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By Darvin E. Satterwhite. Photos by Janet Chase.

In July, 2008, I attended FBC for the first time, not really knowing what to expect. My family and I had been members of a small rural church for many years and I had my apprehensions about attending a much larger church in the “Big City.”

For several Sundays, we came solely to the worship service and found that FBC welcomed newcomers with open arms. But this was more than a “feel-good” experience. Something greater was at work here.

On the way to worship service, my wife and I would discuss some of the everyday issues and frustrations that sometimes confront us as Christians, only to be presented with a message from Jim Somerville tailored to the very same concerns that we had been discussing. It happened so frequently that we knew God’s hand was truly at work in FBC’s ministry to us.

Darvin Satterwhite

Members of the Footprints Class during Sunday morning Bible study.

Encouraged by this reception, we considered doing something that we had not done in years – we started to look for a Sunday school class to attend. FBC’s website listed numerous options in ages and study formats, and we decided to try the Mustard Seed Class. One visit was all that it took for us to feel right at home.

I wondered if my family’s reception by FBC was typical. Nate Varnier, a friend, started attending FBC several months ago. I asked him what his experience had been like, and he offered the following insights:

Visiting First Baptist Church my (now) wife, Julie, and I were overtaken by a welcoming spirit from both the staff and members. People turned in their seats to greet us, people stopped as they walked down the aisle to say hello, and the ministers caught us as we left the service to just say how much they enjoyed having us. For such a large congregation I was surprised to see the one-on-one attention given to the visitors of the church. I’ve consistently told others that First Baptist is a big church with a small church atmosphere.

Nate’s experience sounds very similar to my own.

There are many reasons the strong sense of Christian fellowship seems to exude from the members of FBC. The worship service, the music, the various ministries – all enhance our spiritual experience as Christians and contribute to cementing the bonds that make us the body of Christ. But I have found that one of the significant blessings in attending FBC comes from the variety of small group studies that are available, particularly those offered in our Sunday school classes. I think Lewis Myers expresses the strength of these studies best when he tells us:

Bible study is the core of who we are as Baptists and really defines us. I am passionate about believers immersing themselves in the Word of God, and small groups are effective in this. Fellowship is a by-product of mutual commitment to a common task. Functioning, productive small groups are absolutely essential in a large church such as ours. They launch us into ministries more extensive than in the small group, but remain the home base where we are restored.

A place “where we are restored” – that may best capture the essence of FBC’s small group studies. It is in Sunday school classes where each person can express among Christian brothers and sisters his or her hopes and doubts, praises and frustrations. And, in so doing, we realize that the Holy Spirit is truly at work to bring Christian restoration in a world that is too often spiritually draining.

Darvin Satterwhite

Darvin Satterwhite teaches in the Footprints Sunday morning Bible study class.

For two and a half years, I eagerly anticipated Sunday mornings in Bible study and worship. Then, I was asked to do something that, a few years back, I would have never considered. An opening for a teaching position became available in the Footprints Class, and I was offered a temporary teaching assignment. After much prayer and encouragement from church members, I decided to give it a try.

Six months later, I am still teaching in Footprints – teaching but also learning quite a bit from class members. I have found Christian fellowship and blessings as everyone in the class has made me feel like a long-time member: I was a stranger and they took me in (paraphrase, Matthew 25:35c).


Darvin SatterwhiteDarvin, his wife, Flo, and daughter, Emily, began attending First Baptist in July 2008 and joined in late 2010. He and Flo have been married nearly 26 years and have three children: John (who works in Richmond), Darcy (an upcoming senior at Virginia Tech), and Emily (an upcoming freshman at Christopher Newport). Darvin teaches the Footprints class and has a predominantly civil law practice in Goochland County where they reside.

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By Becky Kyle.

Vacation Bible School has changed since I attended in my childhood.

I remember going to VBS every summer and learning about God and the people in the Bible. I remember the daily processional with the salute to the American flag, the Christian flag and the Bible. I remember being in one classroom all morning with one set of teachers, having in-depth Bible study enhanced by activities, crafts and week-long projects. Music, snack, and recreation were breaks from the classroom.

VBS still happens every summer, but much has changed since my memories were formed.

Vacation Bible School morning assembly in the Sanctuary of First Baptist. Photo by Susan Brown.

The most exciting change is the addition of missions as a component of VBS. FBC offers children participation in mission projects that reach people in our own community, throughout the U.S., and around the world. The children have packed gift bags for the leaders of the Boys & Girls Club of Richmond, for FBC’s Community Missions clients and Grace Fellowship participants, for families at the Ronald McDonald House, for local fire fighters, and for FBC’s neighbors and homebound members. VBS children have sent their pennies to relief work for children in Israel and the Caribbean. Last year they prepared blankets and coloring books to fill backpacks for children in Africa.

FBC and Mount Moriah Baptist Church partner to help transport children to Vacation Bible School. Photo by Anthony M. Nesossis.

VBS has become an outreach ministry in Richmond. We partner with Mount Moriah Baptist Church to offer VBS to children in their congregation. We provide transportation; they provide volunteers. We also provide transportation for children from several community centers and from the New American community. As a result, a growing percentage of participants are from families who are not members of FBC.

First Baptist’s Children’s Ministry leaders carefully study and review about ten VBS curricula each year. Through prayer and discussion, they select the one best fitted to our children. Most of these curricula have a secular, fun-oriented theme with children rotating to different classrooms for each activity (i.e. Bible study, music, crafts, games, recreation, snack, missions).

“Finding Hope: A Field Trip of Faith” is this year’s curriculum. The theme is based on Together For Hope, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s 20 year commitment to the 20 poorest counties in the United States. Each day VBS begins with worship followed by a Bible study that is the foundation for the day’s activities. Children then take a “field trip” to one of the 20 areas to learn through activities how God’s love is shared with the people who live there. One trip is to Helena, Arkansas, where former FBC members Ben and Leonora Newell serve. FBC partners with them through family mission trips each summer.

Children participate in arts and crafts during VBS 2010. Photo by Susan Brown.

VBS is one of FBC’s best opportunities to share God’s love with children and to help them discover God’s hope in the Bible. It teaches them of God’s love for all people and how to reach out in that love to others. That’s a VBS basic that is exactly as I remember it.

 

 

Editor’s note: Some volunteers are still needed- childcare givers with babies and toddlers, a preschool and an elementary teacher, and van drivers. Contact: Candi Brown, Brown@FBCRichmond.org, 358-5458 x150.

 


Becky KyleBecky Kyle has been attending FBC since she was a college student and joined FBC in 1984. Since then, she has served in many FBC ministries, taught children in Sunday school for the last 13 years, and volunteered with VBS most of the last 14 years. She works part-time for Fleet Auto Tag & Title Service. James and Becky have two children, Sarah and Aaron, who are active in the youth ministry.

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By Truman Smith. Photos by Win Grant.

Paul Bickford’s beginnings at FBC included volunteering to assist David Powers with the Television Ministry. Growing up with no church involvement, how unlikely to begin working with the minister who would become his spiritual mentor. This had not been in Paul’s plans or dreams for his future. His University of Miami studies included double majors, Film and Computer Science. He could not have guessed that an opportunity to learn television directing was evolving. But Paul says: “Unbeknownst to me, God planted a passion for visual story telling in me that He would use later.” Paul started out doing anything that David asked him to do. When he was offered opportunity for hands on learning, Paul was ready for this new role. He is now one of the directors, often in the control room on Sunday morning.

Paul came to FBC in 1997 after his girlfriend let him know that church was a vital part of her life. Paul shares that she “was always inviting me to come to church with her. Finally, our relationship matured to a point where she had to clearly lay out the path she was taking versus the path I was taking.” He took the hint and showed up without telling her. Engagement to Alexa followed, and they were married in 1999. It could be said that the rest is history, but there is more to Paul’s story.

Paul Bickford directing Sunday morning worship services.

Work in the TV ministry opened to Paul new ways of thinking about life and what is really important. He became aware of a new spiritual dimension that had been missing. Friendships, worship and ministry all came together with clearer purpose. In late 2001 and January 2002 Paul made concrete what had been growing in his heart and spirit. The music and Dr. Flamming’s preaching on sacrifice and tithing helped him realize it was time to make public the commitment of his life to Christ. His assignments with the TV ministry now became, “Here I am Lord.” The Sunday morning TV congregation is very important to him. He knows that many depend on the televised service for their worship, comfort and spiritual nurture, “helping to provide this is my calling,” he says.

During the week Paul works for Apex Systems, Inc. He has been with them since 1999 and is now their Director of Enterprise Systems. In his office he has a calendar with a spiritual thought for the day that often gives the right word to guide and focus him on what is truly important. While giving time and energy to doing his job well, his life as husband, father and God’s servant is the core of who he is. In March of 2010 Paul joined the Ministry Planning Team, a group that receives ideas to help the FBC family find new ways of bringing heaven to earth.

The Bickfords, Paul, Alexa and their three sons, are part of the Kingdom on earth, still growing into what God intends.

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By Nancy Pettigrew.

Catalyst Prayer participants pray for Jim Norvelle, Deacon Chair for 2011. Photo by Scott Medina.

In John 17, Jesus prays for His disciples, those followers who were being His hands, ministering in His name. He is the model for Catalyst Prayer, whose purpose is to pray for the ministries of First Baptist Church and for those who lead them.

Regular prayer items include Sunday morning worship, visitors and new members, Bible study and teachers, and other Baptist churches in Richmond. We also invite those who are leading FBC ministries to meet with us for a very special time of prayer. As we gather around, we lay our hands on the leader and pray for all aspects of his or her ministry. On February 16, we prayed for Bart Dalton, our youth and their leaders as they prepared for DiscipleNow weekend. We recently prayed for the newly ordained deacons and for Chris and Laura Harris who lead Upward Basketball. We pray for Vacation Bible School during the summer, for Divorce Recovery Workshop when it begins in the fall, for Charlie Ball and the CARITAS program he leads at Thanksgiving. We pray for mission trips and for staff members.

We pray because we believe God uses our prayers. They are the “catalyst” that prompts the work of His Spirit in and through our church.

Catalyst Prayer meets each Wednesday from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m. in the Adams Room. It begins with a short devotional time, led by Pastor Emeritus Dr. James Flamming. Catalyst Prayer is open to all who believe in the power of prayer. If you can attend weekly, monthly or quarterly, Catalyst Prayer welcomes you.

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