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Archive for December, 2013

Story by Susan Hughes. Photos by Jess Ward.

Making it to a 25th anniversary is a milestone in any relationship, certainly one to celebrate. So, it’s not a surprise that the Deaf Mission of Richmond’s First Baptist Church did exactly that – they celebrated the 25th anniversary of their ministry on October 19, 2013.

Deaf congregation worship

Deaf congregation Sunday worship

Dr. Peter J. Flamming, FBC’s pastor at the time of the deaf ministry’s inception, shared his thoughts of that time with current members. Mike Jones, deaf ministry consultant with the Virginia Baptist Resource Center, represented Baptist state-wide work with the hearing impaired. The celebration included two songs signed by The Hands of Joy choir and a PowerPoint presentation of 25 years of photos. Buddy Burgess, pastor of the Deaf Mission, said “Everyone enjoyed seeing the changes time had made in members!”

Interpreters

Interpreters sign for deaf attending the Christmas tea.

While 1988 was the official beginning of FBC’s deaf ministry, the story really began several years before. In 1985 Connie Glass followed her passion and vision for this work and began interpreting for those who attended regular FBC services. Connie received support and guidance from FBC members Allen Justice, Larry Fogg, Bernice Rodgerson, Sue Atkins, and Jim Flamming. The congregation called its first pastor, Carter Bearden, in 1989. In 1997 Carter was called to a new position, FBC’s minister to young married adults and missions coordinator. Later he was called to pastor a hearing congregation.

Buddy Burgess

Rev. Buddy Burgess

In 1989, the mission became a full-fledged and independent congregation with its own services, committees, deacons, budget, and two Sunday school classes. The deaf lead all these activities; the only hearing help they receive is from interpreters. Sue Atkins, who is one of these, said: “Our team of interpreters voice for the hearing people in the Deaf Mission’s worship services.”

Ties with FBC’s hearing congregation remain strong, as we share facilities and worship together for special services. In addition, hearing children of deaf parents participate fully in FBC’s children and youth ministries.

The congregation’s second and current pastor, Buddy Burgess, began his service in February 1998.

One of the greatest accomplishments of these 25 years is establishing awareness of this ministry in the deaf community of greater Richmond. Local college teachers and students of American Sign Language (ASL) are also aware of the Deaf Mission’s presence. The byproduct and blessing of that awareness is that as the students attend to observe and learn ASL, they also hear the Word, perhaps for the first time.


Susan HughesSusan Hughes has taught high school English for 36 years in Hanover County public schools. She joined FBC in 1985 and currently serves as deacon, youth Sunday School teacher, Church Choir member, and member of the youth ministry, scholarship, and nominating teams. She is married to John, and has two adult children, David and Ellen. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, cooking, needlework, and watching hummingbirds.

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By Jeannie Dortch. Photos by Dean Hawthorne.

Every morning, lean thine arms awhile
Upon the windowsill of heaven,
And gaze upon thy Lord.
Then, with the vision in thy heart,
Turn strong to meet thy day.

                                                               Author unknown

In the early days of his ministry, Dr. Theodore F. Adams vacationed in Wisconsin where he attended an outdoor vesper service led by an Episcopal rector who recited the verse above. Dr. Adams never forgot those words. He committed them to memory.

calloutFrom 1936-1968 Dr. Adams served as senior pastor of Richmond’s First Baptist Church. During that time he referred to this verse countless times as one of his favorites. He even had desktop placards made and sent to every member of the church.

Many readers are aware that the beautiful stained glass windows surrounding the FBC Sanctuary were part of a renovation project initiated by Dr. Adams in the late 1940s, but they may be unaware of the message he left in one of the windows by which we remember him today.

In the commission of the windows’ refurbishment, Dr. Adams’ goal was twofold. The larger windows that surround the balcony were to portray the significant events in the life of Jesus, while those below were to demonstrate how followers could live out Jesus’ lessons in modern times. Each upper window correlates to the one below it and is interpreted there for modern understanding. Each window is also accompanied by a scripture passage – except one.

There are two windows in the church picturing Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, one in the Chapel and one in the Sanctuary. The Chapel window’s focus is on prayer, but the story in the Sanctuary’s window shows Jesus, having been strengthened by prayer, telling Peter, James, and John, “Behold, the hour is at hand—Rise, let us be going.” The light shining on Jesus comes from heaven and affirms Jesus’ declaration that, “Thy will, not mine, be done.”

Garden of Gethsemane

The Garden of Gethsemane

Bathed in sunlight in the corollary window below kneels a lone figure, praying the very poem that begins, “Every morning, lean thine arms upon the windowsill of heaven.” These verses are not found in the Bible, but send the message that made such a marked impression on Dr. Adams’ life that he was determined it be memorialized in this window.

Windowsill of Heaven

The Windowsill of Heaven

Could he have guessed that with each reading, those who remembered him would also see him reciting it before a congregation of First Baptist Church members, even today?

In writing about Dr. Adams, Dr. W. Randall Lolley, former pastor of FBC Greensboro, NC, says that Dr. Adams was a man, “who truly perceived the earth as the ‘windowsill of heaven.’ Every person he met, every event he enjoyed, every experience he knew worked ‘inside/out’ rather than ‘outside/in.’”

As we continue our mission to bring KOH2RVA, may we put into practice these words so dear to Dr. Adams.

Editor’s note: These windows are located on The Boulevard side of the Sanctuary, the fourth set from the front.

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.

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