Archive for August, 2017

Don’t sit around!

Story by Erin Cumbia

From the outside it can sometimes seem that churches, especially churches effective in their ministries, run fairly smoothly. It does, however, take a surprising quantity of gifted people willing to give their time and talents to make it all work. Laura Harris is one of these people.

Laura Harris

Laura Harris

From childhood Laura has generally avoided participating in sports of any sort, choosing instead to be heavily involved in clubs and other social activities. However, growing up near Raleigh, N.C. gave her access to various sporting events. She spent much time attending ball games and tailgating with family and friends, reveling in the social interactions and relationships that were built. This interest, coupled with internships in marketing during her summers through high school and college, set her up with a background of marketing and event management.

recreation imagesLaura and her husband, Chris, came to First Baptist Church shortly after their marriage in 2001 and joined the Young Couples Sunday School Class. Soon Chris got involved in Upward Basketball in the Richmond area as a referee, and Laura tagged along taking pictures and cheering from the sidelines. Upward became a very meaningful way in which to minister for them. In 2005 they approached Steve Booth about the possibility of bringing the Upward program to FBC. Leadership at FBC had already been tossing around the idea for a few years but nothing had yet been done to make it happen. Laura and Chris stepped up and made it happen. Working as a team, Chris handled the technical or sports side of things and Laura, the details, planning and event management aspects. The Harrises have nurtured FBC’s Upward Program and made it the ministry it is today.

In 2017, 185 children participated in Upward Basketball and Cheerleading. Laura’s own children have also grown up in the program, first by cheering from the sidelines and helping their mother with set-up and now as participants in the sports. Laura noted what a blessing it has been to see them experience the program from both sides and to grow up surrounded by the Bible verses and devotions that are part of the programming.

Buddy Burgess retired in 2015 as minister to the Deaf Congregation and the Recreation Ministry. At the same time, Laura was looking for a part-time job. According to Laura, “the whole process was really a God thing,” and it was truly amazing to look back and see how everything she has done professionally and through her volunteer work had prepared her for the job of FBC’s Recreation Coordinator. Laura’s new position includes coordinating the following programs:

First Travelers
FBC Night at the Diamond
First Riders
Musicians’ Jam Sessions
American Red Cross Blood Drives
Upward Stars Summer Youth Basketball Camp
Youth Summer TGA Premier Tennis Camp
Classics in the Courtyard
T’ai Chi with Jenny Barone
Gentle Yoga with Sarah Humphries
Open Gym Volleyball
S.K.E.I.N.S. (Sewers, Knitters, & Embroiderers Involved in Needlework & Service)
Boy Scout Troop, Cub Scout Pack and Girl Scout Troop
Upward Basketball & Cheerleading
Rim Rattlers Basketball
FBC Night/FBC Upward Night at the Richmond Spiders Men’s Basketball Game
First Baptist Church Golf Tournament

The constraints of budget, time, scheduling, and volunteers precludes the possibility of new programs at the moment. However, Laura’s dreams for the future include softball, pickleball, exercise/Bible study classes, and active aerobics like Zumba® or line dancing.

Laura shared the biggest things she has learned through her time working with the recreation ministry. Never judge a book by its cover—you never really know who a person is or what they are capable of until you get to know them. So many of us have gifts that go unused because nobody took the time to ask. Follow your passion because if you pursue what you are passionate about you will always love your job. Use your strengths to work for the Lord. We may not all be cut out for traditional overseas mission work but we can still be missionaries in our own backyard using whatever talents we have. No matter what our strengths are and no matter how small, there is bound to be a way in which we can use them to glorify God.

Though she avoided actual participation in sports her entire life Laura has found herself working in that environment and has been able to use her natural abilities in marketing, organization and event planning to make FBC’s Recreation Ministry a successful program for everyone involved.

Editor’s Note: For more information on any of these programs, contact Laura Harris.

Erin CumbiaErin Cumbia has grown up at First Baptist Church. After graduating from Liberty University she moved back to Richmond and is now working as an Account Executive at SageView Advisory Group. She is currently very involved in the Young Professionals Sunday School class and has had the honor of serving as a deacon since January of 2017.


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Story by Karen Grizzard. Photos by Steve Booth and Polly Hamel.

“Each of you should use whatever gifts you have received to serve others,
as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms”  (1 Peter 4:10).

“You’ve got mail.” My inbox contained a letter from Senior Pastor Jim Somerville. It got my attention! “I am excited to offer you a unique opportunity,” the letter began. As I continued to read, I learned I had been nominated for the 2017 Legacy of Leadership class. This program, now in its fourth year, is designed to develop emerging and maturing leaders at First Baptist Church in a structured and engaging manner during six Saturdays, beginning in January and ending in March. Participants experience a variety of readings, presentations, exercises and community service projects. These guide them through a discernment and spiritual transformation process to discover their unique gifts and places of ministry in the church and the community. Each Saturday, participants gather for a full day of worship and presentations by church staff, lay leaders and graduates of the program.

I enthusiastically accepted Dr. Somerville’s invitation and joined 17 fellow church members. The 2017 class was led by Bucky Neal, facilitators Ruth Anne Walker and Jim Mairs (all program graduates), and staff liaisons Steve Booth and Brett Holmes. Prior to session one, participants completed a spiritual gifts inventory and read two books by Ruth Haley Barton, Pursuing God’s Will Together: A Discernment Practice for Leadership Groups and Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation. These resources were the basis of our discussion throughout the sessions.

Session one, held at Roslyn Conference Center, began with a study of the Enneagram – a model of human personality that looks at nine interconnected personality types. Subsequent presentations included personal and corporate discernment, personal integrity and faithful living, FBC organization and governance, mentoring, honoring the body, and managing conflict and facing changes. A panel of church leaders and volunteers discussed a variety of ministry programs and opportunities. There was an especially meaningful time with Virginia Supreme Court Justice Bill Mims on servant leadership.

Legacy of Leadership groupSpiritual practices—tools to become keenly aware of God within the normalcy of life—were emphasized and discussed at length. Presenters challenged and inspired participants to focus on prayer, the Word and the presence of the Spirit. Participants used these tools to cultivate a “Rule of Life”—practices, behaviors and attitudes to see, hear and live fully in the presence of God in the ordinariness of everyday. Think solitude and silence, self-examination and confession, and keeping the Sabbath, to name a few.

At the final session, participants shared their Rule of Life and personal plan of ministry, received Communion and were commissioned by Lynn Turner. Dr. Somerville offered his sincere gratitude to the participants for their time and commitment.

Lagacy of Leadership certificateEighteen newly-commissioned FBC leaders have begun their ministry plans. A women’s Bible and support group will begin in a participant’s home to honor the support she found in Divorce Recovery. She wrote, “It made me want to share with others going through any type of relationship loss that there is hope.” Another participant is forming a men’s Bible study group and said, “The goal is to meet twice a month and to study one book of the Bible at a time.” My personal plan will involve working with the homeless ministry and budget committee.

Because many expressed an interest in following Jesus’ habit of slipping “away to be alone so He could pray” (Luke 5:16), a fall retreat at Richmond Hill is planned. Those attending will review their Rule of Life and their personal plan of ministry, as well as renew friendships made during the 2017 Legacy of Leadership program.

According to Steve Booth, “the Legacy Course is ever evolving, being further enhanced and improved by each new leadership team and ideas offered by the participants themselves in the evaluations.”

Legacy of Leadership groupAuthor’s note – 2017 Legacy of Leadership participants: Sarah Amick AlZubi, Jon Buckbee, David Carter, Maron El-Khouri, Claudia Harris, George and Cathy Lee, Leigh McCullar, Tom Osborne, Mark and Sharon Potts, Karen Riggs, Joe Ritter, Melody Roane, Stephen Tyndall, Jeannie Welliver, and Betty Zacharias. Nominations for the 2018 Legacy of Leadership class will be accepted in early fall, following notice in First Family News and the Sunday bulletin.

Karen GrizzardKaren Wood Grizzard is from the Shenandoah Valley and graduated from James Madison University. She works as a Business Supervisor in the Henrico County Attorney’s Office. Karen serves on the Henrico Area Mental Health and Developmental Services Board and the Board of Directors of the Virginia Association of Community Services Boards.

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