Tributes paid to former Sidmouth Vicar Graham Stones
PUBLISHED: 15:27 07 January 2020 | UPDATED: 15:28 07 January 2020
Tributes have been paid to a former Sidmouth vicar who has been described as ‘a true hero of the faith’.
Graham Stones, the Bishop of Exeter's Chaplain, died from cancer in early December following a short illness.
A Service of Thanksgiving will be held at Exeter Cathedral on Wednesday, January 8, at 11am to celebrate the life of the Reverend Prebendary. It is open to anyone who would like to attend.
Graham was born in Lancashire in 1949 and raised as a Roman Catholic.
He studied chemistry at Southampton University in the 1970s before working in the pharmaceutical industry.
From 1987 to 1994 he and his wife Marion served in the community at Lee Abbey, a Christian retreat centre in North Devon.
Mr Stones trained to be a priest on the South West Ministry Training Course.
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.
"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."
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 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.
There will be a collection at the service in Graham's memory for two charities chosen by his family - The RNLI www.justgiving.com/fundraising/grahamstones1 and Devon Carers www.justgiving.com/fundraising/grahamstones2.