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Archive for the ‘FBC Family’ Category

Story by Alex Hamp. Photos by Paul Bickford, Alice Brette, Susan Brown and Janet Chase.

Carter Bearden, Pat Allen, Mary Hiteman, Alan Jones, Buddy Burgess, Steve Blanchard, Alex Hamp, Laura Harris. Numerous faces have come and gone through the Preschool, Deaf, Recreation, and Community Mission ministries at First Baptist Church, but one face—that of Robin Hendricks—has remained constant. During the past 28 years, Robin has faithfully served all these ministries as an administrative assistant. She will retire on June 30th, having joined the church staff in September of 1989.

Robin Hendricks retires
Robin was first hired to assist Carter Bearden in the Deaf Ministry and Pat Allen in Community Missions. Technology was not yet the office norm so most of her early tasks were done with paper and pen. Her duties included monthly reports, calendaring, copying—and any other tasks asked of her. Both the Deaf and Community Missions ministries changed hands in the 90s, moving to Buddy Burgess and Steve Blanchard respectively. Robin assisted them both as they navigated their new roles. Steve shared this about Robin, “When I first was hired as the Missions Minister in 1997, Robin was my part-time administrative assistant. She not only helped me get oriented to the ins and outs of First Baptist life as a new employee, but was always willing and able to help in any way she could. I really appreciated her help and to this day appreciate her as a friend to me and my family.” Eventually Buddy took on the additional position of Minister of Recreation from Alan Jones, so Robin helped in this ministry too.  Her work was critical in keeping track of registration forms as Upward Basketball, Indoor Soccer and Blood Drives became very popular in our community.

Robin Hendricks retiresOne of Robin’s biggest joys has been working with the First Baptist Preschool children and families. Since 1998, first under the leadership of Mary Hiteman, Robin has served as the administrative assistant for the preschool. She has been kept busy with various tasks which include recording tuition payments, calendaring, laminating, subbing in a room when needed, and even being a graphic artist, designing t-shirts and programs for school.

Robin’s role was critical when the preschool leadership was handed over to me in 2014. She helped me learn the behind-the-scenes tasks of the preschool, was able to anticipate when I was not sure what was coming next, and became a great sounding board. She has also been loved by our families. According to Preschool mother, Beth Fuchs, “Ms. Robin’s knowledge of the inner workings of First Baptist Preschool, her uncanny ability to remember the name and details of every single child and his/her family, and her genuine love of all the kids is so apparent and such a blessing to our school.”

Robin Hendricks retiresRobin has enjoyed her time here at First Baptist Church. She has watched the change of leadership of the Senior Pastors from Dr. Flamming to Dr. Somerville, as well as in all the ministries where she served. She says this has required that she be flexible and adaptable to the times and the style of her supervisors. She has enjoyed the relationships she has made with the people and families of First Baptist Church and First Baptist Preschool. Robin is looking forward to moving to Baltimore to be with her daughter’s family, but will find it bittersweet to give up her near-daily trek across the Huguenot Bridge to First Baptist Church.


Alex HampAlex Hamp was named Administrator of First Baptist Preschool in 2014. She has been educating and nurturing young children and their families for the past twenty-three years, first as a kindergarten teacher at William Fox Elementary School and now at FBC’s preschool. She and her husband live in Hanover County with their four children. In her spare time, Alex enjoys traveling, reading and watching her children play sports and perform with their show choirs.

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Story by Fred James. Photos by Matthew Brown and Susan Brown.

It was a fun and music-filled weekend for the James Gang. We had a Saturday afternoon music performance at The Dogwood Terrace Retirement Community. Things were going well during the performance when the unexpected occurred. Our daughter, Phoebe, whispered to my wife, Julie, that she had to go to the bathroom and Julie told me to keep the crowd entertained while she helped Phoebe.

In my surprised state, I couldn’t think of a song to play and sing. I have a nice instrumental of “Just as I Am,” but just as I was, I couldn’t remember what it was. Therefore, I did what I do best, I just started riffing, while I expressed my gratitude to God that we get to play music for audiences like them and then talked about the delicious gumbo that Julie made earlier in the week.

When we all get to heavenWhen Julie and Phoebe got back and we were about to get rolling again, we noticed that Ian was gone. Ian is on the high—functioning end of the Autism Spectrum and has wandered away most of his life. We decided to start the next song anyway, knowing that he would make his way back eventually.

And he did, sliding in like Tom Cruise in “Risky Business.” He grabbed a tambourine without breaking stride and accompanied us on the fly. It was pretty surprising and awesome at the same time! Between helping to set up the equipment, performing and greeting the audience afterward, Ian is really growing and it is amazing to watch. He drives us crazy like any other middle schooler would, but he is also making us very proud.

When we all get to heavenWhen we finished the set, one of our biggest fans in the audience requested “When We All Get to Heaven” for the next time we play. We agreed and worked it out the following morning before heading to church. FBC was hosting the Ebenezer Community Church Choir from Minneapolis. The choir was powerful, flamboyantly-dressed and very LOUD. They sang two songs with help from their energetic band. Also, their contribution to our congregational singing of the Doxology was simply stunning. Julie and I are in the FBC choir and we had to sing after them. We were to perform a very soft and emotive song, which was as far removed from Ebenezer’s as you could possibly get. Then I remembered we were singing for an audience of one—God who loves all kinds of music. Our brilliant music minister, Phil Mitchell, selected our song very carefully and the contrast was quite intentional.

We returned to church that night to attend Ebenezer’s concert. The Ebenezer Choir was fantastic. It took a little while, but eventually most of the audience was on their feet clapping and dancing. When the concert ended, the music continued and a sort of conga line broke out in the front of the sanctuary with everyone, black and white, dancing, laughing and praising God. I would like to imagine that when we all get to Heaven, it will be something like the James Gang has been singing—What a day of rejoicing it will be!

Read related story, Turning the Loss of War into Hope.

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Story by Beth Allen Cuthbert.

Betty Allen sometimes describes herself as a “Connecticut Yankee.” She was the last child born in the 18th century house in Guilford, CT, where her father’s family lived for over 250 years.

Betty’s mother, Claudia, who grew up in Arlington, Virginia, certainly didn’t think of herself as a Yankee – she yearned for her Virginia home. When Betty’s Virginia grandfather died and her father was invited to join his late father-in-law’s real estate and insurance business, Claudia claimed she never said anything to her husband to encourage the move. She simply closed herself in a closet and prayed. Betty, however, always doubted this story because Claudia never kept a thought to herself! In any event, the family moved to Virginia, and Betty was soon joined by a little brother, Billy.

A good student, Betty graduated as valedictorian in the first graduating class at Arlington’s Washington and Lee High School. She was 16 years old when she left for Duke University at the end of that summer.

George and Betty AllenBetty met George when he traveled to Arlington to visit his uncle who was married to Betty’s great aunt. They had a date on a Sunday night, and George wanted to take Betty to the movies. Betty’s mother was a strict Southern Baptist. She loved movies, but not on Sundays. On this particular evening, however, she made an exception to her rule: Betty and George could go to the movies. Instead, the couple changed plans and went dancing at the Shoreham, which was much worse. Betty never told her mother what happened.

A year later, after Betty had graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Duke, she and George married, George having sold his car to pay for Betty’s engagement ring. They settled in a small apartment on West Grace Street, in Richmond, where Betty kept house and George practiced law with his father in the Mutual Building.

Housekeeping was new to Betty. Until her marriage, she had never made a bed or helped with the cooking because she could never meet her mother’s high standards. But as a new bride, she was a quick learner. Soon, she and George were inviting other newly-wed couples to dinner in their home. They took dancing lessons at the Country Club of Virginia and enjoyed evenings out playing bridge at friends’ houses. George and Betty spent a wonderful 52 years together raising four children, Beth, Margaret, Ted, and Meredith.

George served in the state legislature for 27 years. With this job came special opportunities. Betty’s favorite was meeting Queen Elizabeth when she visited the United States in 1957 to celebrate the 350th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown. Betty still has the kid gloves she wore to shake hands with the queen.

Betty AllenService to community is important to Betty. A member of First Baptist, she was honored to be one of its first women deacons and to hold leadership positions in Woman’s Missionary Union. She served on the board of The Virginia Home for 40 years. Until 2015, she sent Christmas cards to every resident. An art history major, Betty led docent tours at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and also served on its Council and Board of Trustees.

After George’s death in 1990, Betty carried on with her busy life and spent time enjoying the company of her seven grandchildren. In 2002, she moved to Cedarfield Retirement Community and continues to entertain friends with her upbeat outlook and great sense of humor.

Read related story:A Few Good Women


Beth Allen CuthbertBeth Allen Cuthbert, Betty Allen’s daughter, grew up at First Baptist and was involved in GAs and youth activities. She was a lawyer for 30 years, most of that time in Petersburg, where she now lives. She has two grown children, who live in the Richmond area. Beth is retired and takes classes and teaches at The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.

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Story by Rebecca Ozmore.

Take a look around the sanctuary on a Sunday morning at FBC and you’ll find people representing different cultures and ages. Most of us believe our church truly has The Open Door (See Editor’s note.), that it is a diverse place to meet and worship. Most of us also recognize our current diversity across generations and cultures did not happen overnight.

callout-Embracing HistoryMina Tatum, an FBC member since the 1950s, has seen much of this move to diversity during the latter part of the 20th century. Deeply involved in FBC life into the 21st century, she has a broad perspective on our church’s history. I recently sat down to talk with Mina and was captivated by her description of her life and how it paralleled the life of the church.

Embracing HistoryBorn in Leesburg, Virginia, Mina grew up and eventually met her husband Charles there. After they were married, Charles’ engineering job with the Virginia Department of Transportation led them to Richmond in 1953. The Tatums joined FBC and quickly formed a family with other members. Mina remembers attending Mrs. Adams’ (wife of Dr. Theodore Adams) class for young mothers while Charles attended the Fellowship Bible Class. Still in existence today, the Fellowship Class was developed for veterans returning from World War II.

Mina remembers many families attending Wednesday night prayer services in those days. When the Tatums’ children were growing up, the church also held Sunday night services for middle and high school youth. Parents provided snack suppers before the services and hosted different speakers. While Wednesday night involvement has changed as school demands have increased, Sunday night youth activities remain an important part of FBC life.

Music was important to the Tatum family. All of them sang in church choirs and the children attended music camp at Eagle Eyrie (led by FBC-member Allen Brown, then on staff at the Virginia Baptist Board). In 1962, the small church staff was enhanced by the hiring of Ray Herbek as the first full-time Minister of Music.

There were historic moments too, such as two Nigerian students at Virginia Union University requesting membership in January 1965. While Mina herself didn’t feel conflicted by the decision to allow the students membership, she remembers it being quite a significant event in the life of the church. As church members discussed the vote, the irony that these young men had come to Christ through Baptist teaching didn’t go unnoticed.

Mina’s involvement at FBC has spanned decades and seen many changes. She has noticed slow but positive steps in diversifying the church’s membership. Noting that change is always difficult for some, Mina is proud that the church staff and congregation have embraced an ever-changing culture and neighborhood. As she pointed out, this is no small feat for a church of FBC’s size.

Through small groups, Mina has remained connected; she encourages others to participate in these settings so important in a large church. Most recently, she has been involved in the 2020 Vision process and looks forward to what is ahead for FBC. Mina knows the first-hand importance of embracing history and learning from it—an important lesson for us all to remember.

Editor’s note: The Open Door, the church’s history from 1780-2005, is available for checkout or purchase in the church library.

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Story by Jeannie Dortch. Photos by Sean Cook, Jeannie Dortch and Allison Maxwell.

They have the gift of hospitality at its finest.Vanessa Carter and Doris Pittman may be unfamiliar names to some First Baptist Church members, but they form the backbone of an organization where food and fellowship are central to its core. Having begun their service on the kitchen staff with retired Food Services Director LaVora Sprinkle, Vanessa and Doris have been feeding and nurturing FBC members for over 25 years.

Lynn Turner, Minister of Christian Community, summed up their importance this way, “This church would fall apart without these two ladies because at the center of who we are, other than our gospel message, is our fellowship, and Doris and Vanessa epitomize that!”

LaVora, Vanessa and Doris began their association with each other at the Windsor Nursing Home in the 1980s where LaVora worked as the home’s dietician. When LaVora joined FBC’s staff under Dr. Jim Flamming, not only did she encourage the hiring of both Vanessa and Doris but she also enrolled them in culinary classes at J. Sergeant Reynolds Community College. Both began their tenures as part of FBC’s housekeeping team, but joined the kitchen staff as openings became available. Now, they work like a well-oiled machine with Beanie Brooks, current Food Services Director.

Before moving into the elegant Flamming Hall in 1996, food preparation and dining on Wednesday nights occurred in the Fellowship Hall, currently the Choir Suite, in the basement of the church. The kitchen was much smaller and located in the present choir robe storage area. Limited space did not hinder the camaraderie of the 400 to 500 adults and children who would gather each week for supper. A dumbwaiter was used to send food upstairs where the children gathered. Volunteers helped the kitchen staff serve adults on 12-foot folding tables that filled the hall.

Much of the same equipment that was located downstairs is still used in conjunction with newer and more efficient appliances to help the staff serve about 200 on Wednesday nights. Fewer young families attend now due to demands on their weeknight schedules.

Doris and Vanessa still work a busy five-day week, Wednesday evenings, and every other Sunday. They accommodate a range of groups including Women on Mission’s regular monthly luncheons, new member luncheons, and funeral receptions. When not cooking, serving, or teaching others how to serve, they are cleaning the kitchen and making sure that supplies are stored properly.

Each Monday, Vanessa and Doris meet with Beanie to plan for the week, making lists of tasks that need to be done. Beanie orders the food from suppliers, but all three plan the meals by taking suggestions from ministers, as well as from members who ask for repeat favorites or special dishes. The menus have become more varied over the years with options for gluten-, salt- or sugar-free substitutes.

One thing that Doris and Vanessa agree on is how much love there is in FBC’s congregation. They have met and loved so many families over the years and those same families, “greet and embrace us as part of their families too!” exuded Vanessa. Doris added, “When the congregation gave me my 25-year celebration party, I was surprised to see how many people came to honor me. That felt so good and showed me how much I am appreciated. I knew it was my calling to be here and I love it.”

Ann Carter summed up how many feel about Vanessa and Doris. “They are the heart and soul of ministry at FBC because they notice things. At my daddy’s memorial service, they served chocolate chip cookies in memory of his sneaking into the kitchen after Wednesday night dinners to ask for extra cookies, with an added request not to tell my mother! Hospitality is a form of love, and these ladies have the gift of hospitality at its finest.”

They have the gift of hospitality at its finest.

First Helpers volunteers give hearty thumbs up to Doris Pittman (L) and Vanessa Carter (R).

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Story by Beth Bayless. Photos by Janet Chase, Alex Hamp and Marathon Foto.

Not everyone at First Baptist Church knows Tom Visotsky but we all should. He is the person who ensures the bills are paid, that we stay within budget, and that FBC continues its many programs in a fiscally wise manner.

Perseverence and ServiceTom knew from high school days in New Jersey he wanted a career in business. He attended American University where he had an academic scholarship. He chose American both for its academic program and its track and field program. Tom ran track in high school, setting a state record for the half-mile in a four-man relay.

At American, he started out in economics but soon decided to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). He was so determined to reach that goal that during his last semester at American, he took a full course load while studying for his CPA exam—which he passed shortly before graduating.

After working in Washington, D.C. for three years, Tom moved to Richmond where he has lived ever since. Eventually Tom struck off on his own to start a staffing company that provided financial professionals to businesses. Ultimately, the company had 15 full-time employees and up to eighty temporaries providing services to businesses in the community. Later, Tom merged his business with a publicly traded staffing firm that provided similar services throughout the U.S.

When Tom first retired, his wife was still working. Not ready to stay at home, he came to FBC in 2014 as interim business manager. Apparently he enjoyed the job and the people; when the position of finance/business manager was posted, he applied and was hired.

Tom has always served his community. He is active in his church where he served on the vestry. He is a past president of the Virginia Society of Certified Public Accountants, which has a membership of more than 10,000. He takes pride in the fact he was the first CPA from the business area to hold this office.

Perseverence and ServiceRunning is Tom’s avocation. Over ten years ago, he embarked on a drive to support the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and raised more than $10,000 on their behalf through running a half marathon in Virginia Beach and two full marathons. His first marathon was in Rome, Italy. He says he remembers the cobblestones, the crowds and some of the historic sites before he hit the wall of fatigue marathon runners often face. He persevered and finished the race. His second of ten marathons was at Disney World.

Perseverence and ServiceWhile there is nothing like finishing that first marathon, Tom says several other races also stand out in his memory. In 2015, he was selected to run the Dash for Cash in the Monument Avenue 10K. He had a number of sponsors who pledged support and was able to donate both the $2500 prize for winning as well as those pledges for a total of more than $20,000 to the Massey Cancer Center. Two other races also stand out in Tom’s memory. In 2013, he completed the Boston Marathon just 19 minutes before the tragic bombing attack. The next year Tom again ran the Boston Marathon; this time in memory of those who had been killed or injured.

Has Tom stopped running? No indeed. Perseverance as well as service is characteristic of Tom. He plans to compete in several half and full marathons by the end of 2017 including races in Hampton, Richmond, Myrtle Beach, and New York City.

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Story by Nick Deere. Photos by Allen Cumbia and Allison Maxwell. Video by Sean Cook.

Goodbyes are never a fun part of life, and saying goodbye to a church full of people I care so much about is especially tough. As I approach the last month of my residency, I feel like I am nearing the end of a good book that I don’t want to finish.

calloutI moved to Richmond two years ago – less than a week after I graduated from seminary. The church and even the city were very much a mystery to me, but gradually I began getting the hang of how the church worked. And even though it took me three months to figure out that there was a third floor, I learned my way around.

Quickly this church became a home to me. The staff took every opportunity to teach and mentor me. And the people of this church have treated me like family. Over my time here I have shared meals, attended Christmas parties, received gifts, and joined in many great conversations. This congregation has shown me more love than I ever could have asked for and for that I am deeply thankful.

Goodbyes are never fun.This church has also  been a place that has nurtured me in my ministry. I was given the opportunity to serve and learn. I got to go to Eagle Eyrie with the Lambs class, speak at the Youth Bonfire, preach in church, take part in hospital visits and so many other parts of ministry.

FBC has not only taken me in as a member, but also let me be a minister, and for that I will always be grateful. The ability to be a minister but still be in a position to learn is the great strength of the residency program. It provides a launching point. I can see it in just how much I have grown over the past two years. While I still have a lot to learn, I will leave much more experienced and confident than when I came. In fact, one of the few things that helps me be able to leave First is knowing that I am making way for someone else to experience this great program.

Goodbyes are never fun.When I was ordained in May, I had a moment of looking out over the sanctuary at all the faces of people who had prayed and cared for me. This service blew me away and will always hold a special place in my heart. But that moment does not stand alone; it came at the end of almost two years of prayer, encouragement and trust. My gratitude for this time is so great that all I can do is say thank you. Thank you for letting me serve this church, and thank you for all you have done. I will carry the memories, lessons and friendships I have found at First Baptist long into my ministry.

Watch related video, “Nick Deere.”
“Read related story, “Taught by the staff and congregation.

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