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Archive for June, 2017

by Nancy Mairs

You may be aware of, or even participate in, one of the many communities here at First Baptist—Bible Study groups for all ages both on Sunday morning and Wednesday night; choir groups ranging from the very youngest to the senior adults known as the JoySingers; groups that meet specifically for prayer; or even the community of those who sit near you each week during the worship service and whom you have gotten to know as friends. The list is quite extensive. But did you know that there is a faithful part of our community that you most likely will never see? They are the Friends of First Baptist, or FOFB.

Friends of First Baptist
Since 1986, First Baptist has been a visible presence throughout the Richmond area, and beyond, through the weekly TV program at 11 a.m. Sundays on WRIC TV8. Through the years, thousands of viewers have tuned in each week, with a group of over 100 faithful viewers expressing a desire to have a deeper connection to First Baptist; many of them have come to view it as their church home. As a result Jim Somerville, senior pastor at First Baptist, initiated a way to reach out to these faithful viewers and take their involvement to a different level. He discussed this initiative with some church leaders and a new group was created—the Friends of First Baptist—so that those viewers who felt that First Baptist is their church home could have a deeper sense of being connected. In a video that aired at the end of the 11 a.m. televised service each Sunday for several months, Jim Somerville specifically addressed the Friends of First Baptist and welcomed any other viewers who hoped to learn more about First Baptist. This video continues to be aired periodically at the same time as a way to let our viewers know about the FOFB group.

Friends of First Baptist: A Faithful CommunityAs Jim puts it, “by forming the Friends of First Baptist group, we established a sense of community for those who join us through the weekly television broadcast. It helps give them an identity of belonging and feeling a connection on a more personal level.” Every week Jim receives cards and emails from television viewers saying they watch our televised worship service every Sunday, “and they want to feel a part of our church. If they decide to include their name and address, the deacons occasionally send notes to our new Friends, which helps to make them feel like First Baptist is their church. In 2016, the deacons and staff sent out over 150 cards and notes to our Friends.”

Some of the members of this community are dealing with illness or physical limitations, a few are incarcerated, and as one couple described themselves, some are just “ol’ geezers.” A few attend their “home” church before heading home in time to watch First Baptist on TV, and consider it to be their second home church. One of the Friends attended the Brownie troop, and later the Girl Scout troop, years ago at First Baptist, and still considers First Baptist to be her home church.

One poignant FOFB story came from a woman who cares for her sister’s developmentally disabled daughter and son. The mother of the children was overwhelmed by many unfortunate events in her life and was unable to care for her children. When the aunt became their guardian, she wanted to make sure that the two children were raised in the church. But once their home church closed and she became homebound, she discovered that First Baptist could become their home on Sundays. They watch the 11 a.m. service faithfully.

Another Friend, who just turned 103, was introduced to the television ministry through neighbors who were former missionaries. She has been involved in church her entire life and now is able to be a part of our church through the 11 a.m. service.

The common thread throughout the many varied stories is that people not only found the worship services to be a source of strength and inspiration; they also wanted to have a way to make their connection to First Baptist more permanent.  They wanted to feel like they belong to our community.  Friends of First Baptist is a wonderful way to give them the connection they long for, or as one person put it, “Thank you inviting us to become Friends of First Baptist.”

If you would like to become a Friend of First Baptist just send us a card, letter  or email with your name, address and email address if you have one, and we’ll add you to our growing list of “Friends.”
Richmond’s First Baptist Church, attn: Friends of First Baptist, 2709 Monument Ave., Richmond, VA 23220

Watch Friends of First Baptist video

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