On the 5th of June we learned that our dear friend and brother Ken Stone had ‘gone home to Jesus’.
This tribute is by Ben Quant on behalf of the Trustees, with contributions from Ken's colleagues and friends.
Ken had given the Connexion a lifetime of service, attending a number of our churches, including Westcott, Basingstoke and, for many years, Hailsham. In this time he also guided us as the Chair of the Trustees and Sierra Leone Mission. His first wife, Prudence, was the daughter of Quinton De’Ath, a Trustee and Connexional pastor, and in more recent years he worshipped and led the work at Hailsham with Christine.
As Trustees, we felt it was important to express our sense of loss at his leaving us, to celebrate his life and give thanks for him, and to stand with his family and friends through prayer.
My personal memories of Ken go back to soon after I became a Christian in 1990 at our church in Ely. In many ways in those days Ken was the Connexion, leading the Trustees as their chairman and the correspondent and later chairman of the Sierra Leone Mission (SLM). I was fortunate to experience first hand his insight, leadership and experience over the years that followed.
What comes to mind when I look back?
I remember Ken being an active supporter of Youth Conference, our annual gathering of the Connexion’s young people. He would often call in on our weekends to keep up with what was happening and to encourage us. Before traditions changed, I recall him chairing a number of the Youth Conference AGMs. His involvement in Youth Conference went much further back than the 90’s though. Graham Squibbs informs me that he attended the Youth Conference in its very early years. This, along with his career as a secondary school teacher in Basingstoke and Knaresborough (Deputy Head) would certainly explain his interest.
Ken was appointed as a Connexion Trustee in 1965 at the age of 35, which indicates the confidence people had in his qualities and judgement.
Looking back, Brian Baldwin, who first met him at Conference in Herne Bay in 1963, reflected: ‘This was a time of transition in the Connexion as younger people took up roles, replacing those who had carried the responsibility faithfully until then. In time he became Chairman, leading meetings in a professional, though friendly, way. He encouraged young people in training, for ministry both here and in Sierra Leone by his work as a Trustee of the Cheshunt Foundation and through his links with the Sierra Leone Bible College (now TECT).’
It would seem Ken's experience of being a young leader inspired him to help others in such situations.
I remember sharing lunch with him and another much loved and missed pillar of the Connexion, Kitty Anscombe, in West Hoathly. I was then based at our church in Westcott, whilst training at Spurgeon’s Bible College. Ken had invited me to lead their service that morning and to chat about possibilities going forward; he was clearly concerned that the Connexion should support me once I finished my training and also support the ongoing ministry at West Hoathly, asking if it would be possible that I could work at West Hoathly part-time, as well as part-time at Westcott, and so achieve both? He’d even foreseen transport being an issue and believed he had found a car I could use!
This was one of many such discussions that made clear his devotion to the Connexion and attention to detail. I wonder how many other similar discussions he had, the impacts of which have rippled out across the Connexion? I may not have ended up at West Hoathly, but it was the encouragement of the likes of Ken that brought me to faith and kept me in ministry within the Connexion.
Other memories include his extensive slide shows about Sierra Leone, which revealed his detailed knowledge of the Connexion there, its history, buildings and people. Succeeding him as the chairman of the Sierra Leone Mission (SLM) many years later was daunting. We missed his vast expertise, and he was always eager and willing to advise us. His letters and reports to us were always detailed and thorough.
On the occasions when I visited Sierra Leone, I was frequently reminded of the esteem and affection with which he was held. As our Leonean friends might say, he was a ‘big, big man’. I know he was much missed by the likes of Reuben Dove and Clinton Jackson, two of our former agents there, also now remembered with gratitude and fondness for their friendship and service.
There is no doubt that the Sierra Leone Connexion would not be in the position it is today without Ken's great heart for the people, his relentless effort over many years, extensive knowledge and meticulous attention to detail. His cataloguing of the land owned in Sierra Leone and securing its registration and deed records, has proved vital in securing the sites where our churches and schools stand. But maybe his greatest legacy in that time was supporting our brothers and sisters there along with the rest of the SLM Committee during their civil war, and ensuring that they continued to receive the financial and material assistance that they needed, especially rice and foodstuffs. After leaving the SLM, Ken continued to visit and offer support through The Friends of Sierra Leone.
Outside the Connexion and Sierra Leone, Ken enjoyed going on cruises and watching county cricket.
Noel Vallely, former Connexion Chairman, knew Ken from 1982. He wrote the following when I asked about his memories: ‘I also recall him as Chair of Trustees, where his careful attention to detail was very evident at AGMs until he stood down. He had a heart for the Connexion that he never lost and to Hailsham Gospel Mission, to which he was wholly committed. He was a key figure in Hailsham, never losing sight of its potential and it is in no small measure thanks to him that it is still an active and ongoing fellowship.
'After I became Chair of Trustees, until sadly his memory started to fail, he was one of the people I would turn to when I needed information, or his take on past events that might have had a bearing on something we the current Trustees were considering.
'He was unfailingly courteous and helpful and his detailed recall at times proved invaluable. Ken was “Connexion” to his fingertips. And he gave the best of himself to it.’
Brian Baldwin writes similarly: ‘So we will miss a very professional man who was not afraid to make his views known, always with grace and gentle persuasion. I know his family will miss him greatly and we offer them our prayerful support.’
Both from personal experience, and listening to the recollections of others, it is clear that as a person and through decades of committed work, Ken has had a massive impact on the Connexion both here and in Sierra Leone, and the life that we share together now is a legacy of his service before us. Let's give thanks and be inspired by his example of how God can work through us and, as Brian encourages us, support his family and friends in prayer.
Memories of Ken Stone: 15th August 1930 - 5th June 2021
By Ben Quant, on behalf of the Connexion Trustees. With thanks to Graham Squibbs, Noel Vallely and Brian Baldwin for their recollections and Christine Stone for the lovely photo of Ken.