Archive for September, 2011

Story & photo by Jeannie Dortch.

FBC illustration

Early rendering of the new church building on Monument Avenue

In 1919, First Baptist Church had been holding services at the 12th and Broad Street location for 87 years. With almost as many people attending Sunday school as attended worship services, the deacon council began to discuss the possibility of expanding the building by purchasing property that was for sale in the next block. At that time, a growing percentage of members were moving to the “far west end of the city,” and the merits of moving or staying in the same area became a sticking point in the discussion.

In 1920, W. S. Forbes, a self-made and successful businessman, and one of the wealthier members of the congregation, brought an interesting proposal before the deacon body. A devoted Christian, Forbes believed the church of Christ achieved more good than any other active organization. His dream was to see the membership of FBC attend services on the South’s historic Monument Avenue.

As a tribute to his deceased wife and mother, both devoted members of FBC, he offered the church the gift of a city block that faced Monument Avenue and was valued at $150,000. If agreed upon, Forbes would subsequently pledge $350,000 towards the building of an edifice that would glorify the Lord and provide adequate space for FBC’s burgeoning congregation.

W. S. Forbes plaque located in the Sanctuary narthex.

The minutes recorded that only seven people out of a membership of 1,718 voted against the recommendation. With the title to this property cleared all the way back to its conveyance on March 15, 1675, to William Byrd I by the English crown, the church was ready to move.

During the next seven years, however, Mr. Forbes fell on hard times and was unable to make good on his promise to pay for the building. Fortunately, by May 1927, enough money had been raised through congregational pledges to begin construction the following month. A year and a half later, on December 10, 1928, Forbes joined other members and guests for the first celebration of worship in the new building. With standing room only for both the morning and evening services, First Baptist Church at Monument and The Boulevard was ready for the growth of Forbes’ dream.

Jeannie Dortch

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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Our organist this morning

By Clint Smith. Photo by Dean Hawthorne.

Chris Ward is one of those critical behind-the-scenes people often taken for granted. Neither his profession nor his pastime places him under a spotlight, but should one day pass without his service, nearly everyone would notice his absence.

Chris Ward

During the work week, Chris answers 911 emergency calls as Communications Supervisor and paramedic with the Richmond Ambulance Authority. On Sundays, Chris is often heard before he’s seen, filling in for Becky Payne on the church’s pipe organ. Chris, who recently turned 30, is passionate about his trade, his art and his Lord.

Chris found First Baptist Church in early 2004, shortly after moving to Richmond from his childhood home in Roanoke, Virginia. “From the first Sunday I visited, I knew this was where the Lord wanted me to be,” Chris said. “Everyone was so friendly and welcoming.”

Just months after joining the congregation, meeting Becky, and scheduling weekly practice sessions on the sanctuary organ, an attractive career opportunity arose near Chapel Hill, North Carolina. For more than six years, Chris served as both a field paramedic and a full-time organist at a large Baptist church.

But despite fulfilling two of his greatest passions, Chris was unsettled. “The hardest thing about moving [to North Carolina] was leaving FBC,” said Chris. “After just two years, I really felt that God was pulling me back to Richmond.” After four years of faithful prayer, the Lord provided Chris a chance to come home; in December 2010, he walked down the aisle to rejoin the congregation.

There aren’t many paramedics who moonlight as organists. How does one choose, and much less master, these two disparate professions? By following childhood dreams. “I always thought I would have a career in public safety,” Chris said. Some gentle nudging at an impressionable age took him in that very direction. “In high school, a few friends approached me about joining the local volunteer rescue squad as an EMT. I agreed and enjoyed it immensely.” The Lord took care of the rest: during his senior year of high school, God opened a door for Chris to become a career paramedic.

That same dedication applies to Chris’s musical journey. “I was interested in the organ since the early years of elementary school,” he admitted. Following six years of dedicated piano instruction, Chris began studying organ at age 14. Countless hours of practice took him from apprentice to where he is today.

Chris doesn’t seek attention or require recognition. Occasionally his name appears in fine print in the Sunday order of worship (“Chris Ward is our organist this morning”), but he’d rather see Christ receive the glory for his efforts. “I am grateful for the opportunity I have to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to earth. My job allows me to ‘be Jesus’: to share His love, His grace and His compassion with people in times of distress. Most of the people I encounter I never see again, but I hope that I was able to bring a little bit of Heaven into their world.”

Clint SmithEditor’s note: Chris and Clint grew up across the street from each other in Southwest Roanoke, and were playing together from age two. They were in the same Boy Scout troop and members of the youth group at First Baptist Church, Roanoke. They remain best friends to this day.

Clint and his wife, Sally Ann, are members of the Young Couples class. Sally Ann is an eighth grade English teacher at St. Catherine’s School and a member of the Richmond Christian Leadership Institute’s Class of 2010. Clint is a full-time student at the Mason School of Business at the College of William and Mary and a member of the deacon fellowship. They were married at the church in 2007 and currently live in the Near West End with their daughter, Bellamy. Clint enjoys live music, cooking, traveling, and spending time with his family.

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By Lynn Turner and Steve Booth. Photos by Susan Brown and David Powers.

Hanna Zhu

Hanna Zhu

First Baptist has always been an “equipping” congregation to those who are pursuing a vocation in full time Christian ministry. One of the requirements for graduating from seminary is to do an internship in a local congregation. Many students who have attended the Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond (BTSR) have united with us during their seminary experience. It is not uncommon when time nears for them to graduate, that they are seeking to do their required internship with our congregation and the opportunity it offers for students in a wide variety of ministries.

In recent years, colleges and some high schools also are requiring some internship experience. We are providing opportunities for these students who are seeking some type of experience in ministry.

Shannon Edwards

Shannon Edwards

As well as benefiting the students, our congregation has the great opportunity to get some very sharp and energetic folks who contribute in many ways to the mission of First Baptist Church. Several years ago, the Budget and Finance Teams recognized this great value. They allocated funds in the church budget for some of the emerging leaders in vocational training.

Several of the intern positions are stipend positions with a small amount of money given to assist in student expenses. Others are volunteer positions. These are determined by the needs as well as the money that is available at the time of requesting an intern position.

Tamara Witte

Tamara Witte

We have also received interns and residents through a grant program with Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. Through these special grants, students apply through the CBF and then are assigned to our congregation for the term of their grant. That has been the case with Lindsey McClintock and another intern we had working in our Student Ministry this past summer.

Interns are interviewed and supervised by the minister who represents the ministry area in which the student is interested. Funds are dist

ributed as stipends for no more than 20 hours a week of intern service.

A number of our members have both volunteered and worked as interns in almost every ministry area of the church. God has blessed us with their gifts. Many are now serving churches and mission agencies all over the United States and the world.

These students are serving as interns during the 2011-2012 church year:


Tamara Witte – Ministry of Christian Community

Hanna Zhu – Ministry of Christian Formation

Nichole Zincaro

Nichole Zincaro

Virginia Commonwealth University:

Kimberly Compton – Ministry of Christian Compassion

Nichole Zincaro – Ministry of Christian Compassion

J Sergeant Reynolds Community College:

Kaitlin Westbrook – Week Day Preschool

Eastern Mennonite University:

Shannon Edwards – Ministry of Communication

Maggie Walker Governor’s School:

Nathan Johnson – Ministry of Christian Invitation (working with International students at VCU)

Lynn Turner (Turner@FBCRichmond.org) is the Senior Associate Pastor and coordinates the Ministry of Christian Community for Richmond’s First Baptist Church. She has been a part of the FBC staff since 1988. Lynn has a B.S. in education from Francis Marion University in South Carolina, an M.S. in Counseling from the University of Tennessee, and a Master of Arts in Religious Education from the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Texas. Prior to coming to Richmond, she taught school, served as a guidance counselor in South Carolina and Texas, and was on staff at Gambrell Street Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas. 

Steve Booth (Booth@FBCRichmond.org) serves as Associate Pastor for Christian Formation at Richmond’s First Baptist Church. Before joining the pastoral staff of First Baptist in 2002, he served the Bon Air Baptist Church, Huguenot Road Baptist Church and the Richmond Baptist Association. He also serves as an adjunctive faculty member for Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond. He is a native Mississippian with family roots in North Carolina. He received the B.S. degree from Campbell University in Buies Creek, NC, the Master of Divinity degree from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY and the Doctor of Ministry degree from Andover Newton Theological School in Boston, MA. He and his wife, Barbara, are the parents of three children.

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Financial Peace University is an intensive 13-week workshop designed to help participants learn biblically-based financial management principles and achieve their financial goals. The workshop is based on the internationally acclaimed work of Dave Ramsey. It begins Wednesday, September 14, 6-7:15 p.m. in Suite 280-F.

When Rick and Stephanie Whittington began thinking about a new home, their thoughts turned to debt. Rick had heard Dave Ramsey on satellite radio and was interested in what he had to say about that subject. Dave’s radio show and book about financial peace were such a help that Rick shared the program with his First Baptist church family.

Rick has led three sessions of Financial Peace University (FPU) at FBC. This fall he hands over leadership of this ministry to Carlos and Susanne Acosta.

Susanne said she learned about FPU when her parents bought her the book. She first read it while she was in Venezuela for a year in 2009. “Carlos and I wanted to be on the same page right away as we got married. Coming from different cultures, and hearing that money problems are 50% of the reason why people get divorced, we wanted to make sure we were on top of it right away.”

Suzanne added, “Carlos and I never fight about money, we know where our money is going, we are debt-free, aside from our house, and we have peace and are able to set goals and save for them.”

No matter if you have money or not, this class is for you. You will not have to discuss personal financial issues. Dave Ramsey makes the lessons fun with his sense of humor and honesty.

Susanne concluded, “In my particular situation, I felt like there was no way to have peace over my finances, but that changed within eight months. This is a great way to bond with your spouse, or just feel accomplished as a single.”

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