Archive for October, 2015

Story by Jeannie Dortch. Photos by Jeannie Dortch and Win Grant.

Remember that the person who plants few seeds will have a small crop; the one who plants many seeds will have a large crop. You should each give, then, as you have decided, not with regret or out of a sense of duty; for God loves the one who gives gladly (2 Corinthians 9:6-7, Good News Translation).

sacristyA fifth generation member of First Baptist Church, James Barrett Walthall (1926-2005), Jimmy, “is an example of the incredible influence one person can have over the multitude,” Jim Flamming (FBC’s Pastor Emeritus) commented. Jimmy considered FBC his second home and its members his second family. He never married, never learned to drive, but lived close enough to church to walk, and that he did often. “Few days went by that Jimmy did not spend time here doing the little and the overlooked,” said Dr. Flamming.

Donna Fetrow, Jimmy’s niece, remembers him as “a true southern gentleman who lived his faith. He was always ready with a smile or kind word, involved in every facet of church life from placing bulletins in the pews or flowers in the Sanctuary to counting the offering, and even changing the letters on the sign at the corner of Monument and the Boulevard.”

Though better known for the insignificant duties he assumed, Jimmy served as Sunday School Director, Church Treasurer, Deacon Chairman, Baptist World Alliance Ambassador, and Church Historian.

Lu Treadwell, one of FBC’s newer members, first heard Jimmy’s name through Usher Larry Gable. Larry wrote, “Jimmy would always place the deacons’ offering trays in proper position wearing his white cotton gloves. He once told me he would never enter the Sanctuary without wearing a coat and tie in honor and respect for God.”

The more Lu learned about Jimmy, the more she felt a connection. Lu believes, “It is a gift to be able to prepare for worship, a good thing at a soulful level because it is a time to feel closer to God. As a lifelong Baptist, my experience has always been with a more formal worship style, and I sensed that appreciation in Jimmy too.”

Walthall GuildLu formed the Chancel Guild in August 2014 to prepare the worship area for Sunday services, and, when needed, for weddings and funerals. She was surprised to learn that FBC did not have a sacristy, a place where sacred items used in worship are stored, but discovered that Jimmy kept the necessary items in random places around the church. Learning this, Lu approached the Worship Team to ask about a storage room for this purpose.

The Ministry of Communication gave up the room it was using for the Duplication Ministry, near the Sanctuary, to house the chancel implements and paraments—hanging fabric, banners, or table coverings. These vary with the season, but are used in worship each Sunday. Paraments are rooted in Old Testament tradition and coordinate with the lectionary: white for Christmas, Easter, weddings and funerals; purple for Advent and Lent; green for Ordinary Time and sometimes Epiphany; and red for Pentecost—the only color that FBC has not yet procured.

Walthall GuildBecause Lu felt Jimmy did everything that the Chancel Guild is doing, she thought it only fitting to rename the group of dedicated volunteers the Walthall Guild in memory of someone whose reverence for the church resonated with her own. Lu feels strongly that “any new tradition that we add to worship, whether it be incorporating the lectionary, observing Lent, or deeming the use of a sacristy as special, enriches and broadens our experience of worship while deepening our understanding of Christianity as a whole.”

Author’s note: A dedication of the Sacristy in Jimmy’s honor took place Sunday, October 18. Walthall Guild members: Lu Treadwell, Chairman, Jenny Beale, Susan Brown, Beverley Hundley, Jane Nott, Bucky Neal, Martha Pugh, Sandra Saunders, Martha Grace Washington, and Hanna Zhu. Beverley Massey and Maureen Lipford served as founding members. Rotating teams of two serve each week.

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Story by Clint Smith. Photos by Win Grant, Sean Lumsden-Cook and Jess Ward.

deafcong4_250pxThe service should have started three minutes ago, but no one is seated. Forty congregants, busy exchanging smiles and rib-bruising hugs, hardly notice Deacon Marcia Crawley standing patiently in the pulpit. A projector broadcasts announcements across the chapel screen: “Men’s Prayer Group at Aunt Sarah’s House of Pancakes, Fridays at 7 a.m.”; “Please remember to pray for our local government leaders.” Eventually the people shuffle to their pews and look toward the stage, where the morning’s soloist has taken his place between two enormous speakers. Without warning, the opening notes of “I’ll Fly Away” jump from the speakers and rattle the windows as he reverently signs the hymn’s verses.

burgess-deafmission“We’re a small congregation within a large congregation,” says Rev. Buddy Burgess, former Pastor to First Baptist Church’s Deaf Mission, and affectionately known as Pastor Buddy. “We have everything that the hearing church has—worship, choir, deacons, committees, Sunday school, missions, counseling, hospital visits, weddings, and funerals.” Burgess heard his calling to Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary after working at the Eastern North Carolina School for the Deaf and Blind in Wilson, NC. Following tenures as Deaf Pastor to the First Baptist Church of Memphis, TN and Missionary to the Sensory Impaired in Talladega, AL for the North American Mission Board, Buddy came to Richmond in 1999 to lead the Deaf Mission that Rev. Carter Beardon and Pastor Emeritus Jim Flamming established seven years prior.

deafcong2_250pxFor the 2.1 percent of the 18-64 year-old population that is deaf and hard of hearing, this church-within-a-church offers a place where full participation is possible. “[This is] the only opportunity for the deaf to lead in worship,” comments Sue Atkins, a longtime interpreter to the Deaf Mission. “Other churches in Richmond only have interpretive ministries. We have deaf deacons, a deaf worship leader who chooses and leads the songs, a deaf choir, and scriptures read in ASL (American Sign Language).” Donna Dyal, who also interprets for the Mission, agrees: “It is a way the deaf can worship on their own terms. They control the whole service. They are a close-knit community of believers who want to worship our Lord, support one another and witness to other deaf.”

deafinterpreter250pxThe Deaf Mission at Richmond’s First Baptist Church is one among very few congregations of its type in Virginia, and the largest in Richmond. Much like the larger “hearing church” at Monument Avenue and The Boulevard, the Deaf Mission’s ethnic and economic diversity is a testament to its hospitality and purpose. “I have so many great friends there,” says Ron Maxwell, a deacon and member since Carter baptized him in 1992. “Everyone there is ready to be friends, to share a joke, and to make one another feel special.” Marcia echoes Ron’s enthusiasm: “I really feel that God has led me, through the Holy Spirit, to use my life to serve the Deaf Mission. The Deaf Mission is so special to me.”

deafcong3_250pxBuddy, who retired in August, is excited for the Deaf Mission’s next chapter. “If I have one wish for the future of this community, then it’s for it to continue – not as a ‘mission’ of the church, but as an extension of the church, a congregation within the whole. There is so much the deaf can teach us all about love, acceptance, and joy in the midst of hardship.” If the hugs are any indication, then Pastor Buddy may be onto something .


deaf mission

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Story and photos by Ann Carter.

Youth 1 is a group you probably don’t hear much about here at Richmond’s First Baptist Church. Typically included in the broader category of Student Ministry, Youth 1 is a group of 6th and 7th graders who spend much of their time on the lower level of the church building forming their faith through studying scripture, building community and exploring their gifts and talents.

Acting out their faith naturally follows learning about their faith. And so they emerge from the basement and into the life of the larger congregation and community looking for ways to put faith into practice.

Walk and Roll with DannyThe most recent faith-into-practice story features Danny Taylor, a member of our church since 1985. Danny lives at the Virginia Home, a residential care facility for adults with disabilities. The only home of its kind in Virginia, it sits on the edge of Maymont Park, about a mile from FBC.

A couple years ago Danny invited Youth 1 to the Virginia Home Walk and Roll 5k. This event means a lot to Danny and the other residents of the Virginia Home. They really wanted to participate in the Monument Avenue 10k. But getting 130 wheelchair-bound folks to the starting line of a race with 40,000 participants has daunting logistics. So six years ago, the Virginia Home started The Walk and Roll 5K, which is a race with cheering crowds, balloons, bands, matching t-shirts, and medals at the finish line. It’s the Monument Avenue 10k without the hassle…and it’s half the distance!

Walk and Roll with DannySuch an event requires many volunteers. So, the Virginia Home looks for loud, loving, energy-filled people who can run or walk their residents around Swan Lake on a beautiful Saturday morning in May. And if Youth 1 is filled with anything, it is loud energy and love!

On May 16, 2015 we joined Danny and his neighbors Bill and Waynetta on their four laps around the lake. They loved it as we took turns pushing their chairs, trotting along-side them, singing songs, dancing, telling stories, stopping for water breaks and to watch geese crossing the road. And when we crossed the finish line, each resident was congratulated by name over the loudspeaker, was awarded a medal, and posed for a photo op. We all felt like rock stars!

Walk and Roll with DannyWhat a privilege to be a part of this special day. Danny, surrounded by members of his church family, got all the love and special attention he could soak up in a day. And Youth 1, surrounded by our Virginia Home neighbors, learned that joy comes not from our abilities, but from being known and loved by those around us.

The time we spend in church is important because we are filled up with love and knowledge and power and spirit. But our faith isn’t truly formed until we use it to touch the world around us.

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