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Posts Tagged ‘call to ministry’

By Steve Blanchard and Justin Pierson

Justin and Tori

Richmond’s First Baptist Church has a new Pastoral Resident who is a familiar face. He has been a part of our fellowship for about four years. Justin Pierson, our new Pastoral Resident, began working at FBC in the Ministry of Christian Compassion several years ago, and he and his wife, Tori, have been involved in so many ways in the life of our church.

What you may not know is the journey that brought Justin to his decision to go into the ministry.

Justin grew up in Roanoke, Virginia and began considering a vocation in the ministry as early as high school. He continued to explore his calling to the ministry while at Virginia Tech where he was involved in the Baptist Collegiate Ministry, leading music for worship services and participating in Bible studies. He volunteered with youth ministry events for churches throughout Virginia and in the summers worked for various churches and Christian camps.

As Justin explains, “After graduation, I was almost certain that I would pursue ministry, but I wasn’t sure of the next steps. Although my psychology degree was useful for ministry, I knew that I needed more education if I wanted to properly serve, but I wasn’t sure if seminary was the next step. I wanted a break from school and wanted to understand how ministry is done in other parts of the world. So, I traveled to Vienna, Austria to live and serve for six months. I interned with a Baptist congregation there ministering to young people and Farsi-speaking refugees. It was amazing how different that experience was from my former church experiences in the U.S.”

on mission in Bosnia“This experience solidified my calling to ministry, but also sparked my interest in faith, culture and justice. I saw how this congregation sacrificed to serve refugees whom society had forgotten and tried to exclude. I saw how their congregation was growing, attracting young people, discussing complex theology and its modern-day application, and living into its calling regardless of its cultural unpopularity or financial risk.”

Justin playing guitarIt was after this experience that Justin knew he was called to the ministry and, after leaving Europe, he enrolled at the Baptist Theological Seminary in Richmond (BTSR) and started working part-time as an assistant in the Ministry of Christian Compassion at FBC. It was through his work in the Ministry of Christian Compassion that Justin discovered that the heart of FBC was similar to what he had seen in the congregation in Vienna. He saw people willing to serve those in need, and a congregation willing to adapt to the needs of those who are served. And he saw a staff eager to help young people and form the next generation of leaders. As Justin explains it, “I found people willing to do the unpopular thing in order to live into the calling they believed in.”

After graduating from BTSR, Justin entered Union Presbyterian Seminary where he recently completed his Master of Theology. Throughout seminary, Justin continued to work part-time with the Christian Compassion Ministry.

Justin in worship

Throughout his years of serving in the Compassion Ministry, Justin found that FBC was a place in which he was interested in furthering his ministry experience and a place that would welcome his ideas and interests. Justin added, “I value the staff at FBC and wanted to continue to be a part of the ministries here.”

After working with Justin in the Compassion Ministry, Steve Blanchard, FBC’s Associate Pastor for Compassion, has found that, “Justin is a willing and dedicated worker, open-minded, passionate and talented in a variety of ministry areas. His faith has really taken shape as his own and his desire to continue to explore, ask questions, seek justice, learn and grow are just a few reasons why I believe he is an excellent choice for our residency program.”

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By Steve Booth

callout

Richmond’s First Baptist Church is excited to welcome our new pastoral resident, Patrick Jackson. Patrick, a native of Tennessee, came from a home where church was a large part of his growing up environment. After high school, he had the opportunity to attend Harvard University, where he received the Bachelor of Arts degree. From there, Patrick moved to Washington, D.C., to work on Capitol Hill as a Legislative Assistant to a couple of members of Congress. In 1998 he enrolled in the University of Wisconsin Law School where he studied law and received a Juris Doctor degree. After law school he practiced law in Columbus, Ohio, and became active in a local church. Though his professional life was extremely hectic, his love for the church grew and he became a devoted member of the music ministry. It was in that church-going environment that he began to sense a call for something more, “a still small voice” that manifested in some deep theological musings with friends. These musings caused many of Patrick’s friends to tease him and suggest that he consider going into the ministry, yet Patrick didn’t give it much thought at the time.

Yvette & Patrick JacksonAfter several years as an attorney in Columbus, Ohio, he returned to Washington, D.C., to work as a legislative assistant to U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown. While in Washington, Patrick married the former Yvette Hensley. As he and Yvette began attending church regularly, he found himself thinking more and more about his friends’ playful suggestion regarding vocational ministry. Patrick served as a faithful member of the praise and worship team, began leading a small group Bible study, and studied the Bible more intensely. It was through these experiences that God continued to prepare his heart for vocational ministry. Eventually Patrick was led to apply to the Spiritual Mentoring Program led by U.S. Senate Chaplain Barry Black. Patrick recounts, “One day after the regular weekly Bible study, Chaplain Black asked me if I ever thought about going to seminary.” Patrick’s response was, “I honestly said ‘no,’ but the question stirred something in me, something I believe had been percolating for some time.”

Returning to Columbus in 2011, Patrick and Yvette joined Patrick’s home church, where Patrick once again poured himself into the church’s music ministry. He remembers, “It felt different. I began to sense God’s tug on my heart for preaching and pastoring get stronger. I felt it so strongly that after much prayer and seeking wise counsel, I accepted God’s call, applied to seminary and matriculated at Andover Newton Theological School in August 2013.”

Patrick JacksonReflecting on his new position as pastoral resident at FBC Patrick explained, “One of the things I learned early on when I sensed God’s call to ministry was that it was a call to prepare. Although God has blessed me with a number of opportunities to gain valuable hands-on ministry experience, I know that I have a lot to learn. FBC is a tremendous place to learn, grow and fulfill this call to prepare.” He added that along with growing as a preacher and teacher at FBC, he wants to learn more about what it means to have a heart for the people of God. Both Patrick and Yvette are “excited to get to know our new church family.” We welcome Patrick and his family into our fellowship and are confident that God will bless us as we journey together over the next two years.

Editor’s note:
FBC began the pastoral residency program in the fall of 2010 when Lindsey McClintock accepted the call to serve at Richmond’s First Baptist Church. Lindsey was followed by Hanna Zhu (2012-14), Nick Deere (2014-16), and Brett Holmes (2016-18). Our church family has been blessed by the contributions of these outstanding women and men. Our pastoral residency program stems from a desire to foster lasting, healthy leadership in new ministers while enriching and strengthening congregational life. The primary purpose of the residency program is to provide an opportunity for the next generation of vocational ministers to integrate theological education with the practice of ministry.

Our pastoral resident selection committee included Debbie Boykin, Sandy Shelton, Erin Cumbia, Rob Brown, Jim Somerville, Lynn Turner and Steve Booth.

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By Wendy Starkey. Photo by Win Grant.

Valter SorrentinoI met with Valter Sorrentino one Wednesday night in FBC’s “Connection Café.” While we watched families come and go in the bustle of church activities, Valter shared with me how God was working in his life. Before we met, I was expecting lots of clear, concrete responses to my questions about where God was calling him. After all, he was called by God, right? As Valter talked, I was reminded that God’s call does not always include a complete picture.

Valter and his wife, Sandra (who is on the FBC custodial staff and volunteers with the three-year-old choir), are from Brazil. Valter volunteered in a prison ministry there for five years. Because of this work, others encouraged him to go into full time ministry. It took him five years to follow that direction, as well as work up the courage to tell his family.

During this time, Valter began dating Sandra. When they realized they both had a desire to come to the United States, they decided it was such a big move that each of them needed to pray before proceeding. Valter and Sandra eventually discovered they were in unity about the decision. And with Sandra’s family ties in the Richmond area and a Baptist seminary here, another part of God’s plan became apparent.

Valter and Sandra moved to the United States and were married at Second Baptist Church on October 14, 2006. While looking for a church home, they visited First Baptist and met Roberta Damon, a former missionary to Brazil. This connection made the Sorrentinos feel warmly welcomed and at home.

It is as if God were playing "connect the dots."Valter is still in the midst of his studies, considering a dual degree with Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond and Virginia Commonwealth University for Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE). While studying, he also works two days each week at Bon Air Baptist on the custodial staff.

In listening to Valter’s story, I realized I could relate to his journey. There was not a Damascus road experience. There were many steps in the process – the calling into the ministry, the meeting of his wife, the mutual desire to move to the United States, and the family in Richmond. It is as if God were playing “connect the dots.” God put out the dots, but Valter takes the steps to link them together.

God does not always give us the whole picture but just enough so we will follow, and after that just a little more. Like Valter, it is up to us to connect the God-given dots in our lives. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it” (Isaiah 30:21, NIV).


Wendy Starkey is married to Shawn Starkey and the mother of two smart and beautiful girls – Mahaley and Anna Carr. She is the daughter of Jim and Gail Markham. Wendy is a member of the Sessions Sunday school class and teaches the infant class at Bible Study Fellowship (BSF – a non-denominational, international Bible study).

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