Archive for February, 2013

Sharing the Faith - Tom Chewningby Tom Chewning

Editor’s Note: The Richmond Times-Dispatch recently published an article about Tom Chewning. Tom and Nancy Chewning, active members of Richmond’s First Baptist Church, have worked for many years in a variety of ways to help bring the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, Virginia. Below is Tom’s own story, which first appeared on the FBC website more than five years ago.

Warren Buffett says that being born in the United States is to win the “ovarian lottery!” In my case, I got all the lucky numbers right and the power ball too.

I had a wonderfully privileged childhood. My parents were both well educated and totally committed to their children’s well being. In return, I wanted to make my parents proud of me through academic and athletic performance. I had some success in both areas, which led to my attending the University of North Carolina and playing on the best tennis team in the Atlantic Coast Conference. A graduate degree in business at Wharton School followed.

… I had
no spiritual content in
my life.

My business career was a series of good breaks for 40 years. I never had a job I didn’t like, and I was never between jobs. I was a commercial banker for eight years; then at 31, my uncle asked me to be the CEO of a holding company he had formed in Seattle.

The 11 years there were very heady times for me. I was a star in my company, in the local business world, and certainly in my own mind, but the relationships I had with Nancy and our children were far from close. I was almost an intruder in the world they had to create without me.

Outwardly my
life looks much
the same as before, but with Christ truly my Lord, it feels entirely different, because now the puzzle pieces
fit together perfectly.
I gave the impression of a Christian as our family attended a small Methodist church on Sundays, and I taught high school Sunday school. In reality, outside those two hours on Sunday, I had no spiritual content in my life.

In 1987, we moved back to Richmond when I took a position at Dominion. At a Needles Eye luncheon that year, Jess DuBois, a local radio and television personality, told his story of having everything he could have imagined and yet feeling empty. I listened intently to his advice that only through a personal relationship with Christ could I find true happiness, but I really didn’t understand what he was saying.

Our daughter began attending Young Life meetings in high school. As her personal relationship with Christ developed, she was bold enough to ask Nancy and me if we really knew Christ as our personal Lord. Soon Nancy told me that her relationship with Christ was the most important one for her. My wife and daughter had both decided that Christ was going to be first in their lives. So where did that put my relationships with them?

Nancy and Tom Chewning

Nancy and Tom Chewning

My life was a bit like a picture puzzle. I had put myself in the center and woke up each morning asking what might make my day better. But when the other pieces just wouldn’t fit properly, I realized I had the wrong piece in the center. When I put Christ in the center of my life, my daily question changed to how could I make someone else’s life better. God used this concentration on others rather than myself to give me real joy.

Outwardly my life looks much the same as before, but with Christ truly my Lord, it feels entirely different, because now the puzzle pieces fit together perfectly.

Enjoy related stories:
Tom Chewning: Social Investor by Peter Bacqué (from Richmond Times-Dispatch, 2/25/13)
The Lord, Children and Sports by Nancy Chewning (previously featured in First Things First)
U-Turn Sports video produced by David Powers

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Story and photographs by Nancy Pettigrew.

You don’t have to be old enough to drive a car, write a check, or lead a team to be part of KOH2RVA. Not if you’re in FBC’s 5th grade Sunday school class.

Callout-BLOG5thgradeThe class has been Christmas caroling for decades. They began caroling for Ann and Garnett Poindexter in 1986 when Garnett was ill, and they have continued for Ann every year since.

Relationships with those they sang to sometimes grew by happenstance. One year when headed to the Poindexters, they inadvertently went to the house next door. Of course, they caroled to the sisters who lived there and that friendship grew. When the 5th graders learned these sisters had moved to The Hermitage, they followed them there. Upon seeing the children again, one sister said with tears in her eyes, “I knew you would come.”

5thgrade-carolingEveryone they visit values the children’s gift of time. Dr. George Modlin, former president of University of Richmond and long-time FBC member, showed his appreciation by always dressing for them in a three-piece suit.

The fifth graders discovered they don’t always have to be physically present either. When one woman had to travel on caroling night, the children sang to her via cell phone.

5thgrade-posterSometimes the caroling relationships move beyond the Christmas season. Marion Lawton lived on Grace Street just two blocks from church. Three or four times each year the class went to her home for their Sunday school lesson. For her 100th birthday, the children wheeled her to church to celebrate with a party for her.

In the fun of celebrating the holidays, the class doesn’t miss the bigger point, the
KOH2RVA point – building relationships with our neighbors based on God’s love.
5thgrade-lakewood2In 2012 the class visited David and Kathy Glass. Because David has ALS, the children wrote him messages of promised prayers for him and his family. At Lakewood Manor, they used their caroling to connect with some of the families from FBC. Those connections extend a sense of family to the next generation.

And this fifth-grade caroling is crossing generations in other ways. Amy El-Khouri, the music teacher on the fifth grade team, remembers caroling when she was in 5th grade. It’s such a good memory that in 2012 she brought her daughters, Emma (6) and Madelyn (4), to start the next generation on the caroling tradition.

Fifth grade team: Andy Beale, Amy El-Khouri, Nancy Pettigrew, Charlie Tysinger

Nancy PettigrewNancy Pettigrew has taught 5th grade Sunday school for 28 years. She has also worked in other areas of the Children’s Ministry and in children’s choirs. Nancy leads the Prayer Ministry Team, is active in Catalyst Prayer and is a First Responder.

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By Jeannie Dortch.

Jim Somerville reminds First Baptist Church members frequently that there are a thousand ways to bring heaven to earth, in Richmond and throughout the world. One of them is giving to FBC’s Endowment Fund. This Fund was established in 1913 with small gifts left by two members who foresaw the potential their generosity held for the future.

Woods and MCV Wood Memorial Building

Dr. Judson Wood and his wife, Mrs. Bettie Davis Wood. An unexpected windfall from FBC member, Judson B. Wood, allowed the Medical College
of Virginia to build their School of Dentistry’s Wood Memorial Building.
The building was dedicated January, 1954.
Photos from http://www.dentistry.vcu.edu/pdfs/winter2008_mag.pdf.

In 1938, the Endowment’s resources increased considerably with Bettie Davis Wood’s bequest of more than $1,000,000. This gift, however, was not initially earmarked for FBC. The story of how it came to the church demonstrates the effect of seemingly unconnected events.

An unpopular professor at Richmond College (now the University of Richmond) was fed up with one particular prank. His students persisted in bringing a small dog to class. One day, strained to his limit, the professor ordered the dog dropped out the window, a distance of about ten feet to the ground. Knowing this to be a possibility, the students had asked a cohort to stand guard under the window. The dog was safely caught, but the incident was reported to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Dr. Judson Wood, husband of Bettie Wood, was a graduate of Richmond College, president of its Alumnae Association, one of the first graduate dentists to practice in Richmond, and also president of the local chapter of the SPCA. Incensed by the dog incident, he felt duty-bound to sue his alma mater. Since the dog was not injured, the court dismissed the case, but Dr. Wood cut off all relations with Richmond College, an intended beneficiary, and changed his will. At his death, over a million dollars was left to the Medical College of Virginia instead of Richmond College.

A million bucks out the window

Photo by Dean Hawthorne. “The Annunciation to Mary” is one of two windows dedicated “In Grateful remembrance of Dr. and Mrs. Judson Wood” by the First Baptist Church Endowment Fund. It is located on the east side of the main floor of the Sanctuary and is the second window from the Monument Avenue entrance.
Its companion window, “The Gifts of God,”
is in the corresponding position in the balcony.

Efforts by Frederick W. Boatwright, president of Richmond College, to conciliate Mrs. Wood and win back her favor – and money – proved fruitless. Mrs. Wood, a lifelong member of FBC, was married to Dr. Wood for 47 years. With no children of their own, the Woods focused much of their service on their church, which she chose as her beneficiary. When she died in 1938, Mrs. Wood bequeathed more than one million dollars to FBC. It was only after Mrs. Wood’s death that President Boatwright, also an FBC member, shared this story of how the Woods’ fortune was tossed out the window.

Author’s note: Pamphlets related to the history and ministries supported by the Endowment Fund can be found in the church kiosks. 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.

Editor’s note: According to FBC Endowment Board President Carl Johnson, this fund began with small donations and grew with gifts from the Woods and many others. It expressed its appreciation for the Woods’ gift and service with the dedication of two windows in the sanctuary, “The Annunciation to Mary” and its companion, “The Gifts of God” in 1949. The Endowment Fund continues to help First Baptist fulfill its mission, giving away $22,000,000 in just the past 20 years.

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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