Obituary: The Revd Alwyn Jones

by
16 February 2018

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The Revd Jack House writes:

THE Revd Alwyn Humphrey Griffith Jones, who died on 14 January, aged 87, was proof of the fact that God does indeed hallow human paradox, enigma, contradiction, and eccentri­city. Such pheno­mena are evident even in the variety of circumstances and loca­tions in which he exercised his long priestly vocation.

After preparation for ordination at Mirfield, and a curacy in west Hackney, and in response to a call from Archbishop Fisher for celibate priests, Alwyn served in East Pakistan with SPG, and in India with the Oxford Mission to Calcutta and the Royal Bombay Seamen’s Society. On his return to the UK in the early 1970s, he was appointed Team Rector in the newly established Bed­minster Team Ministry in Bristol diocese, later serving as Team Vicar in the Lang­port area group in Bath & Wells, in three English prison chap­laincies, and be­­fore a very active retirement back in Bristol, as a­s­­sistant curate of Acton Green in west London.

In each of these eclectic situations, Alwyn was upheld by, and sought to promote, the Catholic faith, as held by his beloved Church of England. His spirituality was inspired by the vision he received of his blessed Lord in the sacrament of the mass, in which he shared on an almost daily basis throughout most of his min­istry.

His propagation of the faith was, to an extent, unconventional. His preach­ing ministry was erratic: ser­mons were prone to having long pauses, so that, on occasion, mem­bers of the congregation had been known to enquire whether he had finished.

In fact, he proclaimed the faith far more powerfully in the friendship, love, and care that he lavished on other people, par­­tic­ularly those in situations of crisis, be they a homeless and broken family whom he lodged in his vicar­­age, a failed and wandering Franciscan novice whom he allowed to pitch a tent in his garden, or a feckless and disfigured Chinese chef whom he welcomed, as a guest, to sleep in his bath. These are just three, out of many possible ex­­amples of his style of ministry.

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Parochial administration, as gen­erally understood, was, for Alwyn, marginal to what ministry was all about. On one occasion, in the midst of a fraught meeting of a parochial church council considering some triviality, he left the room, returned some minutes later in his pyjamas and dressing-gown, and threw his house keys on the table with the admonition that the last person to leave should lock up and put the keys through the letter box.

His vision of the Catholicity of the Church embraced, for Alwyn, the notion of every-person ministry. Thus, during his ministry in the parish of Bedminster, no fewer than four men were selected for training for what is now termed self-supporting ministry ­— and are still min­istering.

He never felt able, how­ever, to accept that God’s call to priestly min­istry might extend to women. But, unlike others who shared this view, and “swam the Tiber”, he re­­­mained a loyal son of the Church of England.

This loyalty was indeed stretched at times by the apparent refusal of his beloved church to recognise his talents in ministry, so that, in con­seq­uence, his relationship with his bishops was, from time to time, beset by the exchange of corres­pond­­ence of a decidedly vitriolic nature on his part.

In this day and age, I suspect, the paradoxes, enigmas, con­­tradictions, and eccentricities that were evident in Alwyn’s life and ministry, and yet hallowed by God, would cause seri­ous questionings among those re­­spons­ible for selection for training for ordina­­tion.

There are many throughout Christen­dom who are glad that in an earlier era it seemed right and proper to ordain Alwyn Jones as a priest. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.

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