Archive for November, 2017

Story by Ann Carter. Photos provided by the Surles family and Ann Carter.

I have plans for you.When we dedicate babies at Richmond’s First Baptist Church, we pledge with parents to help raise their children to know and love God with all their heart, mind, soul and strength. Pastor Jim Somerville asks parents to nurture their children’s faith, teaching them the songs and reading them the stories of Jesus, bringing them to church to learn about Jesus so when they are old enough, they can make the decision for themselves to choose Jesus. Jim asks the parents, “Are you willing to do your part?” “We will,” they respond. Jim then turns to the congregation, challenging us to do our part. And we answer with an enthusiastic “We will!”

Each baby is given a special verse, chosen by their parents, which will shape their faith journey. And sometimes, if we pay close enough attention, we have the great joy of watching the fruit of that commitment as these babies grow into amazing adults who have committed to live like Christ in lives of service.


I have plans for you.Our church has most definitely kept its commitment with Madeline Surles and has had the joy of watching her grow from a tiny baby being dedicated on the steps of our sanctuary to the young woman she is today. And it is not only Maddie’s life, but her mother’s as well, that has been shaped by our community of faith. This summer was Maddie’s 15th mission trip with FBC and her sixth trip to Helena, Arkansas. It was Laurie’s first mission trip. Ever. I didn’t realize this until halfway through the week: “I have sent my daughter on mission trips ever since she was in the 7th grade, but I have never had the opportunity to go on one myself.”

I have plans for you.I have plans for you.Wait. What? Laurie had never been on a mission trip before? Nope. As a single mom, Laurie worked hard to get Maddie to church for all the children and youth activities our church offers—and all the extra events, too. She worked hard to make sure Maddie could attend trips the youth group went on each summer. Sometimes, there were additional ones like the BWA Youth Conferences in Germany and Singapore, the sports mission trip to China or service in Slovakia, Saint Croix and Manila. Laurie sacrificed to give her daughter all the opportunities she could; and because of these sacrifices, there wasn’t enough money or time off from work for Laurie to go. But in the meantime, her sacrifice paid off. While Maddie’s faith was being formed in her mind and in her heart, it was also being formed in her hands. Now that Maddie is an adult, living independently as she studies for her Master’s Degree at Bluefield College, it was time for Laurie to go. “I witnessed how these trips changed her life and I wanted to be a part of one. So when Maddie asked me to join her, I said ‘Yes!’”

Reflecting on her first mission trip, Laurie said, “The people who go on the Helena trip are part of Madeline’s family and the people who live in Helena are part of her family. I finally got to meet the people who were so special to her. Maddie has been able to go on so many mission trips and I have been able to hear about them afterwards. But this time, I got to see firsthand what she can do. I loved watching Maddie using her talents to serve God.”

I have plans for you.As Laurie spoke, her eyes filled with tears, “People in this church have been praying for my children since the day they were born.” And that has made all the difference. Parenting isn’t easy. We can’t do it alone. What a gift to have a community of faith that partners with parents to shape the lives of our children, so that they serve like Christ, wherever they go bringing the kingdom of heaven a little closer to earth.


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Story by Candi Brown. Photos by Paul Bickford and Alex Hamp.

You see him, a man unknown to you, walking down the church halls, talking to himself and seeming agitated. He does not appear to know where he’s going, nor does he seem interested in a class or worship.

Security and Sense of Community at FBCWhat happens on a Sunday morning when someone’s behavior causes people to feel uncomfortable or unsafe? How do we respond? How do we determine if our security is at risk? Years ago churches would have a different answer but today we must be proactive with a plan in place to address potential security issues.

Security and Sense of Community at FBCSince its inception in 2015, FBC’s Security Team has focused on making the security of church members its priority. We have reviewed and revised security policies, provided training for church members and security team members, reviewed communication strategies, increased lines of communication and awareness, strengthened the partnership with the Richmond Police Department (RPD), and established a new 20-member security response team. We continue to provide ongoing security monitoring to ensure a high level of awareness, training, safety/security and communication.

Security and Sense of Community at FBCIn addition to an officer on Sunday mornings, ushers, greeters, the security team and a response team are watching for any security concerns and are ready to act if needed. On Wednesday nights and Sunday nights, we also have security personnel monitoring the parking lots and providing visibility. Security incidents are reported to staff, Capt. Gleason (coordinator of off-duty officers), deacons and then church members. Thus far in 2017 there have been no security incidents to report.

Training is a key component of the Security Team’s goals. Over the past two years, we have coordinated opportunities for our congregation to have safety training during a Wednesday evening program, as well as a security presentation and training for ushers, greeters, church members, and response team members. In addition, staff members have been invited to attend church security training offered by the RPD. FBC Facilities Director Bonnie Wilmoth and I have had the opportunity to participate in several trainings offered by the RPD. In 2017, Bonnie and I also completed church security training led by Homeland Security. We will continue to make training an ongoing priority and plan to have additional training for the FBC response team in the next few months.

Security and Sense of Community at FBCTo increase safety awareness and communication, our team has confirmed lines of communication regarding security issues and encouraged church members to report anything unusual to ushers, staff or the off-duty police officer. In 2015, our team asked Sunday school teachers to review safety evacuation plans as well as how to report a security incident. New evacuation plans were placed in all classrooms. Most recently, emergency guide cards were placed in all pews in the Sanctuary.

Security and Sense of Community at FBCFBC shares a strong partnership with the RPD. Off-duty officers provide security for our weekday preschool program, community missions, Grace Fellowship, and Sunday morning services. They make perimeter sweeps, monitor overall security, intervene as needed with security incidents, handle emergency communication for first responder incidents, and offer professional consultation as needed. RPD officers have also participated in the Security Team meetings, trained the congregation, volunteers and staff. To better engage our neighborhood and support the RPD, we have hosted three town hall meetings led by the RPD.

Security and Sense of Community at FBCThe Security Team’s goal is to provide a safe, secure environment in a manner that does not disrupt or intrude on the feeling of community and the sense of worship that FBC enjoys.


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