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Story by Alex Hamp. Photos by Paul Bickford, Alice Brette, Susan Brown and Janet Chase.

Carter Bearden, Pat Allen, Mary Hiteman, Alan Jones, Buddy Burgess, Steve Blanchard, Alex Hamp, Laura Harris. Numerous faces have come and gone through the Preschool, Deaf, Recreation, and Community Mission ministries at First Baptist Church, but one face—that of Robin Hendricks—has remained constant. During the past 28 years, Robin has faithfully served all these ministries as an administrative assistant. She will retire on June 30th, having joined the church staff in September of 1989.

Robin Hendricks retires
Robin was first hired to assist Carter Bearden in the Deaf Ministry and Pat Allen in Community Missions. Technology was not yet the office norm so most of her early tasks were done with paper and pen. Her duties included monthly reports, calendaring, copying—and any other tasks asked of her. Both the Deaf and Community Missions ministries changed hands in the 90s, moving to Buddy Burgess and Steve Blanchard respectively. Robin assisted them both as they navigated their new roles. Steve shared this about Robin, “When I first was hired as the Missions Minister in 1997, Robin was my part-time administrative assistant. She not only helped me get oriented to the ins and outs of First Baptist life as a new employee, but was always willing and able to help in any way she could. I really appreciated her help and to this day appreciate her as a friend to me and my family.” Eventually Buddy took on the additional position of Minister of Recreation from Alan Jones, so Robin helped in this ministry too.  Her work was critical in keeping track of registration forms as Upward Basketball, Indoor Soccer and Blood Drives became very popular in our community.

Robin Hendricks retiresOne of Robin’s biggest joys has been working with the First Baptist Preschool children and families. Since 1998, first under the leadership of Mary Hiteman, Robin has served as the administrative assistant for the preschool. She has been kept busy with various tasks which include recording tuition payments, calendaring, laminating, subbing in a room when needed, and even being a graphic artist, designing t-shirts and programs for school.

Robin’s role was critical when the preschool leadership was handed over to me in 2014. She helped me learn the behind-the-scenes tasks of the preschool, was able to anticipate when I was not sure what was coming next, and became a great sounding board. She has also been loved by our families. According to Preschool mother, Beth Fuchs, “Ms. Robin’s knowledge of the inner workings of First Baptist Preschool, her uncanny ability to remember the name and details of every single child and his/her family, and her genuine love of all the kids is so apparent and such a blessing to our school.”

Robin Hendricks retiresRobin has enjoyed her time here at First Baptist Church. She has watched the change of leadership of the Senior Pastors from Dr. Flamming to Dr. Somerville, as well as in all the ministries where she served. She says this has required that she be flexible and adaptable to the times and the style of her supervisors. She has enjoyed the relationships she has made with the people and families of First Baptist Church and First Baptist Preschool. Robin is looking forward to moving to Baltimore to be with her daughter’s family, but will find it bittersweet to give up her near-daily trek across the Huguenot Bridge to First Baptist Church.


Alex HampAlex Hamp was named Administrator of First Baptist Preschool in 2014. She has been educating and nurturing young children and their families for the past twenty-three years, first as a kindergarten teacher at William Fox Elementary School and now at FBC’s preschool. She and her husband live in Hanover County with their four children. In her spare time, Alex enjoys traveling, reading and watching her children play sports and perform with their show choirs.

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Story by Clint Smith. Photos by Win Grant, Sean Lumsden-Cook and Jess Ward.

deafcong4_250pxThe service should have started three minutes ago, but no one is seated. Forty congregants, busy exchanging smiles and rib-bruising hugs, hardly notice Deacon Marcia Crawley standing patiently in the pulpit. A projector broadcasts announcements across the chapel screen: “Men’s Prayer Group at Aunt Sarah’s House of Pancakes, Fridays at 7 a.m.”; “Please remember to pray for our local government leaders.” Eventually the people shuffle to their pews and look toward the stage, where the morning’s soloist has taken his place between two enormous speakers. Without warning, the opening notes of “I’ll Fly Away” jump from the speakers and rattle the windows as he reverently signs the hymn’s verses.

burgess-deafmission“We’re a small congregation within a large congregation,” says Rev. Buddy Burgess, former Pastor to First Baptist Church’s Deaf Mission, and affectionately known as Pastor Buddy. “We have everything that the hearing church has—worship, choir, deacons, committees, Sunday school, missions, counseling, hospital visits, weddings, and funerals.” Burgess heard his calling to Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary after working at the Eastern North Carolina School for the Deaf and Blind in Wilson, NC. Following tenures as Deaf Pastor to the First Baptist Church of Memphis, TN and Missionary to the Sensory Impaired in Talladega, AL for the North American Mission Board, Buddy came to Richmond in 1999 to lead the Deaf Mission that Rev. Carter Beardon and Pastor Emeritus Jim Flamming established seven years prior.

deafcong2_250pxFor the 2.1 percent of the 18-64 year-old population that is deaf and hard of hearing, this church-within-a-church offers a place where full participation is possible. “[This is] the only opportunity for the deaf to lead in worship,” comments Sue Atkins, a longtime interpreter to the Deaf Mission. “Other churches in Richmond only have interpretive ministries. We have deaf deacons, a deaf worship leader who chooses and leads the songs, a deaf choir, and scriptures read in ASL (American Sign Language).” Donna Dyal, who also interprets for the Mission, agrees: “It is a way the deaf can worship on their own terms. They control the whole service. They are a close-knit community of believers who want to worship our Lord, support one another and witness to other deaf.”

deafinterpreter250pxThe Deaf Mission at Richmond’s First Baptist Church is one among very few congregations of its type in Virginia, and the largest in Richmond. Much like the larger “hearing church” at Monument Avenue and The Boulevard, the Deaf Mission’s ethnic and economic diversity is a testament to its hospitality and purpose. “I have so many great friends there,” says Ron Maxwell, a deacon and member since Carter baptized him in 1992. “Everyone there is ready to be friends, to share a joke, and to make one another feel special.” Marcia echoes Ron’s enthusiasm: “I really feel that God has led me, through the Holy Spirit, to use my life to serve the Deaf Mission. The Deaf Mission is so special to me.”

deafcong3_250pxBuddy, who retired in August, is excited for the Deaf Mission’s next chapter. “If I have one wish for the future of this community, then it’s for it to continue – not as a ‘mission’ of the church, but as an extension of the church, a congregation within the whole. There is so much the deaf can teach us all about love, acceptance, and joy in the midst of hardship.” If the hugs are any indication, then Pastor Buddy may be onto something .

 

deaf mission

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Story by Susan Hughes. Photos by Jess Ward.

Making it to a 25th anniversary is a milestone in any relationship, certainly one to celebrate. So, it’s not a surprise that the Deaf Mission of Richmond’s First Baptist Church did exactly that – they celebrated the 25th anniversary of their ministry on October 19, 2013.

Deaf congregation worship

Deaf congregation Sunday worship

Dr. Peter J. Flamming, FBC’s pastor at the time of the deaf ministry’s inception, shared his thoughts of that time with current members. Mike Jones, deaf ministry consultant with the Virginia Baptist Resource Center, represented Baptist state-wide work with the hearing impaired. The celebration included two songs signed by The Hands of Joy choir and a PowerPoint presentation of 25 years of photos. Buddy Burgess, pastor of the Deaf Mission, said “Everyone enjoyed seeing the changes time had made in members!”

Interpreters

Interpreters sign for deaf attending the Christmas tea.

While 1988 was the official beginning of FBC’s deaf ministry, the story really began several years before. In 1985 Connie Glass followed her passion and vision for this work and began interpreting for those who attended regular FBC services. Connie received support and guidance from FBC members Allen Justice, Larry Fogg, Bernice Rodgerson, Sue Atkins, and Jim Flamming. The congregation called its first pastor, Carter Bearden, in 1989. In 1997 Carter was called to a new position, FBC’s minister to young married adults and missions coordinator. Later he was called to pastor a hearing congregation.

Buddy Burgess

Rev. Buddy Burgess

In 1989, the mission became a full-fledged and independent congregation with its own services, committees, deacons, budget, and two Sunday school classes. The deaf lead all these activities; the only hearing help they receive is from interpreters. Sue Atkins, who is one of these, said: “Our team of interpreters voice for the hearing people in the Deaf Mission’s worship services.”

Ties with FBC’s hearing congregation remain strong, as we share facilities and worship together for special services. In addition, hearing children of deaf parents participate fully in FBC’s children and youth ministries.

The congregation’s second and current pastor, Buddy Burgess, began his service in February 1998.

One of the greatest accomplishments of these 25 years is establishing awareness of this ministry in the deaf community of greater Richmond. Local college teachers and students of American Sign Language (ASL) are also aware of the Deaf Mission’s presence. The byproduct and blessing of that awareness is that as the students attend to observe and learn ASL, they also hear the Word, perhaps for the first time.


Susan HughesSusan Hughes has taught high school English for 36 years in Hanover County public schools. She joined FBC in 1985 and currently serves as deacon, youth Sunday School teacher, Church Choir member, and member of the youth ministry, scholarship, and nominating teams. She is married to John, and has two adult children, David and Ellen. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, cooking, needlework, and watching hummingbirds.

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