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Archive for December, 2012

Photos by Bev Alexander, Win Grant, Lowrey Holthaus and Linda Moore.

Memories treasured,

Advent candle-lighting

Advent baptism

Advent worship

Advent worship

Advent worship

Hanging of the Green

Hanging of the Green

Hanging of the Green

Hanging of the Green

Hanging of the Green

Hanging of the Green

Hanging of the Green

Memories being made,

Gingerbread churches

Gingerbread churches

Gingerbread churches

FLO Christmas tea

FLO Christmas tea

FLO Christmas tea

God’s promise kept,

65th annual youth Christmas pageant

65th annual youth Christmas pageant

65th annual youth Christmas pageant

65th annual youth Christmas pageant

65th annual youth Christmas pageant

65th annual youth Christmas pageant

and God’s promise to come.

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve

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Story by Jeannie Dortch. Photo by Dean Hawthorne.

Shine down Your light on me
Let the people see
That in Your presence darkness flees
Father of light
Shine down on me
          “Shine Down” by Sandi Patty

December is a time of international missions’ emphasis. In First Baptist’s Chapel, the East Window is a fitting symbol of that emphasis. It reflects centuries of evangelism, missions and Christian education.

In the top circle of the window, Jesus reads from Isaiah 62, revealing that this scripture has been fulfilled in their hearing and that the Lord has sent Him to bring hope to the world.

In the circle below Him, members of FBC’s Female Missionary Society listen to Luther Rice, a Baptist missionary to India and Burma. Their support helped him continue his work and that work, in turn, led to the formation of the Foreign Missionary Society of Virginia.

Chapel east window

The left center shows the 1814 founding of the Goodwill Centers in Richmond. These centers cared for children and provided assistance to the needy. Three centers continue to serve Richmond neighborhoods today.

In the right center children participate in the first Sunday school class in the South, at FBC in 1816. Sunday school was a controversial concept at that time. FBC members disagreed about the idea of launching a Sunday morning Bible study program. The disagreement contributed to a church split and the formation of Richmond’s Second Baptist Church.

In the upper left, Lott Cary, a former slave and member of First Baptist, preaches from the pulpit of Providence Road Baptist Church in Monrovia, Liberia. Having sailed to Africa in 1821, he helped establish this church that continues to thrive today.

The emblem of the Baptist World Alliance is seen in the upper right. This organization began in London in 1902, largely through the efforts Robert H. Pitt, FBC member and editor of the Religious Herald. Dr. Theodore F. Adams, pastor of FBC from 1936-1968, was the first Virginia Baptist to serve as its president (1955-1960).

The lower left depicts Lewis and Henrietta Shuck and Robert and Frances Davenport, who were appointed in 1835. The Shucks were the first Baptist missionaries to China; the Davenports served in Thailand. The Shucks and Robert Davenport were all members of First.

On the lower right is Lottie Moon, after whom the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering (the Southern Baptist Convention offering for international missions) is named. She served as a missionary in China for 39 years and is seen teaching some of the women and girls she loved and served until her death in 1912.

The East Window spotlights a 230-year history of FBC members filling the lives of people all over the world with the Father’s light. That legacy continues in the congregation’s daily commitment to the charge of KOH2RVA. The standard set by those commemorated in the window serves as an apt model for FBC members to shine on!

Copies of the fully illustrated Memorial Windows, written by Theodore F. Adams and The Open Door, the church’s history from 1780-2005, are available for checkout or purchase in the church library.


Jeannie DortchJeannie 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 is presently a member of the WebClass. A retired teacher, Jeannie enjoys exercising, cooking, reading, ringing bells with FBC’s newly formed senior adult Joy Ringers directed by Ruth Szucs, and writing articles for FTF.

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By Rachel Lewis Allee. Photo by Susan Brown.

calloutAnnette Hall doesn’t consider herself a natural-born storyteller. At first this appears to be a puzzling self-assessment: Annette recently came off the mission field after spending the last 19 years sharing the Gospel in story format as a missionary, serving through the Southern Baptist International Mission Board. Appointed in 1973, she served in Jordan, the Gaza Strip as a nurse educator, and in France for the last 21 years working with Muslim women and families.

Annette HallShe explains: “There are people who are gifted in storytelling. Those are the people at parties whom everyone is raptly listening to. I’m not one of those. But it is a learned skill, just like you can learn to cook or learn to swim. You can learn to be a good storyteller.”

After years of practice, Annette eventually became an expert storyteller, and she has passed on her knowledge by training countless others to “story” the Bible. She first learned about this art in 1994 while attending a storying workshop. “When I heard about it and learned what it was, the light went on…I already had twenty years of experience trying other methods that didn’t work because the people I was working with were oral communicators.”

An oral communicator is a person who either can’t or won’t read. They receive and learn information through stories. In France, Annette worked mostly with adult immigrants from North Africa and the Middle East. She taught them French and hosted reading and speaking classes. The curriculum was based on chronological Bible storying –a story with every class, and the day’s grammar lesson based on that story.

Currently in Paris there are dozens of students in four or five of these classes, and there is interest in starting more. The whole enterprise began slowly. First, Annette started a children’s club, which morphed into clubs for older girls. Annette visited each girl in order to meet the mothers. One day a group of women in one of the homes said they wanted to participate. Annette soon realized that her students’ biggest need was literacy – and hearing God’s Word. “In France, anyone can get FSL (French as a Second Language),” Annette says. “So we told them, ‘You can take French somewhere else. If you come to our classes, you will also hear a story from God’s Word.’”

Annette and other missionary storytellers started at the very beginning with Adam and the prophets, biblical characters with whom the women were already familiar. They loved it, and word began spreading about the class. Annette found this out when she paid a visit to an absent student. She was prepared to tell the story, but the student already knew it because a fellow classmate had told it to her.

Annette also noticed that whenever she asked women in her neighborhood to come to the club, each would first ask permission of the community matriarch, who came to hear the stories herself, though she expressed no interest in learning how to read. This woman told the stories to her husband, and both of them eventually became believers, even though she still couldn’t read a word. “She was out telling stories in the community long before she became a believer,” Annette says.

Such is the power of a well-told story, particularly a story accompanied by the work of the Holy Spirit, and Annette is eager to reach oral communicators in Richmond. “I would love to see people here in the U.S. – in our churches – recognize the oral communicators who are in our midst, right here in our city. If we are going to reach them, we have to approach them in their learning style,” she says. A person does not have to be illiterate to be an oral communicator; Annette has met oral communicators who have PhDs and Master’s degrees, and has spoken with many college students who prefer to learn orally. Regardless of education level, it’s key to understand that not everyone learns the same way.

“We expect them to come to church and join in our preferred learning style, and so they come but they don’t fit in our Sunday school classes because they don’t read. The story transforms the heart. What we see a lot of times is head knowledge but not heart change. If you tell people stories, you start to get into their hearts.”

Annette has retired from the foreign mission field, but she is eager to share her vast knowledge with Americans. “I can teach people to tell good Bible stories,” she says. “We can reach Richmond.”

Editor’s note: For more information on reaching Richmond through storying, contact Annette Hall.


Rachel AlleeRachel Lewis Allee and her husband, Jonathan, attend the Young Couples class. Rachel stays at home with their eleven-month-old son, Aubrey, and every now and then has time to work in the garden and write fiction.

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