Mention the name "Emmaus" in France and immediately everyone will know you are referring to an organisation for the homeless founded by a national hero, the Abbé Pierre. The movement is barely 20 years old in the UK and not so well known here but in that time has established 19 communities with a similar number in the process of development. In those 20 years Emmaus has attracted many committed and enthusiastic workers, but few have been more passionate and dedicated than Charlie Jordan.
One has an unlimited choice of adjectives when attempting to describe this remarkable man but perhaps "irrepressible" sums him up best of all. He was a big man in every respect. Tall and angular with a shock of white hair, he stunned many a committee meeting into silence with the torrent of ideas that flowed from his fertile mind. Sometimes, to the amazement of his co-workers he would contradict himself by expressing a point of view directly contra to the view he had previously expressed! No matter. He stimulated debate and with his quick and agile mind provoked the group to move to a deeper level of discussion.
Charlie was a sensitive and compassionate man who believed fervently that the best way to help marginalised people was to give them the opportunity to effect change both in their own lives and in the lives of others. He spent years working at the Emmaus Community in Brighton, and at the time of his death had secured the establishment of a new Emmaus Community in Hastings. In recent years he gave his attention to enabling Emmaus UK to join the International movement as a full member and just before he died he had the satisfaction seeing the final agreement signed.
We last met at the Annual Emmaus Assembly. He had travelled to Derbyshire with a band of residents from the Brighton Community. I listened as he outlined his plans for the future of the new group in Hastings. "Never cross Jordan," I said as he expounded some new ideas. We both laughed.
Charlie Jordan spent a lifetime working for the underprivileged of this world. Many literally owe their lives to him. He leaves behind a large and devoted family that extends way beyond his own immediate family. His name will be long remembered in Emmaus and the spirit of social commitment which he so ably demonstrated will continue to inspire those who take up where he left off.
Charles Jordan, charity worker: born Cape Town, South Africa 1947; married (two daughters, two sons); died Brighton 15 September 2009
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