I Am United Methodist: Tammy Lovell
Christ United Methodist Church, Franklin, Tennessee
Tammy Lovell, a member of Christ United Methodist Church in Franklin, Tennessee, loves children.
An elementary school teacher in Franklin for her entire 33-year career, 17 as a special education teacher and the past 16 in third grade, she can't imagine doing anything else. Teaching is her dream job.
Teaching also is hard work. For Lovell, having the support of her fellow Christ Church members is a real blessing.
"Over the years, I have had many individuals from my church purchase school supplies for children who need them," she said. "I have had members bring treats, and once, one of the women even functioned as a room mother when I didn't have a parent volunteer. Currently, there is a church member who volunteers almost daily reading with my students. Many members have ‘adopted' families at Christmas time."
Lovell and her family have been members of Christ Church since its beginning in 1985.
"The conference purchased the land, and we started meeting in a tent," Lovell said. "Franklin and Brentwood UMCs came on board to help us get started. My husband, Gilbert, and I led the youth group until we could hire a paid staff member."
Lovell's experience as a teacher made her a natural to serve on the Children's Council for years. "I finally rotated off so some of the other parents could serve," she said, adding with a laugh, "but I'm still on call!"
She has taught Sunday school and mentored youngsters during confirmation preparation. She and her daughter Becca Lovell Miller work together and help lead a children's music and mission camp at the church each summer.
Christ Church, with a membership of about 1,000 people, is a large congregation in Williamson County, just south of Nashville. Forbes magazine listed the county as the 16th wealthiest county in the United States with an average household income of more than $90,000.
"People have the incorrect idea that everyone in Williamson County is rich," Lovell said. "Many are, but there are also pockets of poverty right here in Franklin. There is a housing project near my school, and some of my students live there. About a third of the students are on free lunch. Having the support of my church is important. They help meet a lot of the needs for the kids."
A "born and raised Methodist," Lovell has worked with children since she was 14 years old, when her home church, Dunwoody (Georgia) United Methodist Church, gave her the opportunity to teach in vacation Bible school.
She went to Vanderbilt University, majored in elementary and special education and met her future husband.
During the summers, she worked with kids back home.
"I was director of leisure ministry at DUMC," she said. "I was able to create and coordinate three camps: one for our church kids, one for inner-city kids and another for special-needs kids. I had to get the camps organized and recruit enough volunteers to come work. It took a lot of volunteers!"
One summer, Lovell asked Dunwoody's music director to bring the church's handbells to the camp for the kids.
"My goodness, there were some people who nearly died," she laughed. "You just don't let the handbells leave the church building, much less let a bunch of kids play with them. But our music director was great. He brought them out and helped the kids play."
This year, as school was getting ready to start in August, Lovell received her student roster.
"I pray for each child by name and for their family," she said. "I pray for my colleagues. I pray for God to work through me every day to show love and grace to my students. I pray to be their sunshine."
Polly House is editorial assistant for Interpreter and Interpreter OnLine.