The Very Revd Dr Sarah Rowland Jones is the Dean of St Davids.
Dean Sarah has Ceredigion and Rhondda/Devon family roots and grew up largely in Welshpool and Shrewsbury. (Through her father’s mother, she is related to the Calvinistic Methodist reformer and revivalist Anglican priest Daniel Rowland of Llangeitho.) She read mathematics at Newnham College, Cambridge where she became the President of the Junior Common Room (and met future Bishop Joanna Penberthy) and then spent a year as the Deputy President of the Students’ Union – the first woman elected to a sabbatical post.
In 1981 Sarah joined the Diplomatic Service, and had postings to the British Embassies in Amman (1984-7) and Budapest (1992-6), learning Arabic (another first for women) then Hungarian. Between postings, she served in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London, with responsibilities ranging from relations with Thailand and Laos to energy policy, counter-terrorism, and dealing with the European Union. In Budapest in 1993 Sarah helped organise the Queen’s State visit to Hungary for which she was made a Lieutenant of the Royal Victorian Order (LVO). She was awarded an OBE for Services to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the 1997 New Year’s Honours, after leaving diplomatic life.
Sarah left the FCO in 1996, after acceptance as an ordinand in the Church in Wales, through her home Diocese of St Asaph. She trained at St John’s College, Nottingham, taking first class Honours through Nottingham University. In 2011 she completed a PhD combining her political past with her theological interests, on how best to pursue authentic expression of the gospel in a multicultural society. Doing God in Public: An Anglican Interpretation of MacIntyre's Tradition-Based Reasoning as a Christian Praxis for a Pluralist World is available on line at eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/12286/1/Doing_God_in_Public_-_Thesis_-_Final.pdf.
Ordained deacon in 1999 and priest in 2000, Sarah served her title as assistant curate in the Rectorial Benefice of Wrexham. The Anglican Church rapidly made use of her global experience, appointing her to international bodies. Through one of these, the Inter Anglican Standing Commission on Ecumenical Relations, she met her first husband, Justus Marcus, then Dean of Kimberley. Sarah moved to South Africa at the end of 2002, by which time Justus was Bishop of Saldanha Bay, a regional bishop in the Diocese of Cape Town. He was found to have smoking-related cancer just before their planned wedding. They married in January 2003 and Sarah was left a widow the following December. In 2011 she married Peter Evans, a fellow Welsh exile living in South Africa.
From late 2003, Sarah was Research and Ecumenical Advisor to the Archbishop of Cape Town: first the Most Revd Njongonkulu Ndungane, then the Most Revd Thabo Makgoba. Her work entailed supporting the Archbishop over the breadth of his local and international preaching, speaking, and writing tasks, from spiritual and theological topics to engagement in social justice and a wide area of public, political and economic debate. After Archbishop Ndungane’s retirement in 2007, Sarah produced a book, Faith in Action: Archbishop for the Church and World, ‘an exploration of contemporary public theology in honour of, and in dialogue with, the former Archbishop’. Contributors included Rowan Williams, and Desmond Tutu. She was made an Honorary Canon of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa in 2010. She taught Anglican Formation for the Diocese of Cape Town, and remains a research associate at Stellenbosch University’s Beyers Naudé Centre for Public Theology.
Sarah edited and compiled The Vision Before Us, the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Ecumenical Relations’ report on its work from 2000 to 2008. She now convenes the ecumenical working group of the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission for Unity, Faith and Order, which has met annually since 2009. She represented the Anglican Communion on the coordinating committee of the Global Christian Forum from 2003 to 2015. From 2016 she has been a member of the International Commission for Anglican Orthodox Theological Dialogue, as it considers practices of moral discernment.
In October 2013 Sarah returned to Wales with her husband (and two dogs, Benjamin the cocker spaniel, and scottie Cora) to become Priest-in-Charge of the City Parish of St John the Baptist, Cardiff. She was later appointed Chaplain to the Priory for Wales of the Order of St John of Jerusalem (for which St John’s is the Mother Church) and was made OStJ in 2015. She is a member of the Church in Wales’ Standing Doctrinal Commission and of the Commission of Covenanted Churches’ Faith and Order Panel. While in Cardiff she undertook occasional teaching and chaplaincy with St Michael’s Centre / St Padarn’s Institute; and chaired the Llandaff Diocesan Spirituality Group 2015-17. One highlight of Cardiff parish life was to conduct the wedding of the Ladybird and the Fireman, at the heart of the Saturday pageant in front of City Hall, during the Roald Dahl centenary celebrations
In October 2017 it was announced that Sarah would become the next Dean of St Davids. She was installed at the Cathedral on 5 May 2018.
Since returning to Wales, she has become a regular on local BBC Radio, including regularly being a panellist on, and occasionally hosting, the religious affairs programme All Things Considered; and twice hosted BBC Radio 4’s Sunday Worship at St John’s. Speaking, writing and broadcasting on public theology and ethics, Anglicanism, ecumenism and spirituality, Sarah is also a trained spiritual director in the Ignatian tradition, and a published poet (including in the 2016 anthology The Poet’s Quest for God, published by Eyewear).
Sarah grew up with Welsh, spoken in the wider family, as her second language, though was never fluent. Now back in the heart of Wales, she aims to revive and improve its use.
Pilgrimage coming here: 'Discovering St Davids'
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