New 'John Wesley' tattoo has important meaning for Rev. Jason W. Jones as he itinerates this summer


Rev. Jason W. Jones of the Memphis Conference of The United Methodist Church shows his new Wesleyan tattoo with the words, "The world is my parish." (Submitted photos)

By Lane Gardner Camp, Director of Communications, Memphis Conference

He says he is “not a tattoo junkie,” but Rev. Jason W. Jones recently decided to get some "skin art" with important meaning for him: an image of a Methodist circuit rider with the accompanying words, “The world is my parish.”
The image of the circuit rider – clergy on horseback – has always been a “motivator” for Jones, who said it keeps him centered in his ministry, particularly the itinerant aspect of his life as United Methodist clergy.

Jones currently serves Lone Oak United Methodist Church in Paducah, Kentucky, but is beginning a new appointment this summer in Bartlett, Tennessee, near Memphis, where he will serve as senior pastor of Bartlett United Methodist Church.
Both churches are in the Memphis Conference of The United Methodist Church. The conference includes West Tennessee and Western Kentucky.
The circuit rider is an image that goes back to the United States’ earliest years when clergy traveled on horseback in defined geographic territories to organize congregations and minister to settlers.
John Wesley (1703-1791), the founder of the Methodist movement, was an itinerant preacher who traveled to different towns in England to preach and set up Methodist societies.
Jones said his decision to get the tattoo is to embrace the image and meaning of the circuit rider as “an outward sign of an inward grace by which God is bringing God’s work to completion" in and through him.
Jones notes the same image he chose for his tattoo, located on the inside of his right forearm, also appears on his ordination stole and travel communion set.
Only after he’d gotten the tattoo did Jones learn the words Wesley wrote in his journal on June 11, 1739 – “The world is my parish” – were penned so close to the June 9 date he got his tattoo.
Admittedly there is a time lapse of 279 years, but Jones believes the nearness of the June dates are “confirmation” he did “the right thing.”
“It was almost like God giving me a thumbs up,” said Jones. “That may not make my ink divinely arranged, but it does make my heart strangely warmed.”  
The actual words Wesley wrote in his journal, according to Jones, are “I look upon all the world as my parish,” continuing, “in whatever part of it I am, I judge it meet, right, and my bounden duty, to declare unto all that are willing to hear, the glad tidings of salvation."
As Jones thought about whether or not to get the tattoo, he ultimately decided it was “important personally.”

He also had his wife Kristy’s support. “I like the design and the meaning behind it. I think the tattoo turned out great,” she said.

Jones said Wesley’s words about the world being his parish “have long been an inspiration” for him, as well as “a challenge and guiding principle” as a Christ follower and itinerant clergyperson.
“But however we embrace (the words),” summarized Jones, “however we remind ourselves of it, I pray that each of us would in some way seek to live out the essence of Mr. Wesley's words––for they do indeed encapsulate Christ's call to ‘go...and make disciples.’"