Archive for June, 2020

By Karen DeMarino

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Richmond’s First Baptist Church has found ways to safely move forward with service, worship and fellowship, thanks to our dedicated “behind the scenes” building support team and custodial staff. While so many of us have been told to stay at home, these essential folks have the crucial responsibility of keeping our church building functioning safely. Our “lean and mean” teams are well-informed, committed and sincerely enjoy working together.

Bonnie Wilmoth, with the help of her hardworking support staff, oversees the day-to-day operations of our building maintenance for life-safety and security. “Our number one priority right now is to keep all our employees who still need to work in the building on a daily basis feeling safe, protected and comfortable.” For 34 years, Bonnie has been the “eyes and ears” of FBC not only during normal times but also during times of crises or emergencies. Additionally, she manages costs and estimates associated with building and grounds’ contractors and helps with Community Missions.

Barbara Jean Harris brightens up the room with her infectious smile and positive attitude! Demonstrating a new electrostatic sprayer, Barbara Jean expressed how safety and protection have ALWAYS been a priority for our church community. “Keeping the individual rooms within the building disinfected and sanitized is nothing new for us. We offer preschool classes to children with cancer and keeping the classrooms safe for them has always been a priority. The heightened care that has become so familiar to all of us during the pandemic is the way they live normally.” Barbara Jean has been with FBC for 20 years, loves her job and jokes that Bonnie is “glad to have me!”

Curnice Booker, recently recognized for 25 years of service, has a wide range of responsibilities both inside and on the grounds of FBC. Sometimes on a lift or behind the wheel of a bus, Curnice can be found maintaining our space by changing lights and steaming carpets, setting up the gym for Wednesday night dinner and outdoor snow removal. “I am so happy to work with the people I do. It makes a huge difference. It makes the day go better when you can work with people who make you laugh. I also find the personal contact to be nice. Pastor Jim makes personal phone calls, genuinely cares and appreciates what we all do, thanking us all the time.”

Annie McClenny answers our phones on Tuesdays, in person, and remotely from home the rest of the week during the pandemic. At the front desk, she makes sure that no one slips into the building unnoticed. And, she makes sure that all messages from our church family are brought to the attention of the right person. Annie also has “regulars” who call in just to talk. “I assess their needs and develop a plan that may include food or medicine being dropped off. Or sometimes they just need to talk through their problems and have someone listen.”

Amy Howard makes sure that all our rooms, offices and “high-touch” areas are hygienic. “The detailed cleaning that typically happens during our August shut-down is actually happening now. We are steaming carpets, washing windows, cleaning baseboards, radiators and furniture. Floors are being waxed and fresh coats of paint have been applied where needed,” said Amy. Since the pandemic, we’re taking additional daily measures like propping all doors open and wiping down all door handles.

John Pettigrew takes care of second floor custodial duties in the classrooms and third floor youth areas. He also rings the bell tower on Sunday morning, and for funerals and special events. But John’s most important responsibility is to keep our Sanctuary immaculate and ready for Sunday service. “I want our “mother ship” to shine and look beautiful and be better than anything else in the building. I take pride in what it looks like because it is our most important area and is holy ground. I won’t even wear my shoes in the Sanctuary after it has been cleaned.”

Ron Maxwell works with the building support team and, pre-pandemic, took care of daily event set-up. In the afternoons, he cleans and sanitizes the preschool rooms. Ron has a kind “helper-heart” and genuinely enjoys his 20 years with First Baptist.

Beanie Brooks has run a tight ship in Food Service for almost 24 years. She manages the overall budget, orders and organizes food and disposable supplies, creates menus and oversees food prep for events. “I have a wonderful team and thoroughly enjoy working with them. Everyone is very knowledgeable and ‘hands-on’ at all times.” Beanie also noted that she is “ServSafe” certified and is tested annually. Additionally, she is licensed by the VA Health Department, which is governed by the CDC. Beanie explained, “I have continually posted signs saying, ‘Wash Hands ALWAYS’ all around the kitchen!” Additionally, Beanie is gaining quite a following of her own on Pastor Jim’s Facebook group page by sharing her delicious recipes daily. She calls herself a “stress-cooker” and joked that her own food bill has tripled since the pandemic. Beanie also orders supplies for our food pantry and manages the volunteers that help our ministry serve those in desperate need. “Our First Baptist volunteers are amazing! Some of them have been helping our ministries longer than I have been with the church.”

Keith Davenport can be found in the kitchen most Mondays and Thursdays cooking something unique and always tasty! Not only does Keith prepare meals for our staff and members, he also prepares bagged lunches for the homeless who visit our door several times a week.

Vanessa Carter works with the team in Food Service, cleaning and cooking, and has been with FBC for over 30 years providing help where it is needed.

Ben Capps is responsible for keeping our entire kitchen, including dishes, walls and floors immaculate.

Collectively, over 200 years of dedicated service has been provided by our faithful building support team and custodial staff. From behind the scenes, they are what make First Baptist church operate efficiently and they all do so, happily, with faith, hope and love.

Karen DeMarino

Karen DeMarino serves as our Social Outreach Coordinator. Karen comes from a marketing communications background, most recently working with the Diocese of Richmond’s Department of Education as marketing director for 29 Catholic schools in Virginia. Additionally, Karen is marketing consultant for All Saints Catholic School and serves on their marketing board. Karen has two adult teens, Adreanna and John, and a rescue pup, Scruffy.

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By Robert Thompson

Life is a constant state of beginnings and endings, alphas and omegas, firsts and lasts. After forty-one years of active ministry, Steve Booth is writing a new chapter in his life as he prepares to retire. Seventeen of those years have been with Richmond’s First Baptist Church as Minister of Christian Formation.

Steve and I have been friends for almost forty years. We met when we were pastors on the Northern Neck of Virginia. He was pastor of the Fairfields Baptist Church, and I was serving the Corrottoman Baptist Church. There is a lot of history, lots of stories (some to be told, others not). I trust him with everything. This interview was to be face-to-face. We started with good intentions, but COVID-19 had other plans. We have interviewed through email. Now, imagine the two of us are talking face-to-face:

Robert: Steve, tell us about some of your beginnings, your family and education.

Steve: I was born in Brookhaven, Mississippi, the son of seminary trained ministers. I was one of three children, with a sister, Beth, and a brother, Mark. After high school, I attended Campbell University in Buie’s Creek, North Carolina, graduating in 1976. As I began my studies at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, I thought I would move into the hospital chaplaincy program. But as I sought clarification of my call, the pastoral residency program drew me, and I moved forward with my call to congregational ministry. The Highland Baptist Church in Louisville licensed and ordained me in June 1979.

Robert: We are interested in the influences upon your life and your areas of service. Share some of those ministry opportunities.

As a young adult discerning my call to ministry, I found reassurance in the writings of Thomas Merton. He was a powerful influence. Merton’s writings assured me that calling was not about picking the right door but trusting God’s acceptance of my desire to seek his will with all my heart.

This freed me to try on a number of different ministry hats. My vocational ministry journey has included serving as a youth minister, pastoral resident, pastor, associate pastor, Christian educator, denominational consultant and pastoral supervisor. Much of my ministry has been in Christian education, and I have had the privilege of serving the Huguenot Road Church, the Ardmore Church in Winston Salem, North Carolina, the Richmond Baptist Association, the Bon Air Church and FBC.

Walking through each open door, trusting God’s leadership for each step, embracing a variety of ministry callings has provided not only much joy, but also an expansive view of congregational contexts and the unique challenges that ministers face and navigate daily.

Booth photos

Robert: Share with us some of the highlights of your ministry.

Steve: I have been immeasurably blessed to serve eight different congregations and one local association. Each of the ministry contexts stretched and grew me as a minister. I left each with a deep gratitude for the people I served and the grace and love I experienced.

My first position following ordination was as a pastoral resident at Orange Baptist Church. The experience was profoundly helpful and formative in my early ministry years. As an aside, one of my greatest joys has been to pay forward that experience by helping begin, shape and guide FBC’s pastoral residency program. The five residents that I have been privileged to work with—Lindsey McClintock, Hanna Zhu, Nick Deere, Brett Holmes and Patrick Jackson—have served FBC with distinction and commitment. I’m grateful to call them colleagues and friends.

In 1990 I was invited to be part of the Baptist General Association of Virginia’s Young Leader Program under the direction of Dr. Bob Dale. It was during this course of study that I was introduced to Bowen Family Systems Theory. The Theory has been a profoundly helpful compass for navigating my personal and professional life. I’m convinced that “systems thinking” has been the single most helpful resource in helping me survive and thrive as a congregational minister.

Serving on the adjunct faculty at three theological seminaries in the disciplines of supervised ministry and Christian Education Formation has provided me an opportunity to guide, support and encourage young ministers as they prepare for ministry.

One-on-one conversations utilizing my gifts in pastoral supervision, spiritual direction, discipleship coaching, pastoral counseling, and coaching have been sacred and treasured gifts and opportunities.

Serving with some of the most gifted ministers and support staff on the planet (particularly at FBC) has been a gift. They are colleagues but, more importantly, my friends.

One final highlight, although emerging out of the darkest time in my life, was the unconditional love and support I received from FBC during a personal life crisis. Through the ministry of our Divorce Recovery ministry and the support of ministerial colleagues and loving fellow church members, I began a season of healing. A few years later, a new era in my personal life began when I met and fell in love with Martha, or Marti. I am forever indebted to FBC for loving me through those dark days and allowing me to continue as one of their pastoral ministers.

Robert: What have you learned over these past forty years?

Steve: That is an interesting question. I suppose my first lesson is to realize that my life has been a constant state of letting go of my need to control and letting God be in control.

Related to allowing God to be in control is learning to trust God’s will for my life. Again, Thomas Merton speaks to me through his book, Thoughts in Solitude,

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.”

Perhaps the greatest lesson I have learned is letting God love me and in turn help me love others in appropriate ways and words.

Robert: What brings you joy?

Steve: There are so many joys in my life but let me share eight:

  1. Accompanying young ministers as a mentor and coach in their early days of ministry
  2. Facilitating Bible study and small group experiences. Creating spaces for people to reflect on their spiritual journey
  3. Helping couples prepare for marriage
  4. Serving with ministry colleagues (leaders and support staff) who are also very good friends
  5. Being a part of the Shalom-Darnell Bible study class
  6. Enjoying time with my Northern Neck minister-brothers and their wives
  7. Marti and our six children and 12 grandchildren
  8. And Marti! Marti! Marti!

Robert: Would you do it over again?

Steve: Absolutely! A few bumps I might negotiate differently, but no regrets! Thanks be to God!

Robert: Steve, thank you for sharing some of your life with us. You are loved for who you are and for the gifts God has given you to share. We will miss you. God bless you.


Editor’s note: A retirement reception to recognize our love for Steve and his contributions to the ministry at FBC will be held at a later date when we can gather safely.

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