The Revd Graham Joseph William Jones 16 February 1976 – 8 December 2018
The death of the Revd Graham Jones occurred on Saturday December 8 surrounded by his family in his home in Dublin. Graham was diagnosed with cancer in 2016 while he was an ordinand in the Church of Ireland Theological Institute and in October 2018 he was told that his condition was terminal. He was 42 years of age.
In the weeks before his death Graham and his wife Louise and brother Rob (Rector of Rathmines with Harold’s Cross) spoke openly about how his illness had affected them. On RTE Radio’s Sunday with Miriam O’Callaghan one of his messages was to urge people not to use the phrase ‘battling cancer’ because it made it seem as if the person was at fault if they ‘lost the battle’.
On the same programme he also spoke about what it was to live a flourishing life. This theme was continued at Graham’s funeral which, Louise explained, he designed himself to speak to every person who was present. People from every aspect of Graham’s life: school, Scouts, rugby, law, Solas Project and the Church of Ireland gathered inside and outside St Catherine’s Church on Thomas Street, Dublin, to worship, give thanks and remember him. The service took place on December 11, a month to the day after his ordination to the priesthood in the same church.
The service was led by the Revd Rob Jones and was assisted by the Revd Eoghan Heaslip with Archbishop Michael Jackson, who also officiated at the burial. Rob delivered the sermon, entitled, “what does it mean to live a flourishing life”, which will be part of a much bigger piece of work, which will hopefully be published in due course. Louise also spoke and as the service drew to a close there were ‘thank you letters to Dad from their daughters Rebecca, Amelia–Grace and Romy.
As Graham’s coffin was carried from the church, which had been his spiritual home for the last 17 years, a guard of honour was provided by members of the Liberty Saints Rugby Club which Graham had founded as part of his vision to make a positive impact on the lives of people in the Liberties.
Graham qualified as a solicitor 2003 and worked in commercial law before a brief spell in criminal law. He was in practice until 2011 when he spoke of the really strong feeling he had that “there must be something more”. In his sermon he said eventually Louise had sat him down to help him find his new direction. He had been volunteering with two youth ministries at St Catherine’s and shortly afterwards he was told by another member of the St Catherine’s community that she had secured funding to employ him for six months in an afterschool project for children in the Liberties.
From this Solas Project grew and Graham became their first Head Gardener (CEO). From humble beginnings, the community development project flourished in pursuit of its mission to counteract the effects of social and educational disadvantage.
Towards the end of his time with Solas Project he had a growing sense that God was calling him into leadership in his church. In a piece he wrote before being ordained a Deacon in September 2018, Graham said: “When I explored this further, through prayer and conversations with Louise and trusted friends, I knew that we had to follow God’s prompting. This was very exciting but also very challenging, not just because of the uncertainty, but also because of how much I loved what I was doing with Solas Project”. He said he loved his training and was looking forward to serving his year as Deacon Intern in Kilternan.
However, shortly after his ordination came the news that his cancer had entered his central nervous system. In his sermon he spoke of the shock of the diagnosis and the pain he felt for Louise and his daughters. Speaking to Miriam O’Callaghan, he spoke about his faith and how it helped the family during this time. “I don’t want it to sound as if there is a magic wand. There is real suffering. There is real pain. There are real tears. There is heart brokenness. Yet in some way God will allow the joy to come through because of trusting in him… We are safe, we are safe in his arms,” he said.
After receiving the news, and following prayer with Archbishop Jackson, it was decided to bring forward Graham’s ordination. During that service, the preacher, the Revd Dr Maurice Elliott, director of CITI said that Graham knew that the service was not ultimately about him: “Rather, it is also about a celebration of the impact that your life and your ministry have had, and will continue to have, on other people: that is what it means to truly flourish, if I might coin the topic of your own dissertation, that is what it looks like to move in the river of the Spirit instead of remaining comfortable in the swimming pool, that is what it means for the people of God to celebrate and to radiate life, and in every sense may this be the fullness of what your priestly ministry will come to mean.”
Graham is survived by his wife Louise, daughters Rebecca, Amelia Grace and Romy; his father David; brothers and sisters Stephen, Susan, Rob and Beverley. He is predeceased by his mother Barbara.
Graham was laid to rest beside his mother Barbara, in Mount Venus Cemetery, Rockbrook, Rathfarnham, Dublin 16. Donations, if desired, could be made to Solas Project solasproject.ie.