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By Katie Smith. Photos provided by Anthony Nesossis, Janet Chase and Katie Smith.

Callout-BLOG-belongAs newlyweds in 2008, blindsided by the recession, my husband Van and I began what we call our “grand tour of Virginia,” as we kept chasing our careers around the state. During those years, we identified with a nondenominational church in Williamsburg, an Episcopal church in Charlottesville, a large Anglican church in Northern Virginia, and visited countless others of every denomination. Ironically, we even attended First Baptist Church for five months in 2008, before our careers moved us to Charlottesville.

Smith family

Smith family

Fancying ourselves to be independent thinkers, Van and I were not going to settle easily. Van is an attorney and I have taught college classes in years past—as such, we view most major life decisions through an analytical lens, carefully weighing all options. To commit, we knew, would be to decide on a place that would impact our spiritual growth, our way of serving the world, and our fellowship with other believers. In our decisions, we typically tread carefully. During that phase of our life, denominational differences mattered little—it was the spirit of each church that drew us close.

That spirit drew us back to FBC when we returned to Richmond. But its beauty also played a part. Architecture helps us feel a sense of awe in our humdrum suburban life, and the gorgeous columns and archways of First Baptist remind us of classic buildings. We love that First Baptist is not just located in the city, but it is also focused on being a church for the city, as it seeks to bring the kingdom of heaven to Richmond. And the intergenerational nature of the congregation brings a necessary sense of perspective. At a few churches we visited, we saw hardly a soul over the age of 40; in others, nary a person under 65. A church feels more whole, it seems, when all age groups are represented.

Never before (I cringe to admit) have we committed to a Bible study, but the Young Couples class has us sincerely hooked. And, I’m sure we must have broken some sort of church rule for requesting that our one-year-old be dedicated prior to us formally becoming members last year, but I’m still glad we did. A beautiful picture of Jim Somerville and our daughter Farah sits on our bookshelf and brings me joy. He asked us to join the church at the baby dedication. My husband looked at me and smiled wryly, “Ahh, a twofer!” I look forward to experiencing the new members’ class at some point, and I’m thankful for a church that is patient and accepting of members “right where they are.”

Maybe our journey was not random luck. My hunch is the Good Lord (as my parents refer to God) had a hand in it. Both of my great-grandfathers were Baptist ministers, after all. Perhaps I should have seen the writing on the wall. In any case, I feel a sense that Van and I, (plus an energetic toddler) are all on a faith journey together with First Baptist Church at the steering wheel. When I look around during Sunday services, I see people in plain and fancy clothes, the very young and the very old, and all manner of other folks. And I feel like we belong. Thank the Good Lord.


Katie SmithKatie Smith grew up in Winston-Salem, NC, and met her husband, Van, while studying at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg. She served as an academic adviser at several community colleges in Virginia before recently beginning to work part-time for Van’s family law firm, Smith Strong, PLC. Van and Katie are the proud parents of Farah Lee Smith, who was born in September 2012 and dedicated at First Baptist Church. Van and Katie enjoy attending the Young Couples Class.

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