Jay Smith is known in a number of capacities: father, musician, theologian, professor, friend, and more. Of course, he is also President of Yellowstone Theological Institute. The following reveals just a little more about his journey to YTI, as well as about his family.
How would you say your theological education and life/spiritual experiences have led you to YTI?
Everything in my life has prepared me for this adventure. From teaching music at the U.S. Naval Academy and teaching theology at Howard Payne University to starting and pastoring churches from Texas to Washington, my life has been full of experiences that have led me to take on this adventure. Spiritually, the last five years have been the most challenging of my life. Through the ups and downs of these years, the most consistent thought has been my faith that Christ was preparing a new challenge for me. Many people—Klein and Karen Gilhousen, Bill Fowler, Sam McCutchen, Margaret Stewart, Tracie Jernigan, Betsy Quammen, and many others—affirmed this thought. I have never worked so hard in my life to make a vision, and a call, a reality.
Dr. Jay Smith speaks at a YTI public lecture in Bozeman during the summer of 2016.
What is it about Yellowstone Theological Institute and The Yellowstone Center that you’re looking forward to most? Why?
I am most looking forward to the first day of classes and the first day that our community can freely enjoy Aspen Park at the Center. It will mark the completion of one important journey and the beginning of another. In the first instance, it will mark the completion of a dream that began with Klein Gilhousen, Karen Gilhousen, Rusty Strickler, Paul Newby, Robert Cok, Melissa Smith, and Charles Revis. It has been important to the staff that this project became a reality in honor of our primary supporter and backer, Klein Gilhousen. He kept the flame burning in the most difficult of times. In the second instance, it officially marks the moment when the Yellowstone vision of education in the matrix of “faith, adventure, and the arts” begins on our Bozeman campus. After asking the question, “what will theological education need to look like in 50 years to be meaningful?” the answer we found was embedded the thirteenth century theological school at the Abbey of St. Victor in medieval Paris. It was at St. Victor, where students experienced theological education in the midst of community engagement and a challenging spiritual life, that a theological revolution took place. Church communities throughout Europe clamored for St. Victor students. We have adapted the St. Victor approach within our postmodern context in order to create a unique learning environment for today’s culture. The flexibility of the program means that students will achieve beyond their dreams, prepared for creative and critical ministry, positive community engagement, and further graduate studies.
YTI and TYC are both deeply seated in the concept of community, and are about family—can you tell us a little about your own family?
My family is everything; it is my heartbeat. I cannot be who I am without my wife, Melissa, and my two daughters, Catherine and Hannah. We live life together, through all the wonderful times and all the difficult times. Catherine and her husband Johnathan live in Texas where she is pursuing a Master’s degree in English. Hannah is a ballerina, a trumpet player, and a high school student. They both have a relationship with Jesus and are voracious readers. Melissa and I met while we were in college, and we just fit together. We have lived through good times and hard times, and know that through it all, we are gifts to each other. In the end, I’m just a boy from Oklahoma who has done his best to follow God and his heart. In the process, I’ve been incredibly blessed.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
Yes, the love of Jesus with everyone I meet. That’s real life.