Sunday, September 11, 2011

In Memory of Angela Shier-Jones (Rest in Peace)

Angela Shire-Jones, pictured on her last blogpost
Churches have their characters, people who rise above mere 'hundle mentality, and really leave their mark. Today, it has been reported that the Methodist Church of Great Britain lost a fine blogger & tweeter, keen conference attender, world methodist engager and noted author, Rev Angela Shire Jones.

She described herself as

Methodist Minister, theological educator and author.
Sadly mad about Wesleyan theology and the doctrine of Christian Perfection - mainly because I am so far from being perfect.
Committed to any expression of Church, fresh or otherwise which will communicate the gospel in a way that engages and transforms a needy world. (taken from her google profile)
However what she misses in this modest profile are the many ways she has enriched the life of the Methodist Church. She was an enthusiast, pedant, poker and stirrer. She was never afraid to ask 'why' or even to challenge the perceived status quo to ask 'is that right'. Her passion and interest in an active church, a passion so sorely tested at many times, helped invoke in me an understanding that I wasn't the only one that saw conferring as not just beracratic, but a key way to develop and understand our own theology. If we weren't talking how could we then move onto doing?

However, don't think being a pedant for history and rules means being stuck in the past. A key part of her life has been to encourage youth work and to engage with the Fresh Expressions movement - both in practice and in writing.

One of the greatest gifts she leaves the church is a mirriad of publications that really help explore what the Methodist Church was/is all about. Amazon lists 15 book titles when you view her 'author profile' and that (I'm sure) doesn't represent the full run of all her writing. Her books covered a wide range of topics and always came back to a simple 'and what does that lead the church to do' question.

She was a firm advocate of Weslyan Theology, and knowing it as such, and was a helpful prompt to a church that has (at times) thought better of it's past, wishing to ignore it and build to the future.  Her time as editor of Epworth Press (Methodist Theological Quarterly) and commissioning editor of the publishing mark 'Epworth' were marked by challenging issues covering all manor of hot topics. While the ongoing future shape of Methodist publishing is unclear, I am sure her stewardship of both has shown the need for fine Methodist articles providing something of value and worth to the wider world.

Angie in more relaxed mode, as featured on her own website
However, it was through her coming to terms with cancer that we all came to find and appreciate a new side to Angela. For she picked up her electronic pen and started to pen the most moving of blogs called 'the kneeler'. In true Angela style its contents vented, raged, weeped, challenged and uplifted. Of course, we didn't always agree - but our disagreements led to fine discussion and a want to blog about differences. Ultimately,  her 'personal' letters to God were always a 'must read' and showed the real humanity behind someone living with one of modern medicines greatest challenges, cancer.

What I've written today will not do her full justice, I've only known one aspect of her. My thoughts are a gut reaction to some very sad news. We'll no doubt have the authorised obituary in the Meth Recorder and stories will appear around the world of lives she has touched. We didn't always see eye-to-eye on many different issues, however I deeply respected her viewpoint, her love of methodism and shared her wish to share a life-enhancing open for all gospel.  Methodism lost a preacher and an author today and I hope many churches give thanks for her life, think of her family as they grieve today and spare some prayers for Kingston Upon Thames circuit who were her final stations.

[EDIT - As memories of her pop up on the blogosphere I'll try and list them:]
P.S - It appears that Angela set up her own blog to cover only her story regarding cancer - I think the posts were double posted (to the-kneeler) but still - Suffering Grace


  1. I was very fortunate to have Angie as my OU maths tutor for a year - brilliant and full of life! :)