Archive for March, 2018

Story by Allen Cumbia. Photos by Allen Cumbia and Sheila Dixon.

Side by Side is a phrase that conjures up many images. One might think of a married couple, navigating the daily challenges and joys that make up married life. Or one might think of co-workers in a corporation, prodding and encouraging one another as they seek to create a great new product. Or how about a team of firefighters, tackling a dangerous wildfire that is threatening to destroy a community directly downwind from the blaze?

Side by SideHere’s another image of Side by Side—a team of committed and loving church members who seek to offer some monthly recognition, encouragement and refreshment to the church staff of Richmond’s First Baptist Church. Over the past 15 plus years, we have had a group of dedicated individuals who have sought and succeeded in doing just that.

Side by SideIt began as an inspiration from one of our members, Suzanne Shonnard. “I just remember wondering, shortly after 9/11, who supports the small group (the entire church staff) that supports all of us? There were many demands on their time and expertise, and I remember thinking, ‘I’m sure they have the same fears, doubts, questions we all have. They experience the same joys, challenges, and sorrows that the rest of us do. So maybe there is something we can do to nurture and care for this small group’.” From this beginning, the Side by Side ministry began to plan monthly gatherings where the staff could step away from their busy schedules for a few minutes and enjoy fellowship, laugher and conversation over some food or treats, as well as celebrate birthdays and work anniversaries.

Side by SideOur pastor, Jim Somerville wasn’t expecting this when he first arrived. “I remember how surprised I was on the morning of my first staff meeting as the new pastor to find a breakfast banquet set up in the hallway at First Baptist Church, and staff birthdays and anniversaries being acknowledged, but not nearly as surprised as I was the next month when it happened all over again. Never in my ministry have I experienced more staff support than here, and I am grateful to the loving volunteers on the Side by Side team who make us feel special not only every month, but also every day.”

Side by SideOn a three-month rotating basis, the staff enjoys breakfast together one month, lunch together the next, and then some afternoon sweets and treats on the third month. Rebecca Ozmore says, “It’s a way to thank those who often serve others but aren’t often served by others. I like baking for the staff because it brings me joy. As long as they keep telling me it tastes good, I’ll keep baking for them when I can!” To that Ralph Starling remarks, “Side By Side is our oasis at church. They offer us healthy and delicious foods for different occasions and demonstrate a spirit of hospitality! They make us feel valued! They mean so much to us!”

Side by SideOther Side by Side team members are Dot Smith and Carrie Thompson. When Ed Dancy was helping, he created individual greeting cards on his computer for every staff member as a way to help celebrate birthdays and service anniversaries. Dot Smith says that she, “just loves her church and the staff. I think they do a great job and this is one way to thank them.” And our staff loves Side by Side. “Every month this wonderful team makes us feel special!” says Lynn Turner. “Whether it’s recognizing birthdays or anniversaries, the Side by Side team is like a breath of fresh air that for a few moments each month reminds us of our connectedness as a church staff. They make family memories.”

Side by Side“The Side by Side team has been so faithful in showing us hospitality” adds Ruth Szucs. “They have come up with different ways to show appreciation to each of us on the staff through, breakfast, lunch or desserts. I can’t believe they have been doing it for so long. The smiles and hugs are so welcomed and appreciated. The smiles can really buoy the mood. It makes me want to do an appreciation event for them.”

What a great model of what the Kingdom of God should look like—friends supporting and loving friends through their gifts of time, talents and hospitality. Thank you Side by Side. May we be able to give back to you as much as you have given to us.

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