January 8, 2019
By Margaret Colson
Correspondent, The Alabama Baptist
Close to 100 people gathered Jan. 4 at First Baptist Church, Birmingham, for the installation service of Jennifer Davis Rash as the new president and editor-in-chief of The Alabama Baptist.
During the service, several prominent Alabama Baptists affirmed Rash in her new role. “God has shaped and formed” Rash for this opportunity — “the crowning moment for her to be a leader,” said Rick Lance, executive director of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions. Lance affirmed her training, talent, team-player commitment and leadership temperament. She “loves God and loves Alabama Baptists,” he said.
Charles T. Carter, pastor-emeritus of Shades Mountain Baptist Church, Vestavia Hills, where Rash and her husband, Jason, were members when they first moved to Birmingham nearly 25 years ago, urged Rash to “remember to forget.” Carter used the example of Joseph’s firstborn son Manasseh in Genesis 41:51 and encouraged Rash to forget her “past failures.” Simon Peter in the Bible was “notorious for failure,” Carter said, but yet he preached a powerful sermon on the day of Pentecost.
Carter also urged Rash to forget her “past successes.” The Apostle Paul, “the most successful Christian I know of in the New Testament,” Carter said, wrote to the Philippians that he was “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead” (Phil. 3:13). Carter affirmed that Rash has “been a very blessed young lady,” but he cautioned, “Success can lull us into complacency.”
Bill Wilks, pastor of NorthPark Baptist Church, Trussville, where Rash and her husband are current active members, described Rash as a “natural born leader,” with boundless energy, creativity, a positive perspective and a loving and compassionate spirit. “I have great peace and great confidence that you are going to knock it (the TAB editor-in-chief role) out of the park. I can’t wait to see how God is going to use you,” he said.
Danny Wood, current pastor of Shades Mountain Baptist Church, told Rash to “build on the foundation that has been laid,” but then “lay the next layer on the foundation. Honor the past but don’t get weighed down by the past. You put your own perspective, your personality, your passion — you put all of that on [TAB]. That will be your stamp.” He concluded his remarks by reminding Rash that she should do her “work heartily as for the Lord rather than for men” (Col. 3:23).
The Alabama Baptist Editor-emeritus Terry then stepped to the pulpit and offered words about the function of TAB being to “tell the truth and trust the people.” He told Rash, “You are called by God to the ministry of communication. You are ready for this opportunity. You are ready for this responsibility.” He and Arthur Williams, chairman of the TAB Board of Directors, presented Rash with a framed montage of all previous 12 TAB editors, an image on the back cover of the recently published book celebrating TAB’s 175th anniversary. Then with a nod to her ascension to the role of TAB president and editor-in-chief, the two men presented Rash with an image of the same montage, with her portrait added among all previous editors.
With that image in hand, Rash said, “A lot has happened in 23 years at The Alabama Baptist.” One of her “go-to phrases” through the years, she said, has been to “watch for the fireworks,” meaning to celebrate the milestones and big moments. On Dec. 31, 2018, Rash and her husband were at the office of TAB, doing end-of-the-year tasks. Time got away from them; before they realized it, the clock was striking midnight. Fireworks filled the sky outside the building.
In that moment, on Jan. 1, 2019, Rash said, the “amazing opportunity God has provided” became reality as she stood in the place where she had described imaginary fireworks for other milestones and special moments through the years.
To conclude the service, Debbie Campbell, TAB director of communications, invited all TAB staff to stand.
“This staff, Jennifer, stands behind you; we support you; we love you. We are all here for the fireworks,” Campbell said.
The installation service was opened in prayer by Jim Cooley, pastor of First Baptist Church, Birmingham, and was closed in prayer by Timothy George, founding dean of Beeson Divinity School of Samford University in Birmingham.
Professional, educational, personal background
Rash, a Phil Campbell native, joined TAB staff in January 1996 as a news writer. Prior to her current role as TAB president and editor-in-chief, Rash served as the state Baptist paper’s news editor, managing editor and executive editor. The Alabama Baptist is the largest circulated state Baptist newspaper in the nation and among the top three largest circulated newspapers in Alabama. It has received more than 200 national awards of excellence in the past 23 years.
Before launching her career with TAB, Rash served for two years as an International Mission Board short-term missionary with Caribbean Christian Publications and Caribbean Baptist Fellowship Media Centre. During her missionary service, Rash matured in her Christian faith and built lifelong friendships — one of whom would later become her husband, Jason.
Rash earned an associate of arts degree in general liberal arts from Northwest Community College in Phil Campbell (1991), a bachelor of arts degree in communication from the University of Alabama (1993) and a master of theological studies degree from Beeson Divinity School at Samford University in Birmingham (2007).
She committed her life to full-time Christian service during her late teen years at Mountain View Baptist Church, Phil Campbell, under the leadership of Pastor Sammy Taylor.
She is a current member of — and has served in leadership positions with — several professional organizations, including Associated Church Press, Baptist Communicators Association, Association for State Baptist Publications, Religion Communicators Council, and Evangelical Press Association. She also serves on the Beeson Alumni Advisory Board and has served in various church, community and denominational roles through the years.
She and her husband, Jason, have been married since 1997. They have no children but are actively involved in the lives of their nieces and nephews.