KEITH JONES (1911 - 2006) MAN OF GOD
by Robert Brow (www.brow.on.ca), Kingston, Ontario, February 2006
Before my first date I walked over to ask Keith and Ruth for their advice and prayer. Mollie was in the same Hindi class and she was leaving the next day to work as a nurse in Raxaul, Bihar (600 miles away), so there was no time to lose. When I came back late that night Keith and Ruth were a bit shocked to hear that we were already engaged. They were happy to keep in contact with us as we were happily married for the next 50 years.
In 1969 we heard that Keith and Ruth had moved to Iran, which meant they had to learn another language. When they came to Canada on furlough in 1975, I encouraged Keith to be ordained as an Anglican (Episcopal) priest. Bishop Allan Read was happy to arrange this so Keith could serve with the Anglican congregations of Iran at the invitation of Bishop Hasan Daquani. As they were leaving , I mentioned that if ever things closed up for them in that country I would love to have them come and work with me in the Anglican congregation of St. James’, Kingston, Ontario.
This happened traumatically by the end of 1978. The Shah of Iran had to leave the country in January 1979, and the Islamic revolution has been in control of the country ever since. As Keith worked as my associate in Kingston, I could sense his terrible anguish as one by one the Iranian priests who had been his close friends and colleagues were martyred.
He did not find it easy working with me. After a time in business with his father, he had studied at the Bible Training Institute in Glasgow. I knew a whole group of outstanding friends who had graduated from the very demanding courses there. Keith was very comfortable with the Evangelical Anglicanism of the old Book of Common Prayer. But he found me involved in the radical changes of the sixties which resulted in the ordination of women to be priests, children being welcomed to communion, the freedom of the Canadian Book of Alternative Services, and the new songs of the Charismatic movement. I tried to reassure him that there was room for both. "No one puts new wine into old wineskins, otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine desires new wine, but says the old is good" (Luke 7:37-39). No connoisseur of old wine should ever have to drink the new stuff. But on the other hand you need fresh vintages if you want the old in due course.
As he could take services and preach in Urdu , Keith was more and more asked to help in the Indian and Pakistani gatherings of Christians in Toronto. When he and Ruth moved to Scarborough in August 1983, and then to Pickering, and later to Cobourg near their daughter, I used drop in three or four times a year on my way in and out of Toronto. I was pleased and astonished when Ruth Anne’s husband set Keith up with a computer. When he was in his nineties Douglas taught him to send and receive e-mail and read the articles that interested him on the web sites.
After Keith’s wife Ruth had to be cared for in another part of Extendicare, I was very touched my last visit to see them sitting together like a pair of lovers who had shared in very tough situations in many places. He wanted to keep alive so he could stand by her to the end, and after she had moved on he was ready to join her.. They were lovingly cared for by their daughter Ruth Anne and her husband Dave Douglas in Canada . But Keith was also very proud of his sons, Rodney, Philip, Allen, Richard, who live in and out of the United States.
To the end Keith retained his deep concern for Iran, and he was grateful when I could fill him in with news of all that was going on in South Asia. He was a very humble Man of God who never saw much fruit for his work in India, but right now in the area where he worked there is a huge exodus of the previously untouchable Dalit people, who then formed Christian congregations. They had been kept below the bottom of the caste system for two thousand years. But the Anglican Church of Iran, which Keith had loved and served so faithfully, was decimated after the revolution, and it still awaits its restoration and flowering.