A couple of months ago we received an invitation in the mail. It read, “By the Grace of God, The Province of the Anglican Church of Rwanda requests your prayers and presence at the Ordination and Consecration of The Reverend Philip Hill Jones to be a Bishop in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church and to serve as Bishop to the Anglican Mission in the Americas.”
The event was scheduled for Saturday morning, January 26, in the Lone Star Ballroom of the Adams Mark Hotel in downtown Dallas. We immediately decided to attend.
When we first moved to Marshall, Philip Jones was the priest at Trinity Episcopal Church. I got to know him because I took a teaching position at the private school associated with Trinity and enrolled my children there. As time passed, he and his wife, Claudia became dear friends.
In May of 1996, Philip was among those who chaperoned the end-of-school canoe trip that changed our lives forever. He was also the one who, on impulse, dove into the water to search when Jacob and Jeremy turned up missing. If not for Philip, Jacob wouldn’t be with us any more. He’s a very important person in our lives.
The invitation intrigued us. The Jones family moved away from Marshall years ago, and we hadn’t heard that Philip was pursuing this path. Ordained by the Anglican Church of Rwanda to be a missionary to America? We had no idea what to expect from the ceremony. As soon as I walked into the vast ballroom, I felt something very special was happening. Hundreds of people had gathered, some from as far away as Africa and South East Asia, as well as Anglicans from all over the US. Most had been in Dallas for the past four or five days attending a conference keynoted by J.I. Packer. The ordination ceremony was the closing event of the week.
A worship band was already playing when we arrived. As soon as I started singing, tears sprang to my eyes. This is unusual for me, but God’s presence was very near and sweet. The liturgy and prayers–so rich with historical and spiritual significance–seemed to soak into my very soul.
The ceremony lasted several hours, but never grew tedious. Afterward we attended a reception in Philip’s honor and got to visit with his seven kids, most of whom I taught years ago at Trinity. The whole day was pure delight. I’m so grateful to have experienced this monumental moment in the life of a dear friend.
I posted some photographs from the event here. If you’d like to learn more about the work of the Anglican Mission in the Americas, I encourage you to visit their website. I imagine a lot of Americans would find the idea of our needing missionaries here ludicrous. But is it? Here’s one quote I copied from the site: “The un-churched population of the United States amounts to the largest mission field in the English speaking world. It is so extensive, that if it were a nation, it would be the fifth most populated nation on the planet.” Thomas T. Clegg and Warren Bird, Lost In America, p. 25-26
Fascinating. And how humbling and beautiful that these precious Rwandans feel compelled to share their vibrant faith with a culture that was once characterized by strong Christian roots but now thinks it’s too smart and “advanced” to need God. I’ll be excited to see what happens through the efforts of the AMiA. I’ve experienced the power of their prayers and worship firsthand, and all I can say is, good luck holding on to your skepticism, America. You’re going to need it.