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Story by Allen Cumbia. Photo by Janet Chase.

On September 7, 2014, when members of Richmond’s First Baptist Church met for worship, they stepped into a familiar, yet in many respects new, Sanctuary. Fresh coats of paint, plush new carpet and beautifully restored pews were a few of the immediately obvious changes.

Another significant change, not visible but rather audible, was installed in this renovated space. While the pews and carpet were removed, a hearing loop (also known as an induction loop) was put in place around the perimeter of the Sanctuary. The loop, a copper wire looped around the room, is connected to an amplifier fed from the existing sound console. Audio is inducted onto the wire and creates a magnetic sound field. People, situated within that loop, who have telecoils in their hearing aids or Cochlear implants will be able to access that inducted sound. Their hearing devices will not only restore volume, but also frequencies that the listeners might struggle normally to hear.

The advantages of this type of hearing assistance are many. No longer will individuals have to pick up hearing assist receivers when entering the Sanctuary and wear ear buds during the service. They will just activate their devices’ telecoil. Telecoils are also discrete; they don’t advertise to everyone else the hearing disability. And there will be no limit to the number of people who can utilize the hearing loop. Until this innovation we were limited to 16 hearing assist receivers in the Sanctuary.

One of our goals at Richmond’s First Baptist Church is to make worship a time and space where our members and visitors can encounter God both corporately and personally. When those individuals are unable to hear the Scriptures being read, or the prayers or sermon from the pulpit, their worship experience is degraded and diminished. As has been done with the creation of a Braille hymnal for our sight-impaired worshipers, we hope to create through this loop, one less stumbling block for our hearing-impaired to their encounter with the living God.

hearing loop diagram

hearing loop installation

hearing loop installation in sanctuary

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By Charles Tilley. Photos by Janet Chase and Allen Cumbia.

calloutThe Sanctuary of Richmond’s First Baptist Church serves as space for more than 200 events annually, including worship services, weddings, funerals, preschool services, community gatherings, and concerts. Approximately 50,000 people attend these events during an average year.

This amount of use has taken a toll on the Sanctuary’s interior finishes. Cracked plaster, peeling paint, and worn carpet and pew cushions are all signs of the need for a makeover.

sanctuary
This summer the 20-year-old paint job and three decades-old carpet will be two of the most visible improvements. Other maintenance items and related tasks will be addressed in this comprehensive improvements project. A team of FBC lay and staff, including architects and members of the facilities, worship and media teams, has identified the following items in the Sanctuary and Narthex for maintenance, renovation or upgrade:

  • plaster patching and painting of all walls and ceiling surfaces;
  • minor refinishing of wood surfaces – balcony rail, pews, pulpit furniture, etc.;
  • replacement of pew cushions and choir loft chair repair and fabric replacement;
    floor finish replacement – replacement of carpet in aisles only;
  • porcelain tile under the pews on the first floor and resilient tile under the balcony pews;
  • lighting – improvements particularly under the balcony and in the Narthex;
  • installation of a hearing aid loop that will provide wireless, assisted-listening capability;
  • slate roof maintenance (some of the interior finish issues have been due to roof leaks).

The general contractor will prepare the final cost estimates during early May. Work will begin on June 2, with a proposed completion date of August 22. During these summer months, FBC’s congregation will worship in the gymnasium. This transition will be overseen by the FBC worship and facilities teams.

The Sanctuary restoration is underwritten by the FBC Endowment Fund. This gift from the Endowment is its contribution to and endorsement of a Capital Campaign expected to begin in 2015. With the Campaign’s first step taken through this restoration, FBC members will then participate through time and financial contributions to the remainder of the projects.

Sanctuary Restoration Team members: Allen Cumbia, Jeff Dortch, Bill Hundley, Mark Larson, Bill Loving, Phil Mitchell, Richard Szucs, Charles Tilley, Lu Treadwell, Lynn Turner, and Bonnie Wilmoth.


CCharles Tilleyharles Tilley teaches 9th grade Youth Two Sunday school, serves as a deacon, and is on the Sanctuary Restoration Team. He and his wife, Gwen, have three daughters, Emma, Virginia and Mae.

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