One of the leading theologians in the Methodist Church in Wales and a major contributor to the rebirth of the Welsh language and cultural heritage over the past four decades received one of Martin Methodist College’s highest honors on Tuesday, Oct. 25.
The Rev. Martin Evans-Jones was awarded the President’s Medallion at Martin Methodist’s 10th annual International Studies convocation. He was the keynote speaker for the event, addressing the topic of “Celtic Spirituality.”
“For nearly 50 years, the Rev. Martin Evans-Jones has embodied the concept of Christian servant leadership, living a life of service both remarkable and inspirational: service to all those around him, especially college students; service to his Welsh heritage; and service to the Methodist church,” said Dr. Ted Brown, president of Martin Methodist College, in bestowing the President’s Medallion. “So it is entirely fitting that Martin Methodist College, an institution that places the highest of values on service to others, honors this servant of God at this annual International Studies Convocation.”
Evans-Jones distinguished himself as a noted scholar, graduating with honors in geography and history from the University College in London. He would go on to earn a bachelor of arts degree in theology of Cambridge University, as well as a master’s degree from that world-renowned institution. He later also received a diploma in pastoral studies from University College in Cardiff, Wales and a postgraduate diploma in applied theology from the University of Liverpool.
Following his graduation from University College in London in 1964, he traveled to Western Nigeria, where he spent three years teaching secondary school geography in a program similar to the Peace Corps, an early sign that his would be of life of servant leadership that had been modeled by his father, a lawyer upon whom Queen Elizabeth bestowed the high honor of Member of the British Empire for his successful efforts to attain government support for Welsh miners suffering from coal-related diseases, and his mother, a gifted musician with strong involvement in the Welsh Methodist Church.
Upon returning home from Nigeria, he began a career that combined his dedication to academia with his devotion to the Methodist church, serving dual roles as university chaplain and church pastor, first in Birmingham, England, then in Cardiff, Wales, and later in Swansea, Wales.
In 1989 he was elected Chairman of the District for the Welsh Methodist Church, a position similar to that of bishop in the United Methodist Church here in the U.S., a post he would hold for three years. His final five years of active service to the church came in the United States, where he served as pastor of Granville United Methodist Church in New York while lecturing part-time in religious studies at Green Mountain College, a sister Methodist institution in Vermont.
“What has truly defined Martin Evans-Jones, however, has been his tireless advocacy for the Welsh language, the cultural traditions of his homeland, and the treasured heritage of the Celtic civilization,” Brown said.
Growing up in Wales in the 1950s, he and his classmates, by mandate of British law, were not allowed to speak their native language in the public schools. His parents, passionately dedicated to the preservation of their country’s culture, made Welsh the primarily language at home and educated their son in the history and traditions of their homeland. The lessons struck an equally passionate chord in young Martin, and he would go on to devote his entire adult life to lifting the cultural traditions of Wales to a prominent significance, and bringing the Welsh language back into everyday conversation, be it in homes, in schools or in churches.
Today, the schools in Wales are bilingual, and the government allows schools to teach exclusively in Welsh if they so choose. The cultural traditions of Wales hold a prominent place in society once more. The Celtic spirituality thrives in churches throughout the country.
Evans-Jones’s two-day visit to Martin Methodist College included presentations to a linguistics class, a church history class, a European history class, an economics class, and three religion classes. He also participated in a panel discussion on Monday afternoon.
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