A Tribute from Dr John Wibberley

Christopher Jones, MBE, FRAgS, and Ita Jones

Half a Century of Friendship, Faith in Action & Fun 

A tribute to Christopher Jones, MBE, FRAgS

Half a century ago, I first met Christopher and Ita. They were just back to run the family arable, beef and sheep farm in Northamptonshire having been in Africa as agricultural missionaries with CMS in southern Nigeria and then in Kenya. Our Christian faith, plus common interest in Africa and Agriculture gave us immediate links. Christopher attended the ACF (Agricultural Christian Fellowship) conference and there two of us on the committee – Bob Bansback and I – made a pincer movement on Christopher to persuade him to join us on the ACF Committee! We’ve been friends and co-workers ever since – including his work with the UK Food Group (UKFG) and The Agriculture & Theology Project (ATP) via CMS Oxford. Little did we know that he would become ACF’s part-time dedicated Coordinator for years and also would lead it from 1993, in partnership with the ARC (Arthur Rank Centre)[1] to ‘parent’ FCN (initially Farm Crisis Network, and since 2013 Farming Community Network, still FCN). Typically, Christopher researched the issues – based on his sound training at Oxford University – which compelled him to ‘do something practical to help’. He first compiled in 1991 his Biblical Signposts for Agricultural Policy. Christopher faithfully cited Luke 24:13-35 as the basis of FCN’s inspiration and approach: to be ‘walkers with’ those in trouble, sorrow, and various needs as the Risen Christ did with the two along the Emmaus Road out of Jerusalem. He studied approaches to addressing farmer needs in Germany in 1993, especially via the Protestant Farmers’ Association of Wurttemberg (who later hosted in 1998 a congress on Agriculture & Theology [Agritheology] convened by Dr Rudi Buntzl when a few of us from ACF & FCN attended along with delegates from 25 other countries worldwide). Christopher and Ita compiled a Report in 1996 of their visit to the USA to study farming and rural community plight there. The official launch of FCN was in 1995. Twenty years later in 2015, Christopher was co-author of a Paper for the International Farm Management Association Congress that year held in Quebec, to report on FCN experience, especially in Devon, with a view to encouraging similar initiatives elsewhere in the world where none yet existed. Also in 2015, Christopher published with John Martin of CMS their concise book Honey & Thistles: Biblical Wisdom for Renewal of Farming. This book offers compelling, practically relevant and profoundly thought-provoking reading for all who are interested in earth’s care and management for food and other vital ecosystem services. In particular, farming people, agricultural thinkers, policymakers and preachers would all profit by reading it.

Christopher was full of kindness, fun, compassion, wisdom and humility. He wore his incredible intelligence lightly. For his outstanding work, he was duly honoured with the MBE and with Fellowship of Royal Agricultural Societies of the UK (FRAgS). For those of us who knew him all those years he was a true friend and enabler who showed us all the values of:- clarity of purpose, sensitive delegation, and team-building to assemble the network of volunteers across the UK in our FCN team today. Christopher laid solid foundations for FCN. May we build wisely on them as a tribute to Him, and for Jesus Christ he served and with Whom by grace through faith dear Christopher is now safe for eternity. We thank God for Christopher.

                                                                                                                                                         

John Wibberley

References

Jones, C.R. (1991) Biblical Signposts for Agricultural Policy. ACF, 69 pp.

Jones, C.R. & Jones, I. (1996) Winner Takes All & Families Lose All: a nightmare for farming in the US. (ACF/UCCF, Leicester, 48 pp).

Jones, C.R., Jones, J., Ursell, D.J., Warren, B., & Wibberley, E.J. (2015) Supporting Farming Families through FCN, with particular reference to Devon, England. pp. 113-120 In Healthy Agriculture for a Healthy World, Vol.2 (Applied Papers), Proceedings of the International Farm Management Assoc. 20th Congress (www.ifma20.org) Quebec, Canada, July 2015

Jones, C.R. & Martin, J. (2015) Honey & Thistles: Biblical Wisdom for Renewal of Farming. 138 pp. (www.honeyandthistles.uk)


[1] The National Rural Chaplaincy Centre at Stoneleigh, where Christopher had served, including on Country Way magazine committee.

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