Pastors' Memoirs

George Wesley Jones, 1919-2002

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George Wesley Jones: called of God — preacher, husband, teacher, father, song leader, pianist, youth leader — the list goes on! A man of many talents and gifts for all seasons of sacred and secular life. "I have decided to follow Jesus. . . no turning back," the gospel song puts it. George Wesley knew as a little boy that God wanted him to be a minister. Neighbors told how he used his Mother Goose book as a Bible and pretended to preach from it.

He was born April 22, 1919, to William and Sallie Jones of Norfolk, Virginia. Encouragement from home and his heavenly Father led him to further his education following graduation from Maury High School. He thrived at Randolph-Macon College and met the challenges of Duke Divinity School. Early immersed in our denomination, George Wesley expressed the beginning of his commitment to Methodism, writing in the cover of the book The Methodists Are One People by Paul Neff Garber: "This book was gotten during my visit to the great Uniting Conference in Kansas City, Missouri (April 26-April 30, 1939) — truly the greatest moment of my life thus far."

That momentous event was followed in 1944 by his speaking to the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference on Saturday evening, June 24. (This incident in George Wesley’s life was discovered by a current Duke Divinity School student from Thrasher Memorial Church who was thrilled to find him mentioned in her textbook Methodism’s Racial Dilemma, The Story of the Central Jurisdiction by James S. Thomas.) "One who did make a pointed reference to segregation was a young minister. . . the Reverend Mr. George Wesley Jones [who] was speaking primarily to young people, but his address was also aimed at the entire conference. When he came to the section of his address, ‘Racialism,’ he said: ‘The first of these obstacles is Racialism, which is an outright denial of the basic laws of the Kingdom, for it certainly seems to deny the fatherhood of God and refuses to exercise the love of one’s neighbor.’ " (p. 63)

George Wesley exhibited "love of one’s neighbor" throughout a distinguished ministerial career. In October 1994, on the occasion of the celebration of the 50th anniversary of his ordination, many wrote expressing their appreciation for his service. Longtime conference youth director, Millie Cooper, penned; "God certainly knew what He was doing when He called you into the ministry! And it seems to me that you answered that call with your whole heart and mind and soul! You have been a shining example to me of Christian servanthood for many years."

Given an honorary doctorate from Randolph-Macon College, the Rev. Dr. George Wesley Jones, exemplified the best of the committed, educated, trained, and competent clergy who serve the local church. He was on numerous Virginia Conference boards and agencies; participated in countless Schools of Christian Mission in our conference as a teacher and song leader; taught in this conference, and elsewhere in many Christian Workers’ Schools; served for years on the staff of the Y.E.S. Program (Youth Engaged in Service); and served as song leader, recreation leader, teacher, and speaker in youth assemblies, as well as young adult, adult, and older adult conferences. At the Duke luncheon during annual conference, he led the gathered graduates in the singing of "The Alma Mater" and "The Fight Song" over the course of decades.

He enjoyed his Lions Club membership, promoting the annual James Bland Music Contest and was made a Melvin Jones Fellow in 1995. A special honor was his selection as "Virginia’s Outstanding Older Worker for 2000" by Green Thumb, Inc. In 2001, he was the honorary grand marshal of the town of Vinton’s annual Dogwood Festival Parade.

When I was appointed to Thrasher in 1997, I rushed to the conference Journal to see who else was appointed to this large, active 1,200-member church. Only the pastor I was replacing was listed. I prayed for strength to do all that would need to be done. Then I discovered that George Wesley Jones had been employed by the church for 12 years as part-time associate pastor. Was I ever relieved to serve with a pastor I’d known and admired! "Part-time," did I say? That is what the contract called for, but reality was different. He was at this meeting, that function, teaching here or at a conference or district workshop, and at every event where there was food. He’d help lead two Sunday services, teach a Sunday school class, have dinner with someone, catch an afternoon community program, then an evening event. All that was more than 20-25 hours a week!

Yet, when I’d ask him about subbing for me at finance, building, or property committees, he’d say that’s your responsibility, Senior Pastor! He wanted the noncontroversial, people-related opportunities. I would introduce him, however, as the real senior pastor — the one with the length of service and experience. What a privilege to serve with him for nearly five years. George Wesley Jones completed his service to God on earth by assisting at the 11 o’clock worship, April 14. Taken to the hospital immediately after that because of breathing problems, he never regained complete consciousness and moved to a new (and final) appointment, his Heavenly Home, on May 7, 2002. We thank God for George Wesley Jones gracing our lives!

His appointments included: Christ, Norfolk; Norview, Norfolk; High Street, Petersburg; Timberlake, Lynchburg; St. James & chaplain of Ferrum College; Farmville; Court Street, Lynchburg; and Trinity, Danville. He retired in 1985 to become the part-time associate pastor at Thrasher Memorial, Vinton, serving until his death. While there, he organized in 1986, the Wesley Sunday School Class for young and youngish adults, which he taught for 16 years.

Dr. Jones is survived by his faithful helpmate of almost 56 years, Rachel Littleton Jones; his daughter, Carolyn J. Nelson of Charlotte, N.C.; son-in-law, Randy Nelson; grandson, Allen Nelson; and granddaughter, Jodie Nelson; all of Charlotte; and his son, David Jones of Glen Allen, Va.

A memorial service, with some 400 in attendance, was held at Thrasher Memorial by the Rev. Donald H. Seely, on May 11, 2002. Burial was private in the Holston Conference cemetery near the campus of Emory & Henry College. "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him." (I Corinthians 2:9) These words from the folk hymn "What Wondrous Love is This" are appropriate for this troubadour for the Lord, "And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on. . . And through eternity, I’ll sing on. . ."

— Donald H. Seely

 

 

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