Archive for the ‘Bonus’ Category

by Alice E. Brette

As part of 2020 Vision, a church-wide process begun in 2016 to seek God’s vision for Richmond’s First Baptist Church for the next five years, the Communication Team charged the Communication Ministry with creating a new website for First Baptist.

Our team began to create the information architecture for the new site in fall of 2017. Based on results of the 2020 Vision Communication Survey and data from Google Analytics, the Communication Team organized the website content into the two ways people search most often: the time an event happens and group affiliation. We began with a card sort, each menu item listed on a brightly colored index card. We sought to lay it out in the most user-friendly manner for both first time and returning visitors, and held meetings with several groups of staff members to learn about the needs of the specific groups they serve, moving their sections’ cards around as needed. We brought all the different forms of media scattered throughout the site into one place called “Church Anytime.” Most importantly, we placed links to the top ten most often visited pages directly on the home page. Finally, the team created a flow chart from the cards and presented it to the staff for their approval.

A Vision Becomes Reality

The team chose KeyWeb Concepts to create the visual design and host the site and signed a contract with them in June 2018. In February, we signed off on the final design and the web developers at KeyWeb began to write code for the WordPress templates.

We completed the website content migration during May and June, writing HTML5 and editing copy and photographs, and set a firm date for the site launch.

A Vision Becomes RealityWe created a list of 30 beta testers from our church membership to give the new site a test drive on the development server during June before it went live. The team gave them specific tasks to complete so we could compile their answers and find any negative trends to correct before launch.One tester praised us by saying, “VERY nice progress! Great improvement!” but also said he had a bit of a learning curve with the new menus. Another asked us to add a title of “Search” in the search bars to make them more obvious, which we did. One tester provided a very thorough proofreading and many corrections, which was a great gift to us and saved us some time. Thank you to all the beta testers. Your comments were very helpful in refining the site and in creating the marketing plan for the launch.

In coordination with the Finance Office, the team integrated a secure portal and a mobile app on our new site that allows church members and regular attendees access to an always up-to-date pictorial church directory, to maintain their own database records, and to have secure online giving and event registration. Within the website portal and mobile app, which we call MyFBC, you can track your giving for the last seven years, make a one-time gift and set up recurring giving and connect with your church family right from the palm of your hand. Go to fbcrichmond.org and click the MyFBC How To button on the home page to learn how to get set up.

The new site launched on July 15, 2019 at fbcrichmond.org. FBC now has a modern, mobile-first site design with improvements in accessibility and in the underlying technology. The new website is designed to make the information most of you look for often the easiest to find. We hope you will use it, enjoy it and that it serves the congregation of First Baptist well for many years to come.

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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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Shooting “Shooting the Prodigal”

Photos by Paul Bickford.

Shooting the Prodigal is a movie about a church making a movie about the Prodigal Son. That’s not all that is atypical about this film. It’s a comedy that tells a biblical story. It was born in prayer, and prayers continue to sustain it. Some of the actors and staff had all the credentials; others were just getting started in the industry. And there were lots of volunteers – some even gave up vacations to be involved. Among all these people were every-Sunday Christians and those who first saw the inside of a church during filming in one. The following photos show how they melded to make this experience like no other film project.

Shooting the ProdigalShooting the ProdigalShooting the ProdigalShooting the ProdigalShooting the ProdigalShooting the ProdigalShooting the ProdigalShooting the ProdigalShooting the ProdigalShooting the ProdigalShooting the ProdigalShooting the ProdigalShooting the ProdigalShooting the ProdigalShooting the ProdigalShooting the ProdigalSTP-Day11-531_500pxShooting the ProdigalShooting the ProdigalShooting the ProdigalShooting the ProdigalShooting the ProdigalShooting the ProdigalShooting the ProdigalShooting the Prodigalshooting Shooting the ProdigalShooting Shooting the Prodigal

Read related stories: Shooting the Prodigal and FBC plays multiple roles in upcoming movie

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Reported by Jeanne Hechler. Photos by Susan Brown.

For more than 20 years, First Baptist Church has delivered backpacks to Oregon Hill Baptist Center (OHBC) for the children they serve. According to Rev. Jennifer Turner, Director, OHBC, FBC provides almost all the backpacks for their back-to-school event.

Youth from the OHBC youth program volunteer to help set up the backpack store with the donated supplies. Families who participate in the OHBC ministry programs are eligible to “purchase” school supplies at the store for their children, paying $2 per child. The money collected goes to help fund the OHBC family programs throughout the year. Volunteers help parents select backpacks and school supplies for each child, using the City of Richmond required-school-supplies list for each grade. Approximately 100 students are helped each year.

Jennifer makes sure nothing is wasted. Any extra backpacks and materials are donated to other Baptist centers that don’t have enough to serve their clients, are used by OHBC for other programs throughout the year, or are given to St. Andrews School, a private, tuition-free school for Oregon Hill children. Some of the more sturdy backpacks may be given to the homeless who attend OHBC programs.

FBC members donated one hundred and fifteen filled backpacks and 15 large bags of additional school supplies, helping students in the city of Richmond make a good start to the 2015 school year.


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Story and photos by Jeannie Dortch.

The silence in me will love the divine silence.—Eckhart Tolle

My husband and I live far from the city in a community mostly inhabited by trees. Our nearest people neighbors are not visible, and, most of the time, silence is the loudest noise we hear. It is a peaceful existence in a place where we moved after our children were grown.

Walking regularly on our property brings me great joy and has offered me special moments to notice how similar and dissimilar we are to the trees that surround us. They are full of differences and idiosyncrasies too, but reside in close proximity with less enmity than we humans usually experience among ourselves. Lessons in getting along abound.

A community of peace speaks out.

A lonely leader

I have noticed that trees grow in harmony with their neighbors, no matter the species. Short, tall, fat, thin, bushy or gnarled, they touch rather than shove, bowing to accommodate when necessary. The only dominance, that of height and size, comes naturally. Pride is not an issue. Some are able to bend in adverse circumstances while others rely on their roots to keep them secure in turmoil.

People fret over the grass being greener in other places. This is not a concern in the community of trees. They flourish right where they are, scattering their seeds and letting nature do the rest. The woods are a mixture of young and old, lovers, loners, and leaders, those from big families or small, in and out of fashion, as well as in or out of others’ business. Whatever traits I see in them, however, they all seem to reveal God’s glory and display the work of His hands (Psalm 19:1).

How easily trees adapt to their surroundings, accommodating space in the most efficient way. Just this simple observation reminds me to be less selfish and shortsighted with others.

Help us learn from nature, O Lord, from the natural community you have placed around us. Busy lives steal our ability or desire to contemplate the messages you send us through trees. How can the world say, “Where is God?” when you live and demonstrate your love and justice in every plant and creature on earth, including ourselves.

When the sun reveals its majesty at daybreak, it fills me and the woods with promises of new growth, a grace free for the taking. I absorb God’s love, the trees take in His light, but all of us receive our sustenance from the same source.

Mornings spent in the woods affirm the timeless lessons in the Bible. The circle of life is mimicked from season to season in each tree’s growth rings. None of us escapes death. But God has filled the Earth with nature to whisper the wisdom of living amicably along the journey. Like a lover who carves his beloved’s initials within an etched tree heart, God has inscribed all our names on the palms of His hands (Isaiah 49:16), a reminder that everyone and everything is His.

Below are more inhabitants of the author’s community.

A community of peace speaks out.

Fear of letting go

A community of peace speaks out.

Popping buttons

A community of peace speaks out.

A nose for news

A community of peace speaks out.

Fashion conscious

A community of peace speaks out.

The bone yard

A community of peace speaks out.


A community of peace speaks out.

Sick or well

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By Brenda Andrews. Photos by Susan Brown, Win Grant and Jess Ward.

Compassion Ministry

The Food Pantry provides food for those in need, primarily the homeless. Most of the food is brought by individuals or small groups and is left in the green grocery carts located in the Park Avenue hallway.

They’re tired, hungry, dirty, but now safe. Some are loud, others quiet. Their eyes dart around the room, searching corner to corner, not sure of what to expect. Some relax at tables, chatting, drinking coffee and eating pastries. They wait their turn for items from the Clothes Closet and Food Pantry, for a shower and new underwear.
When we and our homeless friends share smiles, we see God’s love in each other and are reminded of our membership in the same family – the FBC family and God’s larger family.

Compassion Ministry

Sometimes connections are made. A man recognized another client as the father he had believed dead for nearly 50 years.

Compassion Ministry


Shower facilities are open on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Compassion Ministry

A Compassion Ministry open house featured groceries, backpacks and sleeping bags, which are available to clients.

Compassion Ministry

Recently a woman came to the Clothes Closet in need of a pair of size 10 shoes. When none were found, one volunteer offered the size 10 shoes she was wearing.

Compassion Ministry

Compassion Ministry

Compassion Ministry

In July 2014, 40 women arrived by bus each evening for a meal, a shower, and a place to sleep. We also provided fellowship, game times, health information, and worship opportunities.

Compassion Ministry

Volunteers provided books, games, art projects and tutoring to at-risk children in Essex Village’s summer camp program.

Compassion Ministry

Mrs. Claus offered musical entertainment at a community Christmas celebration.

For information on participating in the Ministry of Christian Compassion, visit our website.

*KOH2RVA: Bringing the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, Virginia

Brenda AndrewsBrenda Lee Andrews serves as Community Missions Associate, ministering to the homeless for 12 years, after a 30-year career as a draftsman for Bell Atlantic Telephone. She has been a member of First Baptist Church since 1995. Her passion is the homeless and providing them with their needs. Her biggest joy in life is her son, Benjamin, and granddog, Iris.

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Story by Susan Beach. Photos by Susan Brown and Mary Palmer.

When you say “Christmas,” members of Richmond’s First Baptist Church think of many things – hoping no one will drop a wreath during Hanging of the Green, humming along at the choir concerts, making gingerbread houses and eating the remnants, wondering who will be Baby Jesus in the Youth Christmas Pageant. We have much to enjoy and many opportunities to celebrate.

But wait; there is more – a lot more that we enjoy and celebrate outside FBC.

  • Women on Mission serve a holiday breakfast to the homeless at Oregon Hill Baptist Center and provide toys and clothes for the Christmas Store at South Richmond Baptist Center.
  • One Accord presents a concert at Bruton Parish in Williamsburg.
  • Staff wrap and deliver gifts to the teachers and students of Glen Lea Elementary and Anna Julia Cooper Episcopal schools.
  • A gift from former member Ralph Anderson provides a special Christmas breakfast to the homeless.
  • The church family gives holiday parties for international students, for residents of Essex Village, and for members of Grace Fellowship.
  • Members of women’s mission groups prepare Christmas food bags for the homeless in South Richmond.

And there’s still more. There’s all you do! Use the Comment box below to share what you do or what you’ve seen others do to take Christmas outside the doors of FBC and bring the celebration to Richmond.


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