Tributes have been paid to a popular priest who served throughout the Black Country and South Staffordshire, following his sudden death aged 70.
Father Alan Jones died on Friday 26 January after a short illness. Only a few weeks earlier, he had been licensed as an Interim Minister of St Pauls Coven in South Staffordshire.
After obtaining a theology degree at Nottingham University, Fr Alan trained at Mirfield and was ordained in 1973, serving most of his ordained ministry in the Diocese of Lichfield.
He was curate of St Mary the Virgin, Sedgley, from 1973 to 1976, moving to serve a further curacy in Coventry Diocese, at St John the Baptist, Coventry, from 1976 to 1978.
On returning to Lichfield Diocese he was Vicar of St Francis of Assisi, West Bromwich, from 1978 to 1994; then Vicar of Ettingshall Holy Trinity, Wolverhampton, from 1994 to 2013. He was Area Dean of Wolverhampton from 2003 to 2011, and was appointed Prebendary of Lichfield Cathedral in 2011. Despite retiring in 2013, Fr Alan held Permission to Officiate and assisted in various parishes including St Michaels and All Angels in Caldmore, Walsall, for over two years. At the start of this year he was licensed as Interim Minister of St Pauls Coven, where his wife Karen is Churchwarden.
Karen said: Alan was a faithful priest and servant of God throughout his life. He was called to be a priest at age 11, to the surprise (and I suspect shock of his parents), he never wavered from this calling.
He was a true teacher of the faith during every conversation, every sermon, every Mass, every transaction with another person he managed to draw people closer to God, in an exciting and mystical way. A theologian, he was a prodigious reader constantly updating and expanding his knowledge. Alan was a superb liturgist and a complete stickler for things being done absolutely correctly, not because he was a minutiae person, but because only the best was good enough for God. He taught and trained several teams of servers, reordered every church he ever served in, developed and encouraged exceptional standards of music.
Alan was a fine trainer of curates, not only setting them the best example of priestly life, but also generous in the time he gave to their training and listening to them and giving them encouragement. People loved Alan, and he loved them, and being in their homes. He was a very fine pastor, and he never stinted in his ministry to the bereaved and the sick, and any who hit upon lifes difficulties. He was also a devoted husband, loved all animals, even the tiniest spider (they are all Gods creatures, he would say) and constantly had the company of generations of German Shepherd dogs.
The former Bishop of Blackburn Nicholas Reade, a close friend, added: "I was fortunate, not only to have trained with Alan at Mirfied, but also to have been in the neighbouring parish when we were both curates, and where he lived above a betting shop and next-door to a chip shop.
"All of Alans ministry was in the Diocese of Lichfield, except for a two years 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 he was in for the long haul 16 years at Friar Park, and 19 years at Ettingshall.
"Alan believed 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.
"Young people warmed to him because they saw something very authentic. He also took them on pilgrimage to the Shrine at Walsingham. He had been a scouter for most of his life and started a pack in three churches and later on in his ministry was County Chaplain to West Mercia Scouts.
"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. The closeness of Karen and Alan wherever they were was rich, and so obvious, and both gave so much to their friends and parishes.
"In retirement, Father Alans ministry continued around the archdeaconry, and in many other ways, and just before Christmas he was pleased to have been asked by the Bishop to become Interim Priest at Coven. 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."
The Bishop of Wolverhampton, the Right Revd Clive Gregory, said: "I have been privileged to work alongside Fr Alan for the last ten years and knew him to be a priest to the core of his being. He was completely fulfilled in the role of a parish priest and served each of his parishes with the utmost distinction, leaving a legacy of lives, liturgy and church buildings transformed. He was a priest who both gave and inspired loyalty and was known for both his personal kindness and refreshingly direct humour! His ministry was an example to others, including the many curates that he trained so successfully. He will be widely and deeply missed.
The Bishop of Lichfield, the Right Revd Dr Michael Ipgrave, added: Fr Alan had a long, faithful and exemplary ministry in the Diocese of Lichfield. Up until his death he was devoted to serving as a priest. Our prayers and thoughts are with his loved ones and those he served.