Canon Andrew Willie writes:
THE Very Revd Frank Graham Jenkins, who died on 22 October, aged 88, was a priest of the Church in Wales. For 14 years he was Dean of St Woolos’ Cathedral, Newport, where, as was the case with all his predecessors, he went under the confusing title of Dean of Monmouth.
He had been curate of Llangeinor, minor canon of Llandaff Cathedral, for which he had an abiding affection. Then, in the adjacent diocese of Monmouth, he was vicar consecutively of Abertillery, Risca, and Caerleon, before becoming the cathedral’s Dean. Although he was by nature a shy man, he with his wife, Ena, made very many friends wherever he served. He also upset some in the Church in Wales at large, because, when serving on the Governing Body and on numerous provincial committees, including the Liturgical Commission, which he chaired, he was not afraid to be forward-thinking and, indeed, controversial if necessary.
As Dean of Monmouth, he was responsible for the formation of the Cathedral Friends, for introducing midweek choral evensong, for the introduction of lectures and cultural events, for the whitening of the cathedral’s rather dreary interior, for the provision of a modern guidebook, for the purchase of separate houses for the chaplains, and for planning the building of the present cathedral hall.
Churchmanship matters were also brought up to normal cathedral standards, with the introduction of the Easter vigil, the Paschal candle and the wearing of the dalmatic by the Bishop’s assistants at an ordination. In all such matters, he was always very careful to take people with him.
He found time for other work, chairing the Council of Churches in Newport and doing much locally to forward the work of those Churches in Wales covenanting for unity. In this matter, he emphasised mutual sharing and education. He gave sympathetic support to the cause of women’s ordination, and vital support to the religious community in the diocese at Ty Mawr Convent.
Learning also mattered to him: he was a key member of the committee that used to plan the diocesan clergy conference at Oxford, and he sat on the Council of the University at Lampeter. In addition, he chaired GAVO, the Gwent Association of Voluntary Organisations.
His standards were exacting and exemplary, but he showed tremendous loyalty to friends, even when they fell short of his standards, and also to his curates and former curates, of whom he was very supportive.
If he had a little blind spot, it was in his dealings with conservative Evangelicals and all who saw sudden conversion as a necessary part of the Christian pilgrimage and so, without realising it, scorned his own faith journey — no sudden conversion whatsoever, but a true vocation, like that of the prophet Jeremiah, from earliest existence.
He and Ena celebrated their diamond anniversary last year and in May of this, he celebrated the 60th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood. As he became very ill, Providence sent him two Orthodox Romanian nurses whose love and respect extended not only to Frank as a man, but also to his priesthood.
Frank and Ena lived in an extension to the home of their daughter and son-in-law, sons from Canada visited frequently, and the final experience, as Frank left for Glory, was of what one of their favourite writers, Charles Williams, described as the “grace and comfort of a perfect end”.
Readers might like to know that a memorial service for Frank will take place in St Woolos’ Cathedral, Newport, on 3 December at 2.30 p.m. No tickets are required.