In 1985, I spent my sabbatical leave in Capetown, South Africa. My family went with me. Our hosts were Colin and Pat Jones. Colin was an Anglican priest serving as Chaplain at the University of the Western Cape, at that time a so-called “colored-only” university.
Colin was one of the most extraordinary leaders I’ve ever met. He was a fierce opponent of the apartheid regime and in 1987 Archbishop Desmond Tutu, fearing for Colin’s safety, sent him out of the country to serve as a chaplain at an Episcopal school in Portland, Oregon. Barb and I were living there at the time, a blessed reunion.
In 1988, Tutu appointed Colin to the most important church and clerical position in South Africa, Dean of St. George’s Cathedral, the mother church of South African Anglicanism. As such, he was the senior cleric in the Diocese of Cape Town and most trusted advisor to Bishop Tutu. (Who is a good and great man, but that’s another story for another time.)
Colin never rested easily with the institutional church. He saw all its warts and flaws from up close and personal. Particularly galling to him was the Anglican church’s tepid response to apartheid.
In 1996, Jones resigned as Dean of Cape Town and spent the next seven years working in the field of socio-economic development in South Africa with the Independent Development Trust, (then the largest development agency in South Africa) and the Equal Opportunity Foundation, working amongst South Africa's rural poor.
Although this title sounds impressive, it was not viewed as the natural vocational progression for one who was assumed to inherit Tutu’s mantle. Colin had no interest in serving in that position, and felt that a priest’s first duty was to the poor. He had backed himself into a dead-end corner, vocationally. And the pay was bad.
When Colin told Desmond that he was resigning from the cathedral to take the position with the Independent Development Trust, Tutu, thinking of Colin’s family with two children who would need college educations, said, “Colin, where is your safety net?”
Colin replied, “As I understand it, your Grace, the gospel does not allow us a safety net.”
Colin has had a remarkably varied career since those days. Today he and Pat are living it Dotha, Qatar where he is chairman of an effort to build a museum documenting the slavery of Arab peoples. Not surprising he would be doing this now, given his background.
We stay in touch with Colin and Pat via Facebook and Skype. They have two grandchildren who live in Cape Town with their son and daughter.
Knowing someone like Colin keeps even a preacher keep on believing!