The Rt Revd Nicholas Reade writes:
I WAS fortunate, not only to have trained with Prebendary Alan Jones at Mirfield, but also to have been in the neighbouring parish when we were curates. At that time, he lived above a betting shop and next door to a chip shop.
All Alan’s ministry was in the diocese of Lichfield, except for a two-year second curacy at St John the Baptist, Coventry. With his sharp mind and clear grasp of academic theology, he could have exercised his priestly ministry almost anywhere, but he never wavered from his first love, which was to be a parish priest. He knew, in both parishes he served as incumbent, that he was in for the long haul: 16 years at Friar Park, and 19 years at Ettingshall.
Alan, who died on 26 January, was a traditional parish priest, and he worked with his people, which is why they held him in great affection and responded keenly to his leadership. His parishes were always alive, and with much activity, but at the heart of the life was the daily mass and the daily round of prayer.
The Church always spoke to the parish and to the visitor of the beauty of holiness. Alan had no interest in “high churchery” and outdated ceremonial. Worship was to be prepared for carefully, but was not to be fussy. The music was always well rehearsed, the preaching was deep, but accessible, and everything was to be presented in a relaxed way. Above all, everyone caught something of the wonder of God.
Fr Alan believed that the priest must know the people, and he was always a familiar figure around the parish, and a good visitor. He was a skilful pastor and is especially remembered for his ministry to the sick, the dying and the bereaved, and those in special need. He was a wise confessor and was sought out by many as a spiritual director. His fellow clergy would often look to him for advice.
Sometimes, he would not give himself credit for being good with the young. They warmed to him because they saw something very authentic. He also took them on pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham. He had been a Scouter for most of his life, started a pack in three churches, and, later on, in his ministry was County Chaplain to West Mercia Scouts.
The ever-increasing relativism and the advent of the ordination of women as priests and bishops inevitably created considerable difficulty for Alan and those who hold to a traditional doctrine of the Church. While Alan could not reconcile himself to these changes, he remained loyal to the Church of England, and continued to play a full part within it.
His wisdom and strong leadership was recognised when he became Regional Dean for Forward in Faith and he worked very closely with the Bishop of Ebbsfleet. Because he was always gracious to those on the other side of the argument, and at the same time very clear in his position, he was much respected and consulted frequently by those on both sides, not least bishops. Consequently, few were surprised when this wise priest became an Area Dean of Wolverhampton, and was later collated as a Prebendary of Lichfield Cathedral.
While never one to push himself forward, a conversation with Alan, or a day out with him, was huge fun, and wherever you went he would see something to make you laugh; and there can be few who will forget his quick wit. He also knew how to use humour to help us take the heat out of the moment and put things in perspective.
No one, of course, knew his wit like Karen, his wife for nearly 38 years who, as well as having a career in industry, and then later becoming a secondary school teacher, was a rock to Alan in all he gave. And Karen would say, too, that he was a rock to her. In public, Alan may not have been a very demonstrative person, but the closeness of Karen and Alan wherever they were was rich and obvious, and they both gave much to their friends and parishes.
In retirement, Fr Alan’s ministry continued around the archdeaconry, and in many other ways. Just before Christmas, he was pleased to have been asked by the Bishop to become Interim Priest at Coven, where Karen was churchwarden. His ministry there was just coming up to speed, and he had already started planning for Easter. Very suddenly, he was called, shortly before his 71st birthday, to lead the fullness of the life of Easter.
Our legacy is surely our witness. Fr Alan, rich in faith and full of the Holy Spirit, has left the Church on earth, and, especially in the diocese of Lichfield, a rare legacy. Meanwhile, we pray, with thanksgiving, for him, and he continues to pray for us.