“He WAS my bishop!” These were the opening words as the preacher began his sermon. The occasion was the Thanksgiving service for the late Tom Jewett in the Anglican church in Devonport Tasmania. ( A summary of Tom’s ministry as Director of Teen Challenge in Sydney, Director of the London Healing Mission in the UK and as founder, with his wife Anne, of Isaiah 61 Ministries can be found on his website http://www.tomjewett.com.au/about.html ). I had just spoken at the service and paid tribute to Tom’s ministry as I had experienced it. I had made the remark that Tom would have made a great bishop in the church.
The preacher had taken hold of my words and was expressing his gratitude to God that Tom had indeed mentored and encouraged him in his ministry over many years, as bishops are meant to do. I was to learn a little later in the service that there were many ministers in a number of different denominations around the world who indeed had looked to Tom for spiritual and practical help for their ministries. He had indeed fulfilled the requirements for a bishop as I had outlined them in my tribute.
Firstly, as we see above, he was a pastor to the pastors. His counsel and encouragement were known and appreciated by pastors in Australia, Great Britain and in many parts of Europe.
Secondly, he was a pastor to the people. People flocked to attend his Seminars on Healing in Australia and overseas. They came from a wide variety of backgrounds. I would see well-known medical specialists and others in the Health professions in these gatherings. There would also be full-time Christian workers, and those from business and legal professions. Joining them would be people from affluent backgrounds, and those from very, very humble circumstances. They all came with an openness to hear from God through Tom and to be ministered to by Tom and his wife Anne after his talks. Very often they would pray with people for hours after the meeting, so concerned were they to ensure no one would miss out on what God wanted to do through them for those present.
Thirdly, he was a great administrator. Experienced business folk marvelled at his ability to see the whole situation quickly and comprehensively as he chaired meetings. That ability was seen in the secular world as well. Tom worked on major projects for Tasmanian and Federal Government agencies. Can you imagine a Motel being constructed in 6 weeks, in time for the Queen’s visit to Hobart? If Tom was supervising the work it could have been. Indeed it was! He supervised the building of the six upper floors at the same time as he was supervising the furnishing of the lower floors! Shopping Centres and other notable buildings came into being under his supervision. The same careful control and care marked his leadership of Christian organisations.
As part of my tribute I asked the congregation to imagine the situation if Tom had ever been appointed the Archbishop of Canterbury. There was widespread laughter! They laughed, not because it was so unlikely, but because they knew that Tom would have done things differently. He would never have tolerated anything that was heretical in the church. As someone who loved the church of God he would have done all in his power to ensure that false shepherds did not come in to spoil the flock. Lambeth Conferences when the Bishops of the world-wide Anglican Communion meet, would have been quite different if Tom had been doing the inviting and the programming!
So as we gathered in the beautiful St John’s Anglican Church in Devonport Tasmania to celebrate Tom’s life and ministry we were sad to know that we would not see him any more in this life. But there were lots of smiles and plenty of laughter as we recalled together the life of a man who loved his wife and family, who loved his church and served it so faithfully for several decades of ministry. Moreover, he left us a wonderful example of a pastor who loved and served His Lord throughout his life. What Paul wrote to Philemon could easily have been written to Tom Jewett, Phm 1:7, For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.
Together with thousands of folk around the world we assure Anne and Alexander and Victoria of our gratitude to them for sharing Tom with us. We also assure them of our ongoing love as we continue to support them in our prayers.
Blog No. 120. Jim Holbeck. Posted on Friday 17th May 2013.