Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Michael Graham Jones a friend and mentor

Today was Michael's funeral, held in the beautiful and simple Anglican Church at Northmoor where he worshipped. He died this month at the age of 91. It was an occasion both celebratory and moving.

I met Michael when I was at The Abbey, Sutton Courtenay. I was a young man pondering what to do with my life and spending it in a fruitful and exasperating lay religious community with which Michael was intimately associated (and on the Council).

I recall cycling from the Abbey to his home at the Limes for tea where in customary fashion Michael's hospitality went beyond tea and cakes to an attentive listening, accompanied by probing intelligent and compassionate questions of some project or other that I had conceived and long (wisely) abandoned.

It was a style of encounter that multiplied over the years, and led to diverse introductions to others. He had a particular and precise mind that made good connections. If he could stray into pedantry, it was always subsumed into a wider, more generous purpose.

It was through him that I acquired my first 'real' charitable sector job, following a phone call from him that was so discrete as to leave its actual purpose unrevealed! He introduced me to a second Michael (Feilden), whose widow and children I saw today, who was to be my much treasured chairman with whom I launched Opportunity International UK.

Michael GJ was a man of catholic tastes, wide interests, with passions both musical and theological. He was a man of broad and intense sympathies. He was the first 'public' figure I came out to.

I am and will always remain deeply grateful for his friendship, his confidence in me, and his love.

I will always recall him telling me that he grew more, not less, radical with age. It is a position I can identify with; and, as more than one person remarked today, it was difficult to imagine him as old - frail yes, in his last months terribly so - but always opening into the world, continually inquiring, always growing in a stature carried with great modesty.

1 comment:

  1. I was glad to find your words, I used to live in Northmoor and knew Michael from singing bass in the choir with him. I always looked forward to him coming, a proper gentleman, I was sad to hear of his passing but glad he went on for a good few years able to bless a large number of people after he had for me.

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