Archive for the ‘Features’ Category

Volleyball for All

Story by Bill Loving. Photos by Sheila Dixon.

Volleyball for AllKrista is a substitute teacher who recently relocated from New York. Will participates in the youth department at Richmond’s First Baptist Church. Sulay is an international student at Virginia Commonwealth University. Hardy is a facilitator with the Divorce Recovery workshop. I’m an architect and sing in the choir at FBC. What do we all have in common? We play volleyball together on Tuesday nights in the FBC gym.

Twenty years ago, Tuesday night volleyball games began as an outgrowth of the Metro Singles Bible Study. Singles from around Richmond gathered at FBC for music, fellowship, and Bible study, and some of the singles began to stay afterwards and play volleyball. The Metro Singles Bible Study ended many years ago, but the volleyball games have continued.

Volleyball for AllOver the years, we’ve had singles, couples, youth and entire families come out on Tuesday nights to play volleyball. Many of the participants in the Divorce Recovery Workshops have joined us for volleyball and recently, a number of international students from Virginia Commonwealth University have joined as well.

We welcome players of all skill levels. Several people have played for many years; some have not played since gym class in middle school; and some have never played. The game is adjusted to the person’s level of play. For example, if a new player is having difficulty serving the ball, we may let them try several times or serve from closer to the net until they improve. Most of all, we provide lots of encouragement.

Games are played according to the USA Volleyball Rules, which allow players to use any part of the body to hit the ball: head, feet, and of course, hands. Each team is allowed three hits to get the ball over the net. Scoring is not dependent on who has served; whichever team wins the rally earns a point. Because rally scoring makes the game move faster, games are to 25 rather than 15 points.

Volleyball for AllPlaying volleyball hones skills that are useful both on and off the court:

Teamwork: Rather than just hitting the ball back across the net like table tennis, the team is encouraged to pass the ball and create a play. We teach a simple center-setter formation. In this formation, we pass the ball to the center front player and that player “sets” the ball to one of the other two players on the front line who can make a good, clean hit. By passing the ball to others rather than just hitting it over, players learn to play together as a team.

Communication: To play well as a team, the players have to communicate with each other. By calling the ball, a player lets other teammates know that they intend to hit it. This is particularly helpful when a ball places between two players. In a center-setter formation, the middle front person is supposed to hit the second ball. By calling “help” when the ball is not reachable, others know to go for the ball.

Trust: We teach that each player has a position for which they are responsible. Unless another player asks for help, it is better to let them miss the ball and encourage their effort than to encroach on their position. Trusting your fellow teammates allows others to grow in their skills. Also minding your assigned position leaves no holes in the defense that the opposing team could take advantage of for easy shots.

While we try to teach a bit of volleyball on Tuesdays, our gatherings are really as much about community as they are about playing volleyball. We learn to play as a team; we encourage and cheer each other; and we have fun. At the end of the night, we gather in a circle, share prayer concerns and have a closing prayer. Please come out and join us any Tuesday night from 7:00-9:00 p.m.

Bill LovingBill Loving is an architect, a graduate of Virginia Tech and a Rotarian. He has 21 years of perfect attendance with the West Richmond Rotary Club. Originally from Chesterfield, Bill now lives in the museum district. Bill has had 20+ years of volleyball at FBC and loves to sing. He is a member of the Church Choir and the Men’s Ensemble.

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Story by Candi Brown. Photos by Paul Bickford and Alex Hamp.

You see him, a man unknown to you, walking down the church halls, talking to himself and seeming agitated. He does not appear to know where he’s going, nor does he seem interested in a class or worship.

Security and Sense of Community at FBCWhat happens on a Sunday morning when someone’s behavior causes people to feel uncomfortable or unsafe? How do we respond? How do we determine if our security is at risk? Years ago churches would have a different answer but today we must be proactive with a plan in place to address potential security issues.

Security and Sense of Community at FBCSince its inception in 2015, FBC’s Security Team has focused on making the security of church members its priority. We have reviewed and revised security policies, provided training for church members and security team members, reviewed communication strategies, increased lines of communication and awareness, strengthened the partnership with the Richmond Police Department (RPD), and established a new 20-member security response team. We continue to provide ongoing security monitoring to ensure a high level of awareness, training, safety/security and communication.

Security and Sense of Community at FBCIn addition to an officer on Sunday mornings, ushers, greeters, the security team and a response team are watching for any security concerns and are ready to act if needed. On Wednesday nights and Sunday nights, we also have security personnel monitoring the parking lots and providing visibility. Security incidents are reported to staff, Capt. Gleason (coordinator of off-duty officers), deacons and then church members. Thus far in 2017 there have been no security incidents to report.

Training is a key component of the Security Team’s goals. Over the past two years, we have coordinated opportunities for our congregation to have safety training during a Wednesday evening program, as well as a security presentation and training for ushers, greeters, church members, and response team members. In addition, staff members have been invited to attend church security training offered by the RPD. FBC Facilities Director Bonnie Wilmoth and I have had the opportunity to participate in several trainings offered by the RPD. In 2017, Bonnie and I also completed church security training led by Homeland Security. We will continue to make training an ongoing priority and plan to have additional training for the FBC response team in the next few months.

Security and Sense of Community at FBCTo increase safety awareness and communication, our team has confirmed lines of communication regarding security issues and encouraged church members to report anything unusual to ushers, staff or the off-duty police officer. In 2015, our team asked Sunday school teachers to review safety evacuation plans as well as how to report a security incident. New evacuation plans were placed in all classrooms. Most recently, emergency guide cards were placed in all pews in the Sanctuary.

Security and Sense of Community at FBCFBC shares a strong partnership with the RPD. Off-duty officers provide security for our weekday preschool program, community missions, Grace Fellowship, and Sunday morning services. They make perimeter sweeps, monitor overall security, intervene as needed with security incidents, handle emergency communication for first responder incidents, and offer professional consultation as needed. RPD officers have also participated in the Security Team meetings, trained the congregation, volunteers and staff. To better engage our neighborhood and support the RPD, we have hosted three town hall meetings led by the RPD.

Security and Sense of Community at FBCThe Security Team’s goal is to provide a safe, secure environment in a manner that does not disrupt or intrude on the feeling of community and the sense of worship that FBC enjoys.


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Story by Allen Cumbia. Photos by Paul Bickford and Win Grant.

ControlRoomDir-250pxTalk to anyone in your circle of acquaintances, and they will likely be aware that First Baptist Church broadcasts its weekly worship services on television. Ask what station or channel we’re on and they may have a harder time telling you, but it’s no secret that our television presence has been felt for a very long time—almost 31 years to be exact.

audio-board-250pxFirst Baptist has been blessed to air services that entire time on WRIC TV, the local ABC affiliate. That we’ve been able to do so for so long is a testament to much vision, foresight and planning. A very important factor in making the commitment to broadcasting our services had been the huge financial cost to our church. That is one reason you see so few broadcast-quality church services on local television stations.

FBC likely would not have started our Television Ministry or kept it going without the generous support of our Endowment Fund. Additionally we’ve had designated gifts, large and small, to do extra things like “Richmond Christmas Celebration,” an hour-long broadcast made as a gift to the Richmond community in 2003. That production cost more than $115,000.

timecode-250pxThere is nothing about television that is cheap, so how much money are we talking about? To begin with, more than $1 million is invested in the television and audio equipment necessary to produce our weekly services. While a video can be streamed with an iPhone, the quality of broadcast on such a device cannot compare with our production.

switcher-250pxEquipment necessary for broadcast-quality television include five Sony HD cameras with lenses, viewfinders, and base stations sending a signal over fiber optic cable. In addition, there are a production switcher, almost two dozen monitors for various workstations, audio mixers in the sanctuary and TV control room, video and audio editing software, secondary capture devices for ISO video and audio streams, a timecode generator, multiple distribution amplifiers for video and audio, video and audio embedders, intercom systems, a closed captioning encoder, multiple patch panels, several waveform monitors, microphone systems, microwave equipment, and many other smaller components. Also required are computers with software to broadcast our services on the air or stream on the World Wide Web. Finally, there are the costs for maintenance and support contracts, as well as more than $100,000 a year to air our services on TV8.

prompter-250pxIn these tight budget times, can the church afford to produce television broadcasts each week? We believe that the answer is “Yes!” and that we must continue to do so. Our broadcast is one of the ways we tell the story of First Baptist, and there are countless church members who had their first introduction to us through our broadcast. Many who watch us are homebound or in the hospital and consider us their lifeline because we are the only way to be connected to a church community. Two of our newest church members, Sidney Buford and Betty Isaacs, tuned in on a snowy day when they couldn’t get out to their own church and liked what they saw. Others were new to town and checked us out on TV before they made the drive down. As our society has become more mobile and more likely to have competing plans on Sunday mornings, our web stream offers a way to stay connected via a computer or mobile device from the beach, in an airport, or wherever one may be on Sunday morning. Our consistent web viewers live in Maine, New Jersey, Kansas, elsewhere in the nation, and all over the state of Virginia.

FBC’s Television Ministry is almost completely manned by volunteers. While there are two full-time and two part-time people in the Communication Ministry, the TV broadcast would not be possible without the 30-plus volunteers who give untold hours each year. One of them, Ed Foley, drives from Wintergreen each week he is on crew. To hire people to produce our broadcast would truly be more expensive than the church could afford.

Give thanks not only for these folks, but for a church that cares enough to share the good news of Christ via a television broadcast that literally reaches the world.

Author’s note: The Television Ministry is always open to volunteers joining this exciting ministry area. Contact Allen Cumbia for information.

Read related stories: A Brief History of the First Baptist Church Television Ministry, Part 1;  Part 2


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100% Chance of Fun

Story by Kathy Thompson. Photos by Alice Brette.

FBC in late August is typically a quiet place, but not this year. Sixteen rising third, fourth and fifth graders spent four days preparing for a musical production. 100% Chance of Rain will be presented Wednesday, November 1, at 6:15 p.m. in the Sanctuary. This play has a history at FBC, having been directed here a generation ago by Karen Stanley, former Minister to Children. Performers then included Kevin Beale, Cynthia Blackmore Maslyk, Amber Townsend West, and others.

100% Chance of Fun

Ruth Szucs, Music Ministry Associate, led the pre-musical prep camp, with assistance from Anne Ball, Tiffany Talley and Kathy Thompson. In addition to preparing for the musical, these women helped develop relationships with the children who participate in Carol Choir. They taught them how to read music and to understand the language of music. Madelyn said, “I love singing. Ms. Ruth explains it in a way I can understand.”

100% Chance of FunMovement, theory, hand-bells, chimes, and colored bells enhanced the songs and made the experience fun for the children. They learned sign language to accompany one of the songs. But camp also emphasized growing in faith. The children learned the story of Noah and how God used him. They also had the opportunity to choose a puppet to work with creatively to express their faith through music. As Ruth said, “Many feel they already have a purpose given to them by God. They want others to know they are beautiful and perfect just as God made them.”

100% Chance of FunA musical production is more than learning music and more than understanding the meaning of the story. It is also making sets. And the children did that as well. One of them, Anna, said she loved using her imagination to “make stuff.”

Knowing that no camp is complete without field trips, the schedule included afternoons swimming and going to Maymont Park, the Science Museum, and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA). A scavenger hunt at the VMFA provided the opportunity to see music and movement in great pieces of art.

Using their imaginations these children created representations of a symphony of music, played learning games, created sets and props for the musical, wrote music, and did a lot of laughing. When asked what they loved the best about the week, Menley and Kendyl summed it up in one word, “Everything!”

Kathy ThompsonKathy Thompson and her husband, Robert, have been members of FBC Richmond since 2012. Kathy is a former first grade teacher. She is the Studio Class Sunday School teacher and is active in the music ministry. Kathy and Robert have two sons, Matthew and Christopher, a daughter-in-law, Jennifer, two beautiful grandchildren, Peyton Elizabeth and Lane Matthew, and two needy dogs, Eli and Brody.

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Story by Karen Grizzard. Photos by Steve Booth and Polly Hamel.

“Each of you should use whatever gifts you have received to serve others,
as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms”  (1 Peter 4:10).

“You’ve got mail.” My inbox contained a letter from Senior Pastor Jim Somerville. It got my attention! “I am excited to offer you a unique opportunity,” the letter began. As I continued to read, I learned I had been nominated for the 2017 Legacy of Leadership class. This program, now in its fourth year, is designed to develop emerging and maturing leaders at First Baptist Church in a structured and engaging manner during six Saturdays, beginning in January and ending in March. Participants experience a variety of readings, presentations, exercises and community service projects. These guide them through a discernment and spiritual transformation process to discover their unique gifts and places of ministry in the church and the community. Each Saturday, participants gather for a full day of worship and presentations by church staff, lay leaders and graduates of the program.

I enthusiastically accepted Dr. Somerville’s invitation and joined 17 fellow church members. The 2017 class was led by Bucky Neal, facilitators Ruth Anne Walker and Jim Mairs (all program graduates), and staff liaisons Steve Booth and Brett Holmes. Prior to session one, participants completed a spiritual gifts inventory and read two books by Ruth Haley Barton, Pursuing God’s Will Together: A Discernment Practice for Leadership Groups and Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation. These resources were the basis of our discussion throughout the sessions.

Session one, held at Roslyn Conference Center, began with a study of the Enneagram – a model of human personality that looks at nine interconnected personality types. Subsequent presentations included personal and corporate discernment, personal integrity and faithful living, FBC organization and governance, mentoring, honoring the body, and managing conflict and facing changes. A panel of church leaders and volunteers discussed a variety of ministry programs and opportunities. There was an especially meaningful time with Virginia Supreme Court Justice Bill Mims on servant leadership.

Legacy of Leadership groupSpiritual practices—tools to become keenly aware of God within the normalcy of life—were emphasized and discussed at length. Presenters challenged and inspired participants to focus on prayer, the Word and the presence of the Spirit. Participants used these tools to cultivate a “Rule of Life”—practices, behaviors and attitudes to see, hear and live fully in the presence of God in the ordinariness of everyday. Think solitude and silence, self-examination and confession, and keeping the Sabbath, to name a few.

At the final session, participants shared their Rule of Life and personal plan of ministry, received Communion and were commissioned by Lynn Turner. Dr. Somerville offered his sincere gratitude to the participants for their time and commitment.

Lagacy of Leadership certificateEighteen newly-commissioned FBC leaders have begun their ministry plans. A women’s Bible and support group will begin in a participant’s home to honor the support she found in Divorce Recovery. She wrote, “It made me want to share with others going through any type of relationship loss that there is hope.” Another participant is forming a men’s Bible study group and said, “The goal is to meet twice a month and to study one book of the Bible at a time.” My personal plan will involve working with the homeless ministry and budget committee.

Because many expressed an interest in following Jesus’ habit of slipping “away to be alone so He could pray” (Luke 5:16), a fall retreat at Richmond Hill is planned. Those attending will review their Rule of Life and their personal plan of ministry, as well as renew friendships made during the 2017 Legacy of Leadership program.

According to Steve Booth, “the Legacy Course is ever evolving, being further enhanced and improved by each new leadership team and ideas offered by the participants themselves in the evaluations.”

Legacy of Leadership groupAuthor’s note – 2017 Legacy of Leadership participants: Sarah Amick AlZubi, Jon Buckbee, David Carter, Maron El-Khouri, Claudia Harris, George and Cathy Lee, Leigh McCullar, Tom Osborne, Mark and Sharon Potts, Karen Riggs, Joe Ritter, Melody Roane, Stephen Tyndall, Jeannie Welliver, and Betty Zacharias. Nominations for the 2018 Legacy of Leadership class will be accepted in early fall, following notice in First Family News and the Sunday bulletin.

Karen GrizzardKaren Wood Grizzard is from the Shenandoah Valley and graduated from James Madison University. She works as a Business Supervisor in the Henrico County Attorney’s Office. Karen serves on the Henrico Area Mental Health and Developmental Services Board and the Board of Directors of the Virginia Association of Community Services Boards.

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Story by Mark Larson. Photos by Susan Brown, Ann Carter and Win Grant.

calloutRecently, I’ve been asking people what comes to their minds when hearing the word “movement.” The first response is almost always an object in motion or a change in locations. Some will even wiggle about to illustrate the point. When I ask again but put “movement” in the context of a group working towards a common vision, the response is usually something huge and historic—struggles of the suffragettes or the 1960s fight for civil rights.

We as a church discerned the 2020 Vision to be God’s will for us. As the Implementation Teams create plans and activities to fulfill that vision, they consider how their work can become a movement to change us and change our city. How are we trying to accomplish that? Here are a few examples.

2020 Vision becomes a movement.Some groups like the Marriage Enrichment Team dove right in, building on efforts started last year. They created a Facebook page, Us First, to share articles and inspiration. In the spring, the team presented a series of Sunday morning programs on family relationships and on Sunday, July 30, will sponsor another program during the Bible study hour. This group’s vision is for Richmond’s First Baptist Church to become as well known for marriage enrichment as we are for divorce recovery.

2020 Vision becomes a movement.In one of our 2016 town hall meetings, Bill Wilson reminded us that First Baptist is already doing many things quite well but we want to build on that success. Our outreach to local schools is one example. Working with Glen Lea Elementary School in recent years helped us realize that our church could make a lasting impact on children. With that goal in mind, the School Implementation Team reached out to Albert Hill Middle, the closest school to our church. The school’s principal was excited about the possibility of a partnership and also connected us with her counterpart at John B. Cary Elementary. This spring before school ended, the team provided lunch to teachers and staff during teacher appreciation week and returned to assist teachers in the pack-up and clean-up of their classrooms—a great, personal way to get the partnership started. Going forward, the effort will be finding mentors to connect with children—to commit to nurturing, ongoing relationships through the lunch buddy program and tutoring for those students needing help with homework or reading and math skills.

2020 Vision becomes a movement.Sometimes a team recognizes its mission is not exactly what they first thought. The team connecting to the neighborhoods around our church started envisioning many activities that could be created for our neighbors. Wanting to do something right away, they gave out 400 bottles of water and Koozies® to spectators at the spring 10K race. The Koozies, which referenced mission work done by our church, helped this team realize that their real task might be less about creation and more about communication. FBC already has many great programs—we just need to let our neighbors know and invite their participation. To start that process, each team member will establish a relationship with one of the neighborhood associations. In addition, the team recognized that more than 500 non-member families regularly come into our church through Vacation Bible School, Weekday Preschool, Scouting, and Upward Basketball. To expand FBC’s connection with these families, the Neighborhood Team’s next goal is to personally invite each of these families to events like concerts and the outdoor movie series.

2020 Vision becomes a movement.September 10, ONE Sunday, is an important day at our church. During the Bible study hour, the church family will gather in Flamming Hall to fellowship and hear more stories from the 2020 teams. How will these stories transform into a movement that brings the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, that changes us and our city? The transformation depends on each of us connecting with the mission of one of these teams and getting involved. What will your part be in the movement?

Mark LarsonMark Larson serves as co-chair of the 2020 Vision and Oversight Teams. He is a deacon and teller, but most known for his long service as a preschool teacher and Scout leader. A recently-retired architect, Mark now volunteers as Council Commissioner for Central Virginia Scouting. He and Carrie were married at First Baptist 35 years ago.

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by Nancy Mairs

You may be aware of, or even participate in, one of the many communities here at First Baptist—Bible Study groups for all ages both on Sunday morning and Wednesday night; choir groups ranging from the very youngest to the senior adults known as the JoySingers; groups that meet specifically for prayer; or even the community of those who sit near you each week during the worship service and whom you have gotten to know as friends. The list is quite extensive. But did you know that there is a faithful part of our community that you most likely will never see? They are the Friends of First Baptist, or FOFB.

Friends of First Baptist
Since 1986, First Baptist has been a visible presence throughout the Richmond area, and beyond, through the weekly TV program at 11 a.m. Sundays on WRIC TV8. Through the years, thousands of viewers have tuned in each week, with a group of over 100 faithful viewers expressing a desire to have a deeper connection to First Baptist; many of them have come to view it as their church home. As a result Jim Somerville, senior pastor at First Baptist, initiated a way to reach out to these faithful viewers and take their involvement to a different level. He discussed this initiative with some church leaders and a new group was created—the Friends of First Baptist—so that those viewers who felt that First Baptist is their church home could have a deeper sense of being connected. In a video that aired at the end of the 11 a.m. televised service each Sunday for several months, Jim Somerville specifically addressed the Friends of First Baptist and welcomed any other viewers who hoped to learn more about First Baptist. This video continues to be aired periodically at the same time as a way to let our viewers know about the FOFB group.

Friends of First Baptist: A Faithful CommunityAs Jim puts it, “by forming the Friends of First Baptist group, we established a sense of community for those who join us through the weekly television broadcast. It helps give them an identity of belonging and feeling a connection on a more personal level.” Every week Jim receives cards and emails from television viewers saying they watch our televised worship service every Sunday, “and they want to feel a part of our church. If they decide to include their name and address, the deacons occasionally send notes to our new Friends, which helps to make them feel like First Baptist is their church. In 2016, the deacons and staff sent out over 150 cards and notes to our Friends.”

Some of the members of this community are dealing with illness or physical limitations, a few are incarcerated, and as one couple described themselves, some are just “ol’ geezers.” A few attend their “home” church before heading home in time to watch First Baptist on TV, and consider it to be their second home church. One of the Friends attended the Brownie troop, and later the Girl Scout troop, years ago at First Baptist, and still considers First Baptist to be her home church.

One poignant FOFB story came from a woman who cares for her sister’s developmentally disabled daughter and son. The mother of the children was overwhelmed by many unfortunate events in her life and was unable to care for her children. When the aunt became their guardian, she wanted to make sure that the two children were raised in the church. But once their home church closed and she became homebound, she discovered that First Baptist could become their home on Sundays. They watch the 11 a.m. service faithfully.

Another Friend, who just turned 103, was introduced to the television ministry through neighbors who were former missionaries. She has been involved in church her entire life and now is able to be a part of our church through the 11 a.m. service.

The common thread throughout the many varied stories is that people not only found the worship services to be a source of strength and inspiration; they also wanted to have a way to make their connection to First Baptist more permanent.  They wanted to feel like they belong to our community.  Friends of First Baptist is a wonderful way to give them the connection they long for, or as one person put it, “Thank you for inviting us to become Friends of First Baptist.”

If you would like to become a Friend of First Baptist just send us a card, letter  or email with your name, address and email address if you have one, and we’ll add you to our growing list of “Friends.”
Richmond’s First Baptist Church, attn: Friends of First Baptist, 2709 Monument Ave., Richmond, VA 23220

Watch Friends of First Baptist video

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