Dr. Raymond Polson Jennings Memorial Library & Kissing Frogs Resource Directory
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Mission Impossible
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Seafarer's Ministry

This news release was widely distributed shortly after Ray's death. Feel free to use it. We would appreciate it if you could forward any publication that contains material you gather from this website.


For immediate release -

    Oakland CA - Dr. Raymond P. Jennings, who was an American Baptist pastor, missionary and writer for six decades, lost his year-long battle with pancreatic cancer.  He died peacefully at his home, surrounded by family members, in Oakland, California on April 4, 2006. He had lived in the San Francisco Bay area for almost a third of his life and had just celebrated his 82nd birthday.

    Born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1924, Ray Jennings grew up in the famed Third Baptist Church where he was ordained by Dr. C. Oscar Johnson at age 20. He graduated from nearby William Jewell College in 1945, where he met and married Irene Payne Jennings.

    He earned his bachelor of divinity degree at Yale Divinity School in 1948, just before he and Irene became appointees of the American Baptist Foreign Mission Society (now International Ministries.) They spent a decade in Japan. Dr. Jennings was a chaplain and teacher, and Irene also taught at Kanto Gakuin University in Yokohama.

    Later he earned two more graduate degrees; a Th.M. in 1956 from American Baptist Seminary of the West in Berkeley and a Th.D. in 1958 from Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Kansas.

    After they returned from Japan in 1960, Dr. Jennings served as pastor of American Baptist churches in Ottawa, Kansas; Berkeley and Moraga, California; Syracuse, New York; and Washington, D.C..

    As pastor of First Baptist in Berkeley from 1968-75, Ray, with his clerical collar became a central figure in dealing with the student unrest and riots at UC Berkeley during that era. The Baptists operated a coffee house and free food program out of the church on Haste and Dana Streets. Ray was instrumental in the opening of the Berkeley Free Health Clinic and the Berkeley Youth Alternatives Ministry. Both are still in operation today. 
    Ray was also a regular speaker in front of the Berkeley City Council and was often seen talking in the hallways with then City Councilmen, Ron Dellums and Borden Price. He stood up against many proposals that would have drastically changed the “flavor” of the Telegraph Avenue area as it is known to this day.

    For 12 years Dr. Jennings was a reporter/analyst for the American Baptist Churches' Division of Communications in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania where he also edited “Input,” a popular biweekly sent to professional church leaders. During his tenure on the East Coast, he traveled to China and Russia to cover events and worked with such luminaries as Bill Moyers. He also interviewed and wrote a feature on Dr. Wayne Angell, a member of his Ottawa, Kansas church and a governer of the Federal Reserve Board.  

    The tallest bookcase in Ray and Irene’s Oakland home is packed with volumes by Drs. Kenneth Scott Latourette and Halford Luccock (then Yale professors); Dr. Emil Brunner, a famed German theologian who also taught in Japan; and other professors and friends.

    As a minister, Dr. Jennings was both pastor and prophet. Ray would not have approved of the use of the word "prophet" to describe himself, however, he understood what the future should hold. He labored to teach and to help create that future. He was a strong advocate for women in the ministry. In two of his pastorates he had professional women associates. He also worked with and mentored many women ministers-in-training.
    In 1975, Judson Press published his book entitled “Rev. Ms. Evelyn Morgan Jones, I Love You” which became required reading for students of Central Seminary.

    At the time of Ray's death, his board memberships included the Seafarers Ministry of the Golden Gate; a committee of the Baptist World Alliance for Justice and Civil Rights; the residents council of Grand Lake Gardens (where Ray and Irene have lived since 1997); the Pacific Coast Baptist Association; and the Council for Pacific Asian Theology, which honors the late Dr. Jitsuo Morikawa.
    Ray became interested in genealogy late in his life. It wasn’t until then that he learned that he was a direct descendant of the founders of the Separatist Church in the late 16th century which left Europe to practice a religion based on the separation of church and state. Several of his great grandfathers fought in the Revolutionary War for the same principles, one alongside George Washington. Since then, his ancestors and even some of his descendants have also fought on many fronts to preserve the freedoms we hold dear today.
    Ray's ministry was his calling, his nature, and the core of his heritage.


Family and Memorial Services


    Ray and Irene Jennings celebrated 61 years of marriage on August 27, 2005. They have 4 children: son Ken and daughter Rita, both of Oakland; Jonathan (and wife Gisela) of Pleasant Hill CA; and Beth Jennings Williams of Fremont CA. Ray was also close to his 12 grandchildren and 5 great-grand children.

    A celebration of Dr. Jennings life took place on Saturday, April 29, 2006 at Shell Ridge Community Church, 200 La Casa Via in Walnut Creek, CA.

    Memorial gifts may be sent to American Baptist International Ministries, Box 851, Valley Forge PA 19482 or the Seafearers Ministry of the Golden Gate, Berth 40, 4001 Seventh St., Oakland CA 94607.


Story Editors: Joan Thatcher; Irene Jennings; LK Jennings


Send inquiries and published clippings to:

PO Box 538, Berkeley, CA 94701 (510)853-7922