This last note is important since his office is a satellite of the Presbyterian Counseling Center.
Jonathan’s desire is to make certain no one is confused or put off by the mention of a specific denomination. He offers faith-based counseling in the broadest of terms. It is clearly not limited by any particular church affiliation.
Jonathan’s story is a fascinating one and his philosophy of ministry is equally inspiring. A belief in the sacredness of life and a sense of the sanctity that is housed in human stories, the holiness of the place and space each person occupies permeates his understanding of psychology.
This is not simply a gathering of words to complete a resume. It is palpable in the office as soon as one enters. Drawn by the soothing music that emanates from a small radio/CD player at the base of the entryway, the client (or visitor, in my case) crosses the threshold into a room bathed in serenity. Peace is the name of this place and of the counselor who offers a handshake and greeting that exudes shalom. Both man and environment whisper welcome.
I came to interview Jonathan but soon found myself telling my own story, my history of ministry’s joy and suffering. It was a clear indication of his therapeutic personality and eagerness to hear the power and pain that underscores human life. As quickly as I could, I returned to the matter at hand to offer my own listening ear.
A family man, Jonathan beamed as he told me his wife is a paleontologist and professor at UNCW and he chose to find pastoral assignments wherever she worked. This led him to congregations in Mississippi, North Dakota, Virginia, and most recently, in Southport.
He was as enthusiastic in praise of his children, a son who administers, manages, and oversees a mall in the Washington, D.C. area and a daughter who will soon graduate with a major in art history from Wooster College in Ohio, the school both he and his wife claim as their alma mater.
Jonathan has had a variety of pastoral experiences in churches that ranged from large urban to tiny suburban ones, from affluent congregations to those experiencing financial struggles.
He has been involved in large building projects and has mediated many “church messes.”
Although he found pastoral work rewarding, Jonathan also noted, deep within his being, a continued call to minister in a different venue. His was on a continuing search for more.
When he recognized the administrative aspect of parish work no longer energized him, his subconscious “urge” to continue ministry elsewhere bubbled into a conscious decision to pursue pastoral counseling.
He spent several years discerning God’s will in this regard and solidified it with three years of academic work beyond his seminary training and doctorate.
Surprised by the intensity of his coursework, Jonathan stated his studies at the Blanton Peale Graduate Institute were both grueling and gracious. They also afforded him a generous experience in counseling techniques and an understanding of “what it feels like to be exposing one’s deepest core to another human being.”
As he believes, God graced him even more fully since he continues to serve as stated supply for a small Presbyterian church in Riegelwood where he can still follow his love and lead worship.
He has found the best of both worlds.
And now he is here in Shallotte, housed in an office tucked away in a back corner of Shallotte Presbyterian Church. Its location affords precious privacy and fairly shouts strict confidentiality—gifts that are often missing in a technological world with cyberspace ears and eyes.
Although the locale is “on a church campus,” the counseling is available to all who “seek an experience of life that is freeing.” Jonathan honors the faith experience of all comers.
He respects their stance, their creeds and their denominations or lack thereof. He also believes what he reads in Scripture, “I have come that you might have life and have it abundantly.” [John 10:10]
Abundant life, freedom from the cares and concerns that bind and enslave us, the ability to experience life more deeply, emotional growth—these are the goals of quality, faith-based counseling and psychotherapy.
This is what Jonathan Kelley hopes to offer anyone, Christian or non-Christian, financially stable or not, who just needs someone to talk to.
Overtly compassionate, caring, and gentle to the core, Jonathan listens.
Fran Salone-Pelletier has a master's degree in theology and is the author of, AWAKENING TO GOD: The Sunday Readings in Our Lives [a trilogy of scriptural meditations], leadchaplain at Brunswick Community Hospital, religious educator, retreat leader and lecturer.