When Kevin T. Jones of Mason City, Iowa, was elected bishop of the Northeastern Iowa Synod on June 12, the thought that everything had just changed hit him with a thud as the results of the fifth ballot were announced.
“It was a relief to know that my sound was muted and my camera off at that moment,” said Jones, who was elected with 168 votes during an online synod assembly. “It was stunning and humbling and overwhelming, and my brain didn’t turn off for more than two months. It still is all that, but my brain takes the occasional break now and again.”
Jones began serving as bishop on Sept. 1 and was installed Sept. 25 at Trinity Lutheran Church in Mason City, where he had served as the pastor for youth, families and education since 2014.
Now a few months into his term as bishop, Jones said he is focused on caring for people in the synod as they continue to wrestle with the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As we continue through the pandemic, caring for the weary, bruised and tender people in our congregations and communities is a great priority,” he said. “We are resilient people, but the past 18-20 months have taken a lot out of everyone. It feels like we have exhausted our patience with one another and when that happens, it is harder to love one another.
“I am eager to see the new life the spirit of Christ will blow into the church. I believe we will be astonished and joy-filled at what we will find and where it will take us.”
Jones adopts a similar style of intentionally yielding to the process in his creative pursuits—a woodcarving hobby he has practiced for years.
“I have a friend and mentor named Jerry who got me interested in woodcarving years ago,” Jones said. “He has this beautiful way of relating life to the creative process of shaping wood with knives and gouges. Recently I have translated those skills to large chainsaw carvings that I’ve done for friends and a couple [I’ve done] in the woods at Ewalu, one of the Bible camps in our synod.
“The process of starting with a design in mind, begin working on it, then letting go of my initial image to see what actually emerges is exactly how I like to approach ministry.”