Remembering ‘a true hero in the faith’
A Service of Thanksgiving has been held at Exeter Cathedral to celebrate the life of the Reverend Prebendary Graham Stones, the Bishop of Exeter’s Chaplain, who died in early December after a short illness. He had been suffering from cancer.
Graham was born in Lancashire in 1949 and raised as a Roman Catholic.
He studied for a BSc in Chemistry at Southampton University in the 1970s before working in the pharmaceutical industry.
From 1987 to 1994 he and his wife Marion served on the community at Lee Abbey, a Christian retreat centre in North Devon, during which time he felt a call to ordination.
He trained to be a priest on the South West Ministry Training Course.
“His irrepressible hope in God’s love and in Christ’s redemption never dimmed. Even in death, he ministered to others.” Bishop of Exeter
One of his fellow students was the current Archdeacon of Plymouth, the Venerable Nick Shutt. He said “Graham was clearly the outstanding student of our year and was voted by all the students to be our rep on the course.
“Always able to speak eloquently (but never briefly), Graham had an uncanny ability to find a quick-witted reply to most situations.
“He had a compassionate heart, looking out for me in some difficult times, never offering platitudes, and always just being there.
“He was a man of God, not in any false super-spiritual way, but in a grounded and realistic way.
“I feel immensely honoured to have known him and to count him as my friend.”
Following his ordination, Graham served as a curate in Okehampton from 1994 to 1997, before becoming a Team Vicar in Sidmouth from 1997 to 2004.
Prebendary David James, who worked alongside Graham in Sidmouth, said he had been a “marvellous colleague” whose “warm personality, sense of humour and depth of spirituality” stood out.
He said “There is no doubt that his ministry healed old divisions and brought people together.”
In 2004 Graham moved to Shropshire to become Team Rector of Church Stretton in the Diocese of Hereford.
He returned to Devon in 2007 to become Team Rector of Teignmouth and was made a prebendary (an honorary canon) of Exeter Cathedral.
In 2014 Graham officially retired, but was invited by the Bishop of Exeter, the Right Reverend Robert Atwell, to become his chaplain in 2016.
Bishop Robert said: “Graham was quite one of most self-less people I have ever met and it has been a privilege to call him a friend, as well as a colleague.”
Commenting on Graham’s struggle with cancer, Bishop Robert said, “Despite knowing that his body was being attacked by an aggressive cancer, his irrepressible hope in God’s love and in Christ’s redemption never dimmed. Even in death, he ministered to others.
“Enduring in faithfulness sums up Graham’s outlook on life to perfection.”
“Such a wicked sense of humour and at the same time so generous and full of grace” Reverend Carl Robinson
In January 2019 Graham helped lead a study tour of Israel and Palestine for new ordinands in the Diocese of Exeter. The trip, and the role Graham played, had a big impact on many of those who went on it.
The Reverend Helen Sherlock, curate at Unlimited Church in Exeter, said: “My abiding memory is of Graham being an absolute legend! He was a complete gentleman.
“I knew him for such a short time but counted him as one of my favourite men.”
The Reverend Carl Robinson, curate of Exeter Network Church, said: “Graham set everyone at ease, with his warmth and humour and unflappability.
“He was the most impeccably mannered man I’ve ever met. Such a wicked sense of humour and then at the same time so generous and full of grace and love and kindness.
“A truly Christ-like man and a true hero in the faith.”
Graham’s humour, humility and sensitivity were also remembered by a number of others who paid tribute to him.
Graham remained in post as Bishop’s Chaplain and was a valued and much-loved member of the Bishop’s staff team until his death. He is survived by his wife Marion and two daughters.