Archive for July, 2013

By Susan Marshall. Photo by Janet Chase.

“There’s an app for that” seems to be the answer for anything you need. But as we prepared to introduce our new hymnal, Celebrating Grace, during Advent 2011, there wasn’t a Braille application for the new hymnal or plans to produce one.

Braille hymnal
Mark & Melody RoaneFBC members Mark and Melody Roane, who are blind, depend upon the Braille version to participate in hymn singing. They had translated about 50 hymns from our previous hymnal into an electronic format for use in worship. And we had a three-volume Braille edition in the library. We wanted to continue to provide an option for sight impaired members. So how did we create a Braille hymnal?

First we needed an electronic format for all the hymns. But that was unavailable through the publisher. So we started from scratch.

Robbie Hott, an FBC member, designed a web-based program for entering the texts of all 707 hymns and readings. Mark suggested formatting guidelines for the Braille translation. Thirty-four FBC volunteer typists completed entering all the texts in one week.

The next step was proofing all those hymns, word by word and verse by verse. A smaller volunteer task force took on this focused and arduous process, making sure everything was spelled, numbered, punctuated, and formatted correctly. On July 1, 2012, we received the final, proofed, electronic master hymnal document.

But as the infomercials say, “Wait…there’s more!” And indeed, there is. Since that time, Mark has been formatting the electronic document for translation into Braille. This has been a challenge and a learning experience for him. Braille, like American Sign Language, uses shorthand. Rather than spelling out an entire word, there may be a symbol or single letter to represent a word. Additionally, moving from verse to verse, repeating refrains between verses, entering page breaks and numbers, require specific formatting. Mark received guidance from the staff of Richmond’s Braille Circulating Library, and expects the process toward embossing the Braille edition of Celebrating Grace to be completed soon.

While this has been a long journey, God has provided the resources for each step. Without the volunteers from our congregation, the Braille edition of Celebrating Grace would not have been economically feasible. The Braille Circulating Library is printing it for the cost of materials, which is being contributed by the Roanes.

The hymnal will be available in two versions. The electronic version is available now in its entirety by contacting Mark. The hard copy Braille embossed version is in production and will be available in the library when it is completed.

Note: Watch a brief video about the Braille hymnal, produced by Chuck Batteau. Read more about Mark and Melody Roane.

Susan MarshallSusan Marshall joined the FBC staff as administrative assistant in the Ministry of Christian Worship in 1998. A native of North Carolina and a graduate of the School of Music at UNC at Greensboro, she taught public school music and directed adult, youth and children’s choirs in the churches she has served. She currently sings in the adult choir and serves on the Fine Arts Team at her church in Midlothian. She also assists with Carol Choir and rings with the Joyful Ringers at FBC. She and her husband, Ken, have two adult sons.

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Story by Carrie Larson. Photos by David Powers.

The door opens to sparkling chandeliers, white tablecloths, balloons, and confetti. A gasp or two is heard. Then timidity is replaced with excitement, and lunch begins.

calloutBlackwell Elementary School is located in one of the poorest areas of the city, but that doesn’t dampen the dreams of its teachers. They wanted their 5th grade students to experience a formal lunch – not fast food, but a three-course meal with real plates and silverware, and the students dressed in their “Sunday” best.

Fifth-graders celebrate with formal luncheon.On June 14, 2013, the dream became reality at FBC as 90 5th graders and their teachers celebrated the students’ completion of elementary school. Twenty-five volunteers helped make sure each child had a wonderful experience, but it was also a learning experience for all. The students – napkin in lap, start with the outside fork, and sit up straight. The volunteers – serve from the student’s left, pick up from the right, and don’t rush them. Everyone muddled through with smiles and laughter as they got to know each other, learning about planned trips to Water Country and King’s Dominion, pesky brothers and sisters, and other typical kid concerns.

Fifth-graders celebrate with formal luncheon

Abby Dini, Site Coordinator at Blackwell for Communities in Schools; Carrie Larson, First Baptist leader; Reginald Williams, Blackwell Elementary Principal

From the master of ceremonies and principal the students were challenged to follow their dreams and make good choices as they leave the safety of Blackwell and enter middle school. Mr. Parnell from the Richmond Flying Squirrels related how he decided at 10 to work for a baseball team. Detective Harrell from the Richmond Police Department advised the students to pick their friends wisely and trust the adults in their lives (including the police!) to help them make good decisions.

The teachers say there was a noticeable change in the students’ behavior when they returned to school – they are now a little kinder, walk a little taller, and act a little more mature, and occasionally one of the boys will pull out a chair for his teacher. One of the girls said she had often driven by FBC several years ago with her grandmother but never knew she would be welcome inside. Now she knows she is.

FBC has hosted this event for eight years, originally with the help of Alcoa, now solely with volunteers. What began as a dream has become an eagerly anticipated annual event, and a little bit of heaven!

Editor’s note: When Carrie worked for Alcoa, she served as a representative on Blackwell’s Community Advisory Group. With support from Alcoa, she worked with Beanie Brooks, FBC’s Food Services Director, to make this dream a reality. When Alcoa left the Richmond area in 2008, Carrie continued hosting the luncheon,  gathering volunteers from FBC’s Foodservice, her Sunday Bible study class, and her husband’s office. This year a group of volunteers joined in from the “Radical Hospitality” book study group led by Ralph Starling, Associate Pastor for Christian Invitation.

Carrie LarsonCarrie Larson met her husband, Mark, at First Baptist over thirty years ago. They have one daughter, Ashley, who grew up in the church. Carrie is a deacon, a member of the Next Step Bible Study Class and serves on the Communion Team. She is an engineer with the US Army at Fort Belvoir. In her free time, she loves to cook and entertain. She and Mark particularly enjoy introducing international students to American holidays and traditions.

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Story by Allen Cumbia. Photos by Paul Bickford.

David Powers in the Control RoomDavid Powers, FBC’s Associate Pastor for Communication will retire September 1, 2013.

Since January 2013, a Communication Visioning Team has been studying First Baptist communications in the past and present, as well as technology advances that might impact the future. The team has presented a final summary report to the Personnel Team, as background for a more informed search for a new Pastor of Communication.

Following is a synopsis of the full report.

A mission statement was adopted to act as a guide in the discovery process:
• Take a comprehensive look at how First Baptist has communicated and is currently communicating its message.
• Determine which methods are most effective or accessible.
• Evaluate how the current social, technological and cultural changes will affect future communication habits and preferences.
• Offer background to assist the search team in making informed choices for an individual to guide FBC’s future communications ministry.

From staff interviews and research into the current and potential future states of communication a number of things became clear. The relevance of many past ways of communicating has changed, and the following trends will only continue.

Print media is rapidly declining due to rising costs and the speed with which news becomes stale. With the exception of the Sunday bulletin and First Family News, most of our printed material has transitioned to electronic forms.

Broadcast does not hold the same status it did only a few years ago. With the rise of the internet and mobile devices, media consumers have many more options for content.

Social media has become a powerful and growing force in communication.

What does all of this mean as the church moves forward?

We will likely continue to communicate in many of the current ways, though to lesser degrees. What will be different is the amount of communication that will become electronic in nature. Fewer people are entering the church doors during a given week, month or year. That is not indicative of poor leadership or a lack of good programming. It does reflect that our culture is now engaged with churches in vastly different ways than in the past. People have more demands on their time, are involved in more activities, and connect with a church in different ways than have in the past.

First Baptist needs to recognize and work with the emerging trends. We have some unique opportunities for congregational life if the coming technological, social and church changes are embraced –

• embraced to tell our story in effective and meaningful ways;
• embraced with the understanding that we have many more options to tell our story to the world;
• embraced with willingness to adapt to new possibilities;
• embraced because we have a good story to tell, one that the world needs to hear.

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