Archive for December, 2017

By Susan Beach

When Allen Cumbia was named Director of Communication for Richmond’s First Baptist Church (FBC) in April 2016, he asked me what were the best and worst things about my job. He wanted to know how to help me. I remain surprised by that question, as I had not been asked it in any other job. And yes, it is a job, even though I am a volunteer.

FTF tells God's story

Susan Beach and Allen Cumbia

One of the best things about my job is the people. Years of working with and learning from David Powers, Allen Cumbia and Janet Chase remain among my most delightful blessings. And a treat beyond measure has been getting to know the writers and photographers who have contributed to First Things First (FTF), many of them over and over. They too are volunteers, yet they met deadlines, rearranged schedules and graciously accepted editing. FTF has always been the voice of many; that could not have been without their different perspectives and their gifts of time and talents. FBC is blessed by them all.

My best-of’s list also includes seeing God work. In July 2008, David Powers, then Associate Pastor, Ministry of Communication, invited me to join him in developing a print magazine, FTF. My response was not very professional—I cried. This was such a clear answer from God to my muddled prayer, “Let me write.” In these past nine and a half years I’ve understood my prayer more clearly. What I really wanted was an opportunity to help make God known through the stories of His people.

Stories are powerful. They help us know each other better and challenge us to grow. They tell about our history, our present and our future. They explain our faith journeys and our service. They speak to us in the First Baptist family and to those not yet in the First Baptist family. Stories share God.

FTF has been the platform for telling stories of FBC since 1995 when we moved from the back page of The Religious Herald (now Baptist News Global) to a weekly newsletter. Thirteen years later we began work on a magazine with the first issue appearing in January 2009. Those issues were printed on high-quality paper in full color; they felt good to hold.

They still feel good to hold whenever I look at the old issues. But they feel good to hold because they were expensive; printing and postage totaled a minimum of $2,100 per issue. Budget constraints made quarterly publication necessary in 2010 and finally pushed us to an online format in early 2011.

As with print, there are positives and negatives to this format. The chief negative is those without computer access lost their immediate connection with the stories of FBC. (Two to four stories are printed and mailed by Communication staff to about 65 of these people. Mailings are sent every six to seven weeks, and copies are also placed in Suite 280.)

The positives, of course, are numerous, beginning with nearly zero expenses for postage and paper. Flexibility in publication is important too as staff is able to work on and publish articles as schedules permit. Corrections can be quickly made, not a possibility on printed pieces. And this format connects with those who get most of their information online, an important feature in our current society.

But the most interesting potential is the opportunity for conversation the blog allows. A comment space follows every story. Readers can see others’ comments and respond, beginning a conversation wherever in the world they are.

Two hundred and fifty stories online help us develop connections with each other and become family. But there are always more stories to tell. With nearly 4,000 members there are nearly 4,000 stories to tell. Those numbers will give the next editors of FTF plenty to do. There will also be opportunities to improve FBC’s online magazine and to meet the needs of more people. To know each other better and to accept the challenges to grow that emerge from those relationships was the goal I set in 2008. It remains my prayer for FTF.

Nancy Mairs

Nancy Mairs

Sheila Dixon

Sheila Dixon

Note: Beginning in January 2018, Sheila Dixon will serve as Story Coordinator, working with writers and photographers to initiate and handle the flow of stories. Nancy Mairs, Editor, will be in charge of editing articles to best tell the story of God’s work in the world through Richmond’s First Baptist Church.

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