By John Herndon, KentuckySings.com
It’s all about ministry to The Jay Stone Singers.
The family harmony is superb and many of the lyrics are powerful when the veteran group takes the stage. There is very little showmanship and only a few jokes interspersed through their set opening for Greater Vision at Sand Spring Baptist Church on July 25.
But mostly it’s about ministry. Always has been. Always will be.
“Absolutely!” says Bobby Carter, who has been with the group since 1984. “The Jay Stone Singers’ ministry has been on the road for 43 years coming up this October. Sharona (Stone Carter, Bobby’s wife) was a young girl. I am not going to tell you how old she is!
“It started as a ministry. It still is a ministry. We pray about every concert, every church service. Everywhere we are given an opportunity to go, we pray that people are different than when they came. That’s what we want to happen. If they are lost, that they be saved. If they are a little down, that they can be encouraged.”
That was apparent at Sand Spring as the group sang songs such as the classic “Through it All” and a song from its latest CD, “Your Will, Another Way.”
“It’s a very powerful song about prayer and surrendering to God under all circumstances even when He works things a different way than you want them in your life,” says Sharona, who solos on “Your Will, Another Way” and says it is one of her favorite songs.
She continues, “I am very drawn to songs that are encouraging and hit home in certain areas of my life, like ‘Your Will, Another Way.’ Another song like that is ‘Through it All. No matter what you are facing, no matter what you are going through, God’s got you. He will help you through, no matter what you are facing, no matter what you are going through, God’s got you. He will help you through no matter what your circumstances are. We have to be willing to put ourselves out of the way and just rest in Him and allow Him to carry us through those hard times in our life. I do connect with that song. It’s an awesome song and I love singing it.”
It’s about ministering in a tough world, just as Sharona’s dad, Jay Stone, believed when he formed the family singing group in 1976. While the group is typically on the road 46 to 47 weekends a year, they believe they do have a connection to listeners who might hear them only occasionally.
“We want people to know we know that life is hard and there is a lot of sadness in the world,” Sharona says. “Sometimes, it’s really hard to find a little bit of good news and a little joy. We want to share that Christ and his love, no matter what, is the answer to our problems.”
That is also the idea behind the title cut of the group’s “Come Thirsty” album, released in the fall of 2017. Bobby and Sharona’s daughter, Emma, delivers a perfect mix of power and a calming spirit on the song she claims to be her favorite on the CD. “It talks about how it doesn’t matter how you feel about yourself. There is so much mercy and grace there.”
Emma recently graduated from Methodist University in Fayetteville, N.C. while keeping a commitment to the family ministry. Her degree is in psychology and she plans to go back to school to become a physician’s assistant. She did miss some dates while in college. “There were dates my brother (Stone Carter) would have travel so we could make the dates,” she says. “I couldn’t go on long trips. This year will be the first National Quartet Convention in four years that I have been able to go to.”
Stone, who is an enormously talented drummer, occasionally travels with his family but most of his time is spent touring with The Nelons, where he serves as drummer and sound engineer.
The Carters stay involved in their hometown of Parkton, N.C. as Bobby serves as assistant fire marshall an Sharona teaches music in a private school on Wednesdays. She is also a private voice instructor.
Keeping to his ministry theme, Bobby regularly posts devotions on Facebook. He says they have been very well received. “I am involved with law enforcement and the fire department back home. I have some friends who are not involved in the church,” he says. “I kind of did it for their benefit. They are on Facebook and they might read it and like it or send me a private message or text. Or they might call even stop me and say, ‘That is exactly what I need to hear today.’”
Bobby chuckles. “A lot of times, it’s what I need to hear,” he says.
The current year has been good to The Jay Stone Singers. They’ve been busy touring and recording their newest album, set to release in October. Bobby says the group is not releasing many details of the album at this time.
“In the last year-and-a-half, our family has seen a lot of transition and struggles,” Sharona says. “It’s not just the four of us, but our extended family as well. Some of the songs on the new CD speak to where we are now and speak to us. It’s leaning on God and his grace. Hopefully we are helping others in bearing their burdens and helping them see. We are humans and go through stuff too.
“I believe that will help our connection with our audience be even stronger.”
As for Emma, the future includes more schooling, which will limit her time to tour, but the group sees enormous opportunities for ministry. “There are definitely some things that will have to be considered, but we are excited about the new opportunities,” she says. “My parents have been doing this for 43 years. I have only seen 22 but it’s nice to see the fruits of their labors and the labors of my grandparents. We have so many exciting opportunities.”
And it’s about ministry. “I was listening to some of the tracks (of the new CD) as we were driving up today and singing along,” Bobby says. “It was blessing me coming up the interstate.”
That’s how ministry works.