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By Nancy Mairs. Photos by Paul Bickford and Susan Brown.

The First Baptist family is a diverse group of individuals, joining together as one body of believers seeking their paths with Christ. The story of three different couples – Spencer and Caroline Budwell, Carl and Ann Evans, and Todd and Robin Ritter – highlights how this seeking also brings a deeper friendship with other believers. And sometimes even marriage.

The Budwells

The Budwells

Spencer and Caroline Budwell. Photo by Paul Bickford.

Spencer Budwell was involved with other singles in forming a new Sunday school class at First Baptist. So involved that it didn’t occur to him that through this involvement he would meet his future wife.

At the time, several of the young singles felt a growing need for a class that would provide them friendships with others who had been on their own for some time – with a goal not of meeting their life partners, but of sharing their experiences of seeking Christ.

Caroline Budwell, a lifelong Baptist, was attending another church in the area, but was looking for a deeper fellowship with others at her same stage of life. She decided to visit First Baptist, and attended the new Sunday school class where she found what she had been seeking. In the class, she and Spencer became friends, but it wasn’t until they both participated in a mission trip that their friendship began to deepen.

Through activities with the mission team and the Sunday school class the Budwells found their friendship was blossoming into a romance that later led to marriage and the arrival of their two daughters.

The Evanses

Carl and Ann Evans met through their involvement in a Sunday school class that was started by participants in the Divorce Recovery Workshop (DRW).

The Evans

Carl and Ann Evans. Photo by Susan Brown.

Carl was the first to attend FBC, learning about the DRW from an old friend at a high school reunion. “The friend encouraged me to go to First Baptist and check out Divorce Recovery,” Carl remembers. It was some time after this that Ann visited DRW through the urging of some of her friends. After attending her first meeting she knew she would come back. “I walked into the meeting feeling all alone and could see immediately that there were 150 to 200 people in there that were o.k. I knew I would be o.k. too!” remembers Ann.

Both Ann and Carl had attended other churches in the area. But as they became involved in the DRW, particularly in the small groups formed as part of the program, they found FBC was starting to feel like home.

When they joined the Sunday school class, neither had any intent or thought of meeting someone special and getting remarried. Through the closeness of the class and particularly their participation in many of the activities outside of the class, the Evanses developed a special closeness which led to marriage.

Now their “community is expanding and growing,” they explain. They volunteer with the DRW, are part of Fellowship Friends, help with Grace Fellowship, go on mission trips, and through Carl’s love of motorcycles, are part of First Riders.

The Ritters

The Ritters

Todd and Robin Ritter. Photo by Susan Brown.

Todd Ritter’s theatre job led to his moving to a new town each year for the first several years after college. When he settled in Richmond, he remembers his mom kept urging him “to go to a big church so I could meet a nice girl!”

Todd emphatically told his mom that he was not planning on going to church just to meet a girl, but did decide to visit First Baptist since it was the church nearest his home. Some months later he visited again and decided to attend one of the Sunday school classes. Todd found a friendly, close-knit group of folks seeking a relationship with Jesus. He began attending regularly.

Robin had grown up in another Richmond church, but decided to visit FBC on her sister’s recommendation. Robin visited the same Singles Sunday school class as Todd and also liked the closeness of the group.

It wasn’t long before both Todd and Robin were joining with many of their friends from the class in other activities – but still with no thoughts of pursuing any type of romantic relationship. It wasn’t until they attended a weekend retreat that they realized they had much in common and that they were starting to have deeper feelings for each other, feelings which eventually led to marriage. Todd laughs today at the thought of how his mom was right after all!

The common thread among all three couples is that they came to First Baptist to find Christian fellowship. Through their involvement in small groups, such as Sunday school classes, they found a group of friends to share with their love of Christ. As Ann Evans puts it, “it really was through the small group fellowship that I found a ‘family’ here at First Baptist.”


Nancy MairsNancy Mairs joined Richmond’s First Baptist Church more than 20 years ago and is a member of the Disciples class. She works in the Regulatory Affairs group at Dominion Virginia Power, and enjoys hiking, canoeing, traveling, and spending time with her husband, Jim, and son, Jack.

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