Feast of Rufus Jones (June 16)   2 comments

Above:  Rufus Jones

Image in the Public Domain

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RUFUS MATTHEW JONES (JANUARY 25, 1863-JUNE 16, 1948)

U.S. Quaker Theologian and Cofounder of the American Friends Service Committee

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This child will one day bear the message of the gospel to distant lands and to people across the sea.

–Peace Jones, aunt of Rufus Jones, speaking of her newborn nephew

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Rufus Matthew Jones did just that.  He, born in South China, Maine, on January 25, 1863, was a son of Edwin Jones and Mary Gifford Hoxie Jones.  Our saint grew up in a Quaker family.  He was a diligent scholar from an early age, studying first in a one-room village school, eventually transferring to Oak Grove Seminary (in nearby Vassalboro, Maine), then attending Providence Friends School (in Rhode Island).  After graduating from Haverford College, Haverford, Pennsylvania, in 1885, Jones taught at Oakwood Seminary, Union Springs, New York.  In 1886-1887 our saint studied at Heidelberg University, in Germany.  Next, in 1887, Jones became a teacher at Providence Friends School.  Two years later he began to serve as the principal of Oak Grove Seminary, Vassalboro.  Then, from 1893 to 1934, our saint taught psychology and philosophy at Haverford College.  Howard Thurman was one of his pupils.

Jones was a philosopher, historian, mystic, prolific writer, and agent of social reform.  In 1915 he helped to found the Fellowship of Reconciliation.  Two years later he and Henry founded the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC).  The AFSC’s initial purpose was to help conscientious objectors serve in non-combat roles, such as driving ambulances, during World War I.  The AFSC, of which Jones served as chair until 1928 and again in 1935-1936, became a relief and humanitarian agency after the Great War.  Its good works included feeding many Germans after the alleged war to end all wars and helping Jewish refugees in the 1930s.

Jones, husband first of Sarah Coutant (from 1888 to 1899), who died of tuberculosis, then of Elizabeth Cadbury (1902f), was an advocate of Quaker unity.  He used his position as the Editor of the Friends Review (1893-1894)/The American Friend (1894-1912) to work toward this goal.  The AFSC, with its inter-Quaker cooperation, also served this ecumenical purpose.  The organic union of Yearly Meetings across Orthodox, Conservative, and Hicksite lines, or combinations of two of the three, started after Jones died, however.  The various New York, Ohio, and Philadelphia Yearly Meetings merged into composite New York, Ohio, and Philadelphia Yearly Meetings in 1955.  The consolidation of the Baltimore Yearly Meetings followed in 1968.

Jones, a man committed to Christian missions, was not hostile to other religions.  In 1927, while traveling in Asia, he met with Mohandas Gandhi.  Later during that trip our saint spoke to the World Missionary Conference at Jerusalem.  He encouraged delegates, while supporting evangelism, to recognize the positive elements in other religions.

Jones advocated for German Jews in the 1930s.  In 1938, after the Kristallnacht, our saint was one-third of a Quaker delegation that visited the headquarters of the Gestapo.  The humanitarian Quakers, using the AFSC’s track record of feeding many otherwise-starving Germans after World War I, negotiated with Reinhard Heydrich, later an architect of, as the Third Reich put it creepily, “the final solution to the Jewish problem,” the “Jewish problem” being that Jews were alive.  The Quaker visitors received permission to send relief aid for Jews and to aid and abet the emigration of many Jews, thereby saving lives.

Jones, who was on the Modernist side of Quaker theology, spent his final years as he had spent his previous ones–living out Quaker values.  He represented the AFSC at the Nobel Prize ceremony in 1947, when the organization won the Peace Prize.  (A Quaker organization winning the Nobel Peace Prize is logical.)  He died, aged 85 years, at Haverford, Pennsylvania, on June 16, 1948.

The American Friends Service Committee and the Fellowship of Reconciliation continue in work of which Jones would approve–creating peace, advocating for immigrants and refugees, opposing discrimination, working for economic justice, et cetera–in other words, loving one’s neighbors as one loves oneself.  That sounds Christian to me.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 23, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN THE ALMSGIVER, ROMAN CATHOLIC PATRIACH OF ALEXANDRIA

THE FEAST OF CASPAR NEUMANN, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF PHILLIPS BROOKS, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF MASSACHUSETTS

THE FEAST OF THOMAS A. DOOLEY, PHYSICIAN AND HUMANITARIAN

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O God, your Son came among us to serve and not to be served,

and to give his life for the life of the world.

Lead us by his love to serve all those to whom the world offers no comfort and little help.

Through us give hope to the hopeless,

love to the unloved,

peace to the troubled,

and rest to the weary,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-15

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60

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2 responses to “Feast of Rufus Jones (June 16)

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  1. Pingback: Feast of Howard Thurman (April 10) | SUNDRY THOUGHTS

  2. Pingback: Feast of Thomas Raymond Kelly (June 4) | SUNDRY THOUGHTS

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