Former diplomat smooths the way for bishops
by Carol Barnwell
Comparisons and contrasts between the Lambeth Conference and an international political event are not lost on Sarah Rowland Jones, a veteran diplomat and seminarian from Wales.
"The wonderful difference," Ms Jones exclaims,"is God's Holy Spirit in the midst of the Conference and that we are seeking his will here, not our own agendas." Ms Jones spent 15 years as a British diplomat from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office working in the Middle East and Central Europe. She speaks Arabic, Hungarian, French, English and Welsh, "as well as a smattering of several others." Both her linguistic and diplomatic skills have been called into service during Lambeth Conference as she works with other seminarians assisting bishops to meet the press.
"I've been an active Christian since university and considered full-time ministry even then," Ms Jones says.
While reading mathematics at Cambridge, she was college president and deputy president of the Students' Union. When she received an offer to work in the British Foreign Office, Ms Jones says she felt "God was calling me to work in the world of government and politics."
More recently "the idea came back to haunt me," she says, "and I had to pin it down." Her home diocese of St Asaph in Central and North Wales responded in a positive way to her request to seek ordination, which she says clarified her call. She received the same support from her church in Budapest and from colleagues who were not necessarily very religious. "They often joke that they have been theologically abused at the office," she says.
"Being a diplomat overseas is incarnational in a way," Ms Jones says. "One is perceived as a representative and must live out the bigger message, just as we do as Christians."
Ms Jones gained a unique perspective working in Hungary. "It was interesting being a Christian in a country newly emerging from the shadow of communism," she says, as the people began to rethink their moral structure and define the ideas on which their society would be built. She feel blessed to have also spent much time in Jordan and the Holy Land.
Now in her second year at St John's Theological College at Nottingham, Ms Jones will finish her final year working on a research degree studying how the Church can justify a voice in politics and all areas of human activity.
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