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Reflections on Dr. Jim Somerville’s 10 years of ministry at Richmond’s First Baptist Church
by Lynn Turner and Allen Cumbia

Being a successful Senior Pastor at any church is not an easy task. One has to be a visionary, a leader, a great communicator, a counselor, a teacher, an encourager, a mentor, and wear many other hats. To do this well requires an individual who is honest, bold, can listen, challenge and have a servant’s heart, just to name a few.

Many such pastors have blessed Richmond’s First Baptist Church, leading it through the years. Each one has been uniquely gifted by God to do what they did as they led the church during their ministries. As we mark the 10th anniversary of Dr. Somerville’s leadership here, it is only natural that we pause, look back on this last decade, and recognize his unique calling and how he has led and become a part of our church.

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Almost 10 years ago in the first staff calendar-planning meeting after Jim Somerville became Senior Pastor, he leaned over and softly said, “You know, Lynn, I feel like I’m a poet.”

Lynn Turner, Senior Associate Pastor, really didn’t understand exactly what he meant by that statement until she read a book by Craig Barnes, The Pastor as Minor Poet: Texts and Subtexts in the Ministerial Life. From Barnes book:

“When we begin with our own identity in Christ, and the pastoral call to assist others in becoming fully alive in Him, we are freed from the drudgery of being managers and service providers to pursue something much more creative, being poets of the soul. A good poet is hard to find. …A poet is one that is blessed with a vision that allows them to explore and express the truth behind the reality.”

From the very beginning of his ministry, Jim’s mantra for ministry has been centered in this quote from Old Testament Scholar Walter Brueggemann:

“The central task of ministry is the formation of a community with an alternative, liberated imagination that has the courage and the freedom to act in a different vision and a different perception of reality.”1

10 years of ministry

In many ways Jim has been a poet of our souls, challenging us to live and lead in a different vision.

It began with the reorganization of our leadership staff from an attractional model of ministry, to one shaped around the missional model that he felt God was calling us to.2

Reflecting on this reorganization of the staff Dr. Somerville says, “When I came to First Baptist I asked the staff why we were here, that is, why First Baptist Church was here in the city of Richmond. They offered some good answers, but in the end we searched the Scriptures for the clear commands of Christ and came up with five that stood out above all others: 1) Love God; 2) Love others; 3) Love one another; 4) Make disciples by baptizing; 5) Make disciples by teaching. From those five clear commands, we came up with five ministry areas: 1) Worship; 2) Compassion; 3) Community; 4) Invitation and 5) Formation. It only made sense to organize the ministry of the church around those clear commands, and fortunately, we had good staff in place who were able to adapt their ministries to those areas. We did that in May 2009, right around his first anniversary. We’ve been doing it that way ever since, and a number of other churches across the country have adopted our ‘Missional Model.’”

These roles came out of the Creative Vision that Jim felt God was leading us to focus on as a congregation, “KOH2RVA,” bringing the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, Virginia. Dr. Somerville explains, “At some point in those early days I began to point out the priority of the Kingdom of God in the teaching of Jesus. In one way or another, the Kingdom is mentioned some 120 times in the Gospels. Obviously, establishing God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven was His primary focus, and since it is His church, it should be the church’s focus. I began to talk about the Kingdom, and about Richmond, and about establishing God’s kingdom here, but it was Billy Burford, then Church Administrator, who first pronounced those immortal words in an offertory prayer. He said, ‘May these gifts help us bring the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, Virginia.’ It rolled off his tongue so beautifully and I thought, “That’s it! That’s our mission!” But it was Bob Palmer and the members of the Ministry Planning Team who had the idea of reducing that mission statement to an acronym that would fit on a license plate, ‘KOH2RVA.’ In fact, that’s the license plate on my car today!”

Dr. Somerville’s vision has caused us to think about the ministry of this great church beyond the walls of this building and to reimagine how we might fulfill the commands of Christ in the Gospels, thus freeing us, each in our own way, to become our own poets of souls.

And that vision led to a church-wide process called, “2020 Vision,” to help the church understand it’s rich history, how it ministers today, but most importantly how Richmond’s First Baptist is going to fully embrace ministry here in the early years of the 21st century.

Clint Smith remarks, “Church life can be full of surprises, but maybe none so much as when your pastor calls you and says, ‘We’re putting together a team to help set a church vision for the next five years, and I’d like you to lead it.’” Mark Larson and Clint received that call from Dr. Somerville in December of 2015 and anxiously agreed to take on the challenge.

Knowing very little about what might be required of them, they decided that God would put a team of people around them who would make it possible, and that’s exactly what God did. Many people were involved in helping bring forth the 2020 Vision, but none more so than the pastor. From the facilitation team’s first meeting, Dr. Somerville was encouraging, optimistic and hopeful. Clint recalls him saying, “The church has a lot of history, let’s make some more!” And Dr. Somerville has embraced this effort wholeheartedly asking questions such as, “What is our church doing well, and not so well?”

Dr. Bill Wilson from the Center for Healthy Churches was our consultant. He provided structure and helped us to think on a grand scale, as we sought to discern the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The result?  Twelve Implementation Teams that are almost equally focused in areas within and outside of the church.  School partnerships, adult spiritual literacy, a community garden and lay led worship at times other than Sunday morning are only a few of the teams that have completed their reports and begun work in all of these areas.

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Vision is certainly one of the greatest gifts that Dr. Somerville has brought to the table, but he has offered so much more to our church and community by his involvement in a plethora of activities and interests.

Dr. Somerville has been a hands-on participant in Community Missions. Steve Blanchard, our Minister of Christian Compassion writes, “One of the first things that stood out to me was his passion for community and service. Jim thinks outside the box. He is passionate and not afraid to speak out if he believes in something wholeheartedly. Too often, the church (universal) is way too silent on social issues as it battles itself as to whether its purpose is to preach Jesus or preach about social issues.  Jim realizes there is no difference, the two are the same. I appreciate Jim and his willingness to come along beside me and others and meet people on the margins where they are, not just with his words, but with his actions as well.”

The Senior Pastor is a consultant to the Church Endowment Board. Carl Johnson reflects that, “The job of consultant can be difficult. First is the difference between consultant and advisor. Dr. Somerville has done well understanding the difference between the two. Second, I’m sure there have been times when he had a contribution that would have been helpful, but did not have an invitation for comment. He handled that well too. His involvement with numerous Richmond civic, charitable, educational, denominational, etc., entities and his insight, particularly with new entities, has been most helpful when we have received funding requests from them.”

Dr. Somerville has had a close and supportive relationship with Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond, serving two three-year terms on the Board of Trustees. He has even taught two semesters of preaching there, covering for Dr. Tracy Hartman while she was on sabbatical.

The list of involvement could go on and on, but let’s focus a minute on the events that transpired in bringing him to our church in the first place.

The earliest and arguably best advice given the Senior Pastor Search Committee was from Buddy and Dickie Hamilton. Both had served on previous senior pastor search committees. They told the team that prayer had not been central to those earlier efforts, but that they should make it central to theirs, so that’s what they did.

They prayed to open and close their meetings, they prayed as they studied resumes and went on visits, but most significant were the prayer retreats, directed by Alan Jones, former staff member, and Lynn Turner, staff liaison. Those prayer times challenged them to seek God’s heart and lay aside their own agendas. A significant verse for the team was 1 Samuel 16:7; it directed them to look for “a man after God’s own heart.”

The church family also gave the team significant advice, which was used to develop a Senior Pastor Profile. Preaching was at the top of virtually all responses, and the church is grateful God led us to Jim Somerville who proclaims the Word in ways that are clear, fresh and challenging.  This was evident when the team initially visited First Baptist Church in Washington D.C., where Dr. Somerville served before he came to us.

Another critical requirement was the ability to honor FBC’s traditions while challenging the church to grow into the future. This required a prophet, another of Jim Somerville’s significant gifts. To best describe how he matched the team’s profile is his life verse: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful,” Luke 6:36. It is inscribed on the pulpit stand given to him on May 11, 2008, when he became our senior pastor.

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Every week, at the close of the leadership staff meeting on Tuesday mornings, the ministers join hands around the table and pray together,

“Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, in Richmond as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread…. Amen.”

That small, but intentional adaptation of the Lord’s Prayer encourages the staff and the congregation to ask, “How does this existing ministry or new initiative help bring the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, VA?” That simple question continues to keep our staff and membership focused on our shared ministry as cast by our pastor.

Dr. Somerville’s creative and energetic vision has both challenged and encouraged us all to join in God’s redemptive mission, as Jim would say, by “looking around and noticing what does not look like heaven, and roll up our sleeves and get to work.”

Jim’s vision is making a difference in our church and our city. Thanks be to God!

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1 The Hopeful Imagination: Walter Brueggemann

2 An attractional church model seeks to build up a church through programs and events to pull people in: If you build it they will come. A missional model, on the other hand, seeks to find out what the needs of a community are and then seeks to meet those needs as a church: Churches are not the goal of God’s mission, but the tool of God’s mission.

Editor’s note: For this article, we interviewed Dr. Somerville, and a number of individuals were asked to speak to various aspects of Dr. Somerville’s 10 years of ministry at Richmond’s First Baptist Church. What followed was more material than can appear in a single story. Their reflections have been condensed into this article, but to more fully understand the effect of Dr. Somerville’s ministry here, we have included all of their contributions in this addendum. Here is the full interview with Dr. Somerville.

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Story by Brett Holmes, Pastoral Resident, 2016-2018. Photos by Susan Brown and Janet Chase.

One of my favorite movies from last year was Lady Bird, a coming-of-age comedy starring Saoirse Ronan as Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (although one would be forgiven for assuming it is a biopic about the former First Lady). The film follows Lady Bird through her senior year at a Catholic high school in Sacramento, California and is a hilarious, heart-breaking and beautiful picture of teenage life in the early 2000s.

The story invites us into her world. Part of that world is her experiences as a senior in high school, particularly the anxiety of applying to colleges. Lady Bird desires to attend a college on the East Coast because it will allow her to get out of the staunch, soul-sucking Sacramento that she’s called home her entire life.

In one scene late in the movie, Lady Bird is meeting with the Vice Principal, Sister Sarah, to discuss an earlier incident, but the scene turns when Sister Sarah tells Lady Bird that she read her college essay.

Sister Sarah looks at Lady Bird and tells her she can see in her writing that she clearly loves Sacramento. Confused, Lady Bird asks, “I do?” Sister Sarah says, “Well, you write about Sacramento so affectionately and with such care,” to which Lady Bird deflects by saying, “I was just describing it.” Sister Sarah responds, “It comes across as love.” Lady Bird comments, “Sure, I guess I pay attention.” And, it’s here that Sister Sarah begins to home in on her message: “Don’t you think maybe they are the same thing? Love and attention?”

Love and attention. Perhaps these are two sides of the same coin. When I first saw this scene, I wanted to rewind it—I wanted to listen carefully to those words from Sister Sarah all over again: “Don’t you think maybe they are the same thing? Love and attention?” Those words played in my head like a broken record for weeks after seeing the movie.

As my time at Richmond’s First Baptist Church draws to a close, I am reminded of these words. I am reminded that love and attention are so closely related that they might just be the same thing. During my time in Richmond I have been shown a lot of love and a lot of attention, but more than that I have been taught what it means to pay close attention to the lives of God’s people.

Throughout my (almost) two years as the Pastoral Resident, I have been invited into homes, hospital rooms, Sunday school rooms, but most importantly into relationships with countless loving people who call First Baptist their church home. I have had the opportunity to teach, preach, pray, cry, celebrate, and eat meals with so many wonderful people.

Love and Attention

During these last two years I have grown into a pastor because the people of First Baptist granted me the space to learn. I remember the first time I stood in the pulpit to preach and looked out at a congregation eager to give this young pastor a good ear. I remember being asked to lead retreats and getting the opportunity to invite people into the strange and beautiful mystery that is prayer. I remember going with the Lambs class to the annual Virginia Baptist Special Needs Retreat at Eagle Eyrie and how, for the one weekend in October, I was given a glimpse into their genuine love for God. I remember the overwhelming impossibility of remembering everyone’s name and having to accept that my most repeated phrase of my first year was, “I’m sorry, please remind me your name.” Yet, in spite of that you each welcomed me, loved me, and generously helped me along.

Ministry can be a daunting task. I recall early on during my time here talking with a member of the Young Professionals Sunday school class and thinking, “Why do these people trust me to answer life’s most difficult questions? What can I say that can be worth anything?” Slowly, though, that anxiety left because I began to realize (and see) that my job is not to have the answers, but to sit with the questions—to wrestle, to be present, to pay attention.

This is perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned about ministry. I want to have all the answers and I want to fix problems. Yet, as Henri Nouwen said, “Ministry means the ongoing attempt to put one’s own search for God, with all the moments of pain and joy, despair and hope, at the disposal of those who want to join this search but do not know how.” What I’ve learned about ministry at First Baptist is to pay attention to the lives of everyone around me and to pay attention to what God is doing because “Don’t you think maybe they are the same thing? Love and attention?”

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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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