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Archive for May, 2011

By Lindsey McClintock. Photo by Anthony M. Nesossis.

It can be difficult to worship and work in the same place. That’s the challenge many ministers face.

Megan Lowe

Megan Lowe found herself in the midst of this conundrum when she accepted a staff position at FBC as Children’s Ministry Assistant, working specifically as the Children’s Worship and Child Care coordinator.

Megan was dedicated as a baby (as Megan Sterrett) at FBC. From birth to college FBC was like a second home to Megan, a place of comfort, relief from life’s stresses, and a sacred place. Lynn Turner was her youth minister and the most influential minister impacting her life and development as a Christian. Lynn, she said, was always welcoming and friendly but also one to “call you out when you were out of line,” making her a role model in expressing the love of God and the expectations of discipleship. Megan felt that FBC was her church home and was always glad to come, be it for corporate worship or youth ministry.

While attending VCU, Megan became very involved with the Intervarsity ministries and found a wonderful peer group of fellow Christian university students. On Sundays this group would attend church together, exploring different churches around Richmond. It was in this group that Megan met Brandon Lowe, later to become her husband. FBC was still her home church but her engagement with the congregation was different than she had experienced as a child or youth.

Accepting a position on staff further changed that relationship. In the first year of her employment Megan saw FBC as both her place of worship and work which seemed fine, although she rarely got the chance to worship with Brandon. “I kept thinking we could worship together as a couple during the summers when I did not have children’s worship obligations but those opportunities were few and far between.” After a year of trying, Megan and Brandon decided they needed to find a different place of worship.

Being employed by FBC and having such close ties from growing up in the church brought a lot of anxiety, guilt and fear of judgment in transferring her membership to another congregation. The timing was also very unfortunate as she and Brandon found another church and withdrew her membership at the height of the membership/baptism conversation which, she emphasized, had nothing to do with their decision. Megan was pleasantly surprised in receiving great amounts of support and understanding from FBC members in reaction to her decision, which made her even more proud of FBC.

“It was a huge relief and joy to be able to worship as a couple again in total freedom. Working at the church I spent a lot of time preparing Bible studies and leading children’s worship, however, I had not realized how this had become an intellectual exercise of preparation and not one of the heart feeding me spiritually,” she recounted. It was not until she found herself worshiping next to Brandon at City Church of Richmond (whose worship services are Sunday afternoons) that she realized how much this had been missing in her life. While Megan loves her work at First Baptist Church and values the faith community which raised her, transferring her membership to a new congregation proved an important step for her continued faith development.

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By Rachel Lewis Allee.

Shirley Robertson’s teaching career began at an unusually early age. “My mother would tell me that when I was a little girl I would gather the neighborhood children on the steps in front of the house and teach. That’s when I started,” Shirley says with a smile.

For Shirley Robertson 18 years teaching third grade brings the reward of seeing "some growth among the students and ... learning together" with them. Photo by Win Grant.

Her natural proclivity for teaching continued to develop as the years passed: as a teenager she worked in the Sunday school at Parkview Baptist Church (now Patterson Avenue Baptist Church), where her father served as pastor. After college, Shirley worked for several Richmond-area churches in educational roles, and then spent 35 years training teachers around the state through the Virginia Baptist Board (now the Virginia Baptist Mission Board). The year after she retired from this work, she joined First Baptist and immediately put her years of experience to use by teaching a second grade Sunday school class. After working with that class for a year, she moved to third grade where she still teaches, eighteen years later.

Teaching for so long has been quite gratifying, she says. “It’s rewarding to see some growth among the students and to be with them and learning together. And when you run into them 18 years later it’s rewarding. So many that I’ve taught here, I see they’ve moved on to the next grades and so many will come up for a hug, even the teenage boys I taught in the 3rd grade!” Her regular teaching partners are Catherine Dunn and John Hughes, who have each taught Sunday school at First Baptist for years.

“Catherine does the group time; you might call what I do the activity time, but it’s all part of the lesson. She calls me on Tuesday nights and I’ve already planned the schedule and we talk it over. I tell her what we need and she tells John, who makes copies for us and gets supplies. When we get there he has everything laid out for us that we need.” It’s an ideal situation, she says, and John, who has worked with several different age groups at FBC over the past 15 years, agrees.

John Hughes teaches Third Grade Sunday school. Photo by Win Grant.

“It’s a good team. I write everything down and get it set up and ready to go. But my joke with them is that I’m still ‘in training.’ That’s why I tell them they can’t retire,” he says with a chuckle. Like Shirley, John enjoys the relational benefits of teaching long-term. “When I walk down the hall I know all the kids. There are kids now in eleventh and twelfth grades that I taught as kindergartners.” In addition, he says, the influence of long-term teachers extends beyond the students. “In the process you meet the parents; you just get to know more people.”

Clyde Davis says that the teaching experience is "Christianity at its basics." Photo by Win Grant.

Clyde and Susan Davis, who have taught the three-year-old Sunday school class at FBC for around 28 years, also feel strongly about their longtime roles as influencers. “This is the only time some children have contact with the church. I keep that in mind all the time,” says Susan. “It’s a neat place to do mission work,” adds Clyde, noting that he enjoys watching his former students change as they grow older. “You see them get dedicated, they come through our class, they accept Christ, and then we see them going away from high school to college, then getting married, and they invite you to their weddings. That’s pretty awesome.”

Susan Davis has taught the three-year-old Sunday school class for 28 years. Photo by Win Grant.

Susan explains that some changes become very apparent even during the one year she and Clyde teach them. “They come in seeming so young, but by the time they leave us the next fall, it’s amazing how much they’ve matured, how their spiritual life has grown.”

Observing those small but fundamental changes in the hearts and minds of the children has never gotten old, Clyde says. “You watch them change and blossom, see them start coming together, loving each other, respecting each other. It’s Christianity at its basics.”

Rachel Lewis Allee

Rachel Lewis Allee. Photo by Jonathan Allee.

Rachel and her husband, Jonathan, are new members of First Baptist and attend the Young Couples class. Rachel teaches eleventh and twelfth grade English and coaches softball at Richmond Christian School. Every now and then she has time to work in the garden, read and write fiction, and play the piano. She and Jonathan enjoy playing with their happy-go-lucky hound dog, Oliver, and hanging out at their cottage in Mechanicsville.

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By Elizabeth Lipford.

Monument Market families

Vendors offer home grown and home made items at Monument Market. Photo by Skyler Cumbia.

Monument Market, sponsored by Richmond’s First Baptist Church, began its second season May 7th in the church’s parking lot at the corner of Monument and Robinson. It is one of many regional farmers’ markets that are springing up in urban areas in response to people embracing healthier lifestyles and wanting to support local growers and businesses. However, for the FBC families involved, it is much more than providing local products. It is about being a good neighbor, running a small family business, and building new relationships.

We are “friend-raising” said Linn Kreckman, the visionary behind the market. Linn, also a vendor, as is her son John, saw the potential for bringing a market to the Fan. Through her efforts and with the support of the Recreation Team and staff facilitator Buddy Burgess, the market was launched in 2010 with the goal of connecting with the community while supplying a need.

With 90% of the customers being walk-ins, not drivers, the market quickly became a neighborhood gathering place on Saturday mornings. It is a relaxed atmosphere in which many conversations take place about happenings at First Baptist. Suzanne Acosta, site manager for the market, recalled a conversation she had with a customer who later visited the Young Adults Sunday school class. Anne Burgess, like many, often brings her dog for a stroll through the market. As she has gotten to know the customers, she has seen many participate in FBC’s Classics in the Courtyard, Upward Basketball and Indoor Soccer. For Vicky Nicholau the market is a place to raise money for FBC’s Community Missions by selling homemade Greek pastries, a sell-out every time.

For our family, and the families of Allen and Hope Cumbia and Bryan and Renee Smith, the market is also a perfect venue for a family business. In this setting we teach our children valuable lessons about hard work, customer service and economics. Michael and I see our children experience the joy of having people want to purchase things they have produced themselves, as well as the disappointment of having spent a week working hard, only to have little profit to take home. Allen Cumbia describes it as “a good family bonding time.” The Smith girls agree that learning to determine prices and make change are some of the new skills they have learned.

Monument Market families 2

Monument Market is as much a social gathering as it is a farmers' market. Photo by Anthony M. Nesossis.

Some of the vendors are also forming new relationships. Rick Nesossis, creator of eclectic birdhouses, quickly became a friend to all. New friendships also led to some creative negotiating. Our girls traded perennials for herbed oil, and the daughter of a vegetable vendor bartered fresh flowers for a necklace made by Lydia Smith. We help each other set up and clean up, and we all make our weekly purchases before we leave. Buddy Burgess says “the market reminds me of Jesus in the marketplace, talking and connecting with people.”

Good food and good lessons, making friends and connecting neighbors with the FBC family – the Monument Market is something you will definitely want to experience!

Elizabeth Lipford and her husband, Michael have been members of FBC since 1993. She home schools their three daughters, Aylett, Ellen and Mary Michael. Elizabeth has been a leader with Girls in Action and Vacation Bible School and helps with youth events throughout the year. She is a member of the Disciples Sunday school class. Currently, she is helping her daughters manage the “Lipford Family Gardens” booth at Monument Market.

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By Ken Storey.

Richmond Friends of the Homeless feeds more than 3,000 meals each week to the hungry poor. Photo by Shawnee Hansen.

If you think you know the Lord’s Prayer, having memorized it from years of repetition in church, think again. Dr. Jim Somerville is leading a five-week study of the Lord’s Prayer that frames it as a mission statement. The sessions are in the Dining Hall following the weekly Wednesday night dinner and continue through May 25.

To help put the prayer into a new perspective Jim is using the original Greek wording of the prayer and explaining how the Greek words bring new understanding to the meaning Jesus intended. For example, the first Greek word actually means “paternity”; typically we use “Our Father” (Matthew 6:9f, KJV). The next words in Greek actually mean “who is not here”; for us, “which art in heaven.” As Jim explained, “Jesus did not teach His disciples this prayer with formal words like Yahweh; He wanted it to be informal. He used words that meant ‘Our Father’ and not ‘My Father,’ so that the prayer would have a meaning that brings us all into a community with God.”

He continued, “The Greek words that refer to ‘Hallowed be thy name,’ actually mean ‘you hallow the Lord’s name by your life, not with your lips; your actions create the hallow.’ What Jesus was trying to say was that your actions show the honor to God.”

When you say “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done,” you should be thinking that you are taking a vow to do God’s work on earth. As Jim noted, “Jesus was saying, ‘Let me show you what it will be like when God’s kingdom is here as it is in heaven.’” He challenges us to catch Jesus’ vision of what the world would be like if we truly worked to make it be like it is in heaven. As Jim said, “If we truly caught that vision we would be unstoppable, because we would want it so badly. This prayer is like what a missionary would say before going to the mission field.”

Hope in the Cities sponsors the Richmond Unity Walk. Photo by Rob Lancaster.

In addition to the study, each week will focus on one person whose work is bringing the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond. Shawnee Hansen (click here to see a video) spoke on April 27; her program, Richmond Friends of the Homeless, serves more than 3,000 meals a week to homeless and the hungry poor. May 4 featured Rob Corcoran, national director of Initiatives of Change and founder of Hope in the Cities, which works toward reconciliation and partnerships among racial, ethnic and religious groups. On May 11 Rabbi Jesse Gallop will share how some of our Jewish neighbors are bringing heaven to earth. Brad Nott of Crossover Ministry will speak on May 18. Crossover is one of FBC’s missional partners and provides medical care to the uninsured.

Ken Storey is a realtor with Hometown Realty. A member of FBC since 1989, he belongs to Foundations Sunday school class, is a deacon, and serves on the Communication Team. Ken and his wife, Laura, have four children ages 7 to16 – Stephen, Lydia, William, and David.

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By Jeannie Dortch.

Anyone who has ever seen Who Do You Think You Are? on NBC knows how engrossing it is to watch celebrities delve into their personal genealogy. They find lost loved ones, discover medical facts with personal relevance, and, in some cases, gain a sense of value about themselves based on those who preceded them.

"The Open Door" is available for purchase from the FBC library.

As First Baptist Church family members, we too have a genealogy, but one that has been preserved by our church historians in a two book volume entitled The Open Door. Our church heritage began in 1780 when Joshua Morris conducted a house prayer meeting at the home of John Franklin on Union Hill. That led to the organization of Richmond Baptist Church, the first Baptist church to have a constitution in a Virginia city, and the first church of any denomination in the capital of Virginia. Since then, we have met in six different locations and have been pastored by 16 senior ministers.

During those decades, FBC has been served by only three historians: Blanche Sydnor White (1891-1974), James (Jimmy) Barrett Walthall (1926-2005), and Virginia Darnell. Every Wednesday afternoon, you will find Virginia in one of two rooms adjacent to the Chapel foyer organizing boxes of historical materials left to her purview as the congregation’s current church historian. She works alone sorting through a myriad of published materials that collectively tell our distinctive story. When Virginia volunteered for this job in 2005, she didn’t realize that it would be such an extensive undertaking because the publication of The Open Door in 2006 had chronicled our history from 1780-2005. It quickly became apparent, however, that since history is a work in progress, each day was bringing more revelations to add to the richness that is uniquely ours.

Virginia Darnell. Photo by Jeannie Dortch.

“I don’t think we should live in our history, but some record of what we have accomplished is necessary and needs to be saved,” Virginia told me when I visited her at her home in Hanover County, a 1756 flour mill. She and her husband, Raymond, bought the mill with its 30 acres of land and meandering stream in 1963, and restoration became their hobby as well as labor of joy during the ensuing years. Virginia’s passion for preservation naturally extends to her beloved FBC as she unearths clues to our church lineage each week. “People want to be able to look up our church history and read about it,” she went on, “and I want to continue giving them that opportunity.”

FBC's location from 1841-1928 was at 12th and Broad Street. Photo by Mark Larson.

Recently, Virginia received an email from a professor at George Mason University. He was writing an article about the genesis of indoor baptisteries and wanted to know when our first baptistery had been installed. Virginia was aware that in 1835 Pastor Isaac Hinton had had quite a scare when he almost lost a new convert in a river baptism. As a result, construction and installation of a baptistery was begun that year at our College and Broad Street location and completed in 1836 under Pastor Jeremiah Bell Jeter’s watch. The professor told Virginia that this makes our baptistery the oldest in the United States; this is the kind of information that makes Virginia’s job extremely satisfying.

The current view inside the former FBC building, now used as a center for VCU medical students. Photo by Mark Larson.

In January, 2006, Virginia witnessed the dedication of the $6 million, newly renovated Hunton Student Center on the MCV campus of VCU. This facility at 12th and Broad Street was FBC’s location from 1841-1928. One of the other FBC members attending this celebration of our shared history included Oscar Pitts, who had been baptized in this building. Walking into this state-of- the-art, three-story landmark, one cannot mistake its former use. Original church pews, including those in the balcony where slaves sat, staircases, floorboards, and ceiling medallions have been retained. Students relax, eat and study in the sanctuary/lounge, the focal point of which is the original chancel and pulpit.

The contribution of a church historian is ongoing and invaluable. When asked, “What do you think your legacy will be?” Virginia responded that she couldn’t venture a guess. Her FBC family, I think, would answer that it will be appreciation for Virginia’s earnest and thorough efforts on our behalf. If you are still wondering what Virginia Darnell knows, the answer is Plenty!

Jeannie Dortch joined FBC in 1974 after being lovingly mentored by the members of Buddy Hamilton’s Sunday school class. A grandmother of four, Jeannie has served as a deacon, taught in our children’s, youth, international, and adult Sunday school departments, but attends the Journey class presently. Recently retired from 16 years of teaching at Rudlin Torah Academy, Jeannie enjoys exercising, cooking, reading, tutoring New American students at Maybeury Elementary, and writing articles for FTF.

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