From Tulsa to Durham, Jarred White’s Journey through Spirituality and Community

From an early age in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Jarred White thought a lot about his calling. He, his parents, Virgil and Clara, and his older brother, Jason, spent a lot of time in the context of church. He recalls Sunday morning services, picnics, outreaches, mission trips, and summer camps. “In my family, spirituality was a primary value that my parents instilled in me and my brother,” he shared.

As a young person thinking about his future, he wasn’t sure where he would land. “I knew that I was drawn to many of the responsibilities and roles within my faith community, that I wanted to help others, and that I cared a lot about understanding the way the world around me worked, especially through a philosophical and theological lens. Although public speaking has terrified me over the years, I somehow found myself in the pulpit with enough regularity that communicating complex or new ideas through storytelling was something I have grown to enjoy. At various times, I imagined myself as a pastor, as a teacher or professor,” he said.

Jarred is the only one in his family who did not pursue a career in finance or accounting. His mother was an accountant who worked for the IRS, his father was a stockbroker and a financial planner (now retired), and his brother works for the Treasury Department. Jarred did not find his calling in numbers. “While most of my family is drawn to numbers and money, I’m drawn to theology, philosophy, and understanding how the world works,” he shared.

After completing his undergraduate degree in multidisciplinary studies at the University of Oklahoma, Jarred attended Duke Divinity School and graduated in 2016. “I had wanted to attend Duke since I was a kid. I applied to Duke Divinity School both as a valid graduate degree in service of my long-term goal and as an opportunity to dig into the theological and ideological roots of my faith,” Jarred relayed.

During the last year of his program at Duke Divinity, he helped put together a two-part event with his professor Luke Bretherton and World Vision International that highlighted the struggle of migrant and undocumented farmworkers in North Carolina. It was through this project that he started working with several local organizations that focus on food security, agriculture, and food systems. “That’s how I was introduced to this space,” Jarred said.

After he graduated and spent a few years in a staff ministry position he realized that full-time vocational parish ministry wasn’t the best fit for him. He learned about a position with the Come to the Table program at RAFI-USA, applied, and was hired. “The opportunity to draw on my interests and experiences in both faith communities and equity in agriculture was intriguing to me. I had only heard good things about RAFI-USA as an organization. So, it seemed like an obvious choice,” he shared. “Now that I’ve ended up doing something that, even three years ago, I wouldn’t have known was a possibility, I’m much more open to the idea of vocation being an evolving expression of my values, through connections in community.”

For fun, Jarred spends a lot of time playing with and training his dog. “I adopted her in February 2021, and it’s definitely been amazing watching her grow, both physically and behaviorally. She’s more popular with most family, friends, and co-workers than I am,” he commented.

In fact, when asked if he could be granted three wishes, what would they be, his third wish was, “that my six-month-old Great Dane puppy would be 100% obedient … but I’m not sure even a genie could grant that wish,” he joked.

As for the future, “I don’t know what I’m having for dinner! But I’ve deeply enjoyed doing what amounts to a combination of matchmaking and organizing; much of our strategy in CTTT is making connections and organizing communities. This is the kind of work I want to keep doing, so I’m excited to see how that evolves over the next few years.”
For those of you wondering what wishes one and two were, Jarred said, “First, for future reference, always wish for unlimited wishes! Then I’d figure it out from there. But really, I’d first wish for an unlimited supply of cherry sours, my favorite candy. Second, I’d wish that the Netflix show ‘Messiah’ would be renewed for as many additional seasons as the creators wished.”

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