Grandparents for Rent

January 27, 2016

RoyallI’ve often said that one of the best kept secrets of some of our congregations is the wonderful, wise, witty, generation of elders contained within. We need signs outside with the words, “Grandparents for Rent.” Rent is really the wrong word but “Free Grandparents” sounds a little like free kittens and in today’s society value comes with a cost.

On Saturday, the cost of one such beautiful contract came to a close for our family. For just a little while, we took up residence in the life of Royall and Martha Yount. We say goodbye to Royall on Friday and it hurts. We loved him dearly. He was a pillar of faith and it has taken me days to even start this post to share a little of our life together.

Some knew Royall as Bishop Royall A. Yount, Sr. who served the Florida/Bahama Synod as LCA Bishop for 37 years. I knew Royall after all that. He’s always been former bishop to me. For us, he was just Mr. Royall and he was married to the wonderful Mrs. Martha. Every Sunday, pulpit side of the aisle, they were there. Potluck dinners, congregational events – they were there. Always.

As Royall grew more frail, we would meet them at the back door of the church and Eric would take him upstairs to the sanctuary in the wheelchair. Eric even refrained from popping wheelies with the wheelchair – only because it was Mr. Royall. We won’t talk about all the times we asked to pick them up or the times Royall drove them to worship and then got in the wheelchair. Stubborn and independent go hand in hand. We would take lunch to their house after feeding the LR kids and sit in their den and listen to stories of their life in Florida before we even knew them.

When I became assembly manager, Royall was still able to come for at least the first day and be recognized. Later, I’d go see him before and after assembly to tell him all about it. He was always quick to say no when asked if he missed synod assemblies as bishop. As his health issues grew more serious and they both moved to Trinity Village, I knew that one day soon we’d be calling his name during assembly worship and ringing a bell. It’s a lovely remembrance for a lovely man but I’m telling you now, there will be tears.

Royall Austin Yount, Sr., we were blessed to know you, love you, and call you friend. You taught us about Jesus because you lived as his disciple – each and every day. Thanks be to God for the gift of the Royall’s in all our lives.

Grandparents for rent – priceless.


How many people have prayed for you?

October 1, 2015

Pastor Andrew Miller asked this question in worship on Sunday. How many people have prayed for you? He asked us to guess at the number. There is no way to know that number and there is some comfort in that. Knowing that people are praying for you is powerful. We take turns doing devotions in the office and Tuesday was my turn. I wanted to add to that number and lift up our rostered leaders. I printed off a list and gave each staff member a sheet of names and asked that they pray for the leaders on their list. Pastor John Mocko took his list and emailed each person on it asking for prayer requests. I “borrowed” his idea and emailed my list as well.

Thank you John Mocko for following through on the request and letting them know you were praying. Thank you Andrew Miller for asking the question. Your question led to conversations with rostered leaders and led to prayers I would have never known to pray for. To our rostered leaders – you are being prayed for by name. Your number is increasing. As you are a blessing to this synod, know that we are praying for your ministry. Thank you for your service.


Catherine Anderson – well done good and faithful servant!

September 14, 2015

So, before the 2012 ELCA Youth Gathering a wild idea started bopping around the Youth Ministry world. What would it look like to have a “Synod Day” as part of the gathering? One of my dearest friends, Catherine Anderson, was approached with this new idea. Catherine, in her infinite wisdom, said it couldn’t or shouldn’t be done UNLESS someone put together a coach in each synod to do trainings so that adults traveling with our most precious young people would be equipped to walk alongside them on this journey of faith. Turns out Catherine was that someone. So, she gathered some people to dream and when you get together with people you enjoy working with and dream together, amazing things happen.

The Practice Discipleship Initiative happened. I have been blessed to be a part of this journey and on December 1st will move into the position of Interim Director. I’m not taking Catherine’s place because that simply isn’t possible. She is one of a kind. She has built a wild idea into reality and is ready for her next adventure. I’m stepping in as we decide what’s next for Practice Discipleship. The ELCA has funded this Initiative and conversations are happening about what’s next and what’s best. I trust in the process and have faith that it will bear fruit.

What I do want to say publicly is thank you, Catherine. For daring to dream big dreams and trusting that God would be with us and guide us. For being Christ to so many. “Most likely to make a difference in the ELCA” – not a superlative you’ll find in any high school yearbook but one that rings true. You’ve made a difference and will continue to do so.

Because of your dreams we have…

– 5 years of curriculum that will be used for years to come.

– incredible webinars that are free and easily available.

– coaches in each synod that are equipped to teach and share the faith practices.

– over 30,000 people who have been a part of some type of Practice Discipleship training.

– writers in our colleges/universities and seminaries who have blessed this initiative with their knowledge.

– a system in place that makes folks take notice. Proclaim Story used the same delivery system with Synod Day Directors and it worked SO well.

– volunteers who were once searching for accessible trainings who can now feel equipped to walk with our young people.

– young people surrounded by adults who have the tools they need to talk with young people about where the Kingdom of God has drawn near and to feel comfortable with the big questions of faith.

You’ll never take credit because that’s just who you are but bless your heart – without you, this wouldn’t have happened. The Holy Spirit took you by the hand and set you on this path. Thank you for bringing us along for the ride. Well done, good and faithful servant.

If you have no idea what Practice Discipleship is all about – check it out. http://www.practicediscipleship.org  You’ll be glad you did.


Another LYO, another Senior Blessing, the long goodbye.

March 1, 2015

Well, let’s just say I’m not known for making it through the blessing of our high school seniors at LYO. I’ve done it maybe twice without tears. The problem with being a crier is that once the tears start, it’s almost impossible to hold them back again. Each year at LYO Assembly we have seniors stand, give them a blessing stone and have them bless their adult advisors and then the advisors bless them while we pray for their journey. Liz Fisher and I usually took turns doing this each year. (OK, full confession, I usually convinced her I’d done it the year before. She knew and yet she did it anyway. Thanks Liz.) Then we became brilliant women who let our dear Bishop Bolick do it. My job was to have them stand and pass out stones to the adults. Today, I took the microphone, looked out into the congregation and just said nope and passed it off to LIz as Leonard took the stage. Couldn’t even do that much. My son, Robert, is one of those seniors and no one expected me to make it anyway so I’m not even sure there were bets on it this year but the tears had already started long before we approached that blessing.

Leonard stood to give the sermon and it washed over me that this was his last LYO as bishop. This year we’ve done event after event where at some point it has hit me that this was yet another goodbye. I’ve been calling it the long goodbye. Leonard’s retirement as bishop after 18 years is hard. I’m so excited for him – being bishop has to be exhausting. However, I’m just gonna miss him. He first walked into my life when he assumed his role as Assistant to the Bishop in 1986. I was serving as LYNC President. (Lutheran Youth in North Carolina) During my college years at Lenoir-Rhyne I would see him on campus periodically and he even asked me to serve on the Region Nine Youth Gathering Planning team while I was there. On my wedding day he called and talked to my mother asking her to share his congratulations. (It took awhile to figure out who called. My mother said some nice pastor called and said congratulations. I knew a few pastors back then and by the process of elimination and her finally remembering he was from Salisbury, I knew)

For the past twenty years we’ve worked together. Our office has never been one of light shining on the office of bishop. Leonard has the unique ability to shine that light on others. Leonard, you’ve been Christ to me and so many others.

My life has been richer, my faith journey deeper, the laugher sweeter because of you, Leonard Homer Bolick. I give God thanks for your being a part of my story. You are loved!


Detroit 2015

September 3, 2014

2015 ELCA Youth Gathering
Tammy Jones West

It’s that time again. Every three years in the fall prior to the actual gathering we gear up, make our decisions, gather information and begin the registration process for the ELCA Youth Gathering. This year is no different. Approximately 1,000 youth and adult advisors from across our synod will hit the submit button on October 15th – saying, “Yes, we’re going to Detroit.” Will you be with them? I will. I have agreed to serve on the Proclaim Story Day Team. This is the day we gather as a synod to worship, share, learn and laugh. This is the day we will also celebrate together the ministry of our dear Bishop Bolick. One of his final days serving as our bishop and it just so happens that 1,000 NC Synod Lutherans can be together in Michigan to say thank you and Godspeed. ☺

So, why Detroit? What about safety? What about…..? I’ve heard your questions, fears, and concerns. Some of them were my own. There are other places I’d rather have gone simply because of logistics. I prefer a place where walking everywhere is an option. I prefer a place where synods can be housed together. I prefer a place where it’s not so expensive to fly there. The problem with all those phrases is “I.” This is not about me. Yes, there are concerns and when I’m concerned I’m not the best at trusting the Holy Spirit. I want to make things right myself. Not the greatest example on the planet – true confession time. However, our team has spent a considerable amount of time working through the Gospel of Mark. Mark 1:1 keeps reminding me that this is “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” We are part of that story. Detroit is part of that story. How we proclaim Christ – how we proclaim our story within God’s story is important.

I think we gather in Detroit, not to bring Jesus to Detroit. We are called there to witness how the kingdom is being proclaimed; how the story of that city does in ways translate into our story; how our stories at home are part of a much bigger story and how our call to discipleship means we go not where I prefer but where we are called.


It’s Snowing Mamaw

February 12, 2014

The snow started here a little after noon today. It’s still going strong and of course, we are closed up and going no where. It’s just how we roll in the south. The bread aisle is empty and the milk is gone. I’m guessing we make milk sandwiches during possible power outages. So far so good as far as the power goes.

Snow like this seldom happens but when it does, without a doubt I reach for the phone to call Mamaw and tell her it’s snowing. She loved the snow and I would always call her and tell her it was snowing just in case she missed it. (easy thing in the south) Today, 19+ years after her death I still reached for the phone and if I hadn’t stopped myself and wiped the tears from my eyes, could have dialed that number from memory even when I honestly couldn’t tell you my husband’s cell phone number without my phone to remember it for me.

There are some things that are just imprinted on our lives. Larger than life grandparents who were incredible people of faith. Ritual and traditions that define what it means to be a Jones family member.

Today as the world stands still, I am thankful for the saints who have gone before us, taught us about Jesus and lived a life of faith that imprinted on our lives and for those moments when I reached for the phone to say, “It’s snowing Mamaw,” and the voice on the other end reminded me that I was loved.


Churchwide Assembly from our young adult Julie Tonnesen

August 15, 2013

“Yesterday, the ELCA elected our first female presiding bishop. As a young adult female, it is so powerful to see a woman in this esteemed and traditionally male position. As soon as the election results were posted, I texted my grandmother to let her know the good news, and her response blew me away. She told me that 43 years ago, she was a voting member at the 1970 Churchwide Assembly in San Antonio, Texas. At this assembly, members voted to ordain women to be pastors and other church leaders, a huge step forward for women and the Lutheran church, alike. I am so thankful for the faithful voting members, my grandmother included, who made it possible for me to be a part of electing Elizabeth Eaton to the Office of Presiding Bishop. Thanks be to God for all of the people who have dedicated their time to Churchwide Assemblies and continue to move the church forward. I am so proud to be a part of this community.”

Thank you, Julie for sharing. Thanks be to God for young adults willing to serve as voting members for this church.


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