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Posts Tagged ‘ministry of compassion’

By Emma Tilley

This year COVID-19 has altered the very way we do life and ministry. During this year, we have stood face to face with the fragility of life. As the book of Ecclesiastes puts it, “all is hevel (or breath).” Our jobs, our food systems, our health: they are all fragile. The COVID-19 pandemic has also revealed so starkly the ways life can be even more fragile for those who are homeless, in minority communities and work in service jobs.

In March, when Richmond’s First Baptist Church went virtual, Steve Blanchard began rethinking how the Ministry of Compassion could continue to serve our neighbors safely in this critical time. Feeding people has become his top priority. Feeding America, the largest hunger relief organization in America, estimates in 2020 about 54 million people in our country will experience food insecurity with 18 million of those being children.1


The food pantry was moved quickly to the corner of Flamming Hall and converted to a walk-up model. A place where our church once gathered together to eat every week now looks like a small grocery store currently serving around 280 people each week. Every Monday and Thursday anyone can walk up to the back door of the gym, be given a list on which to indicate the items they need, and be handed a bag full of their choice of canned goods, toiletries, clothes, shoes, a bag lunch or cleaning supplies. This summer the food pantry also began offering vegetables grown in our community access plot at Charlotte Acres. This partnership allows our pantry to make available fresh, healthy food to those we serve.

Throughout the year the number of clients has steadily increased as the pandemic wages on and word spreads about our ministry. Social workers, agencies or clients can also call ahead and order boxes of food throughout the week for pick up. Starting in August the mobile market resumed going out every first and third Saturdays to St. Luke’s Apartments and Glen Lea Elementary School. The FBC compassion van is stocked with food, fresh vegetables and cleaning supplies. We typically see a surge in clients at the end of the month when federal SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits run out and money is tight. These food supplies help families and individuals have consistent access to food.

Finding a way to operate the shower ministry during the pandemic was another concern. This took some brainstorming to find a safe way to allow our homeless neighbors to have access to a shower. In July, the Baptist General Association of Virginia provided FBC a shower trailer, with individual shower units, to continue to offer showers to our homeless neighbors. The shower trailer is located in the Mulberry Street parking lot and currently operates Mondays and Thursdays.

The Ministry of Compassion would not be possible without our weekly pantry and mobile market volunteers, Charlotte Acres produce delivery drivers, shoppers, shower attendants and cleaning staff, FBC support staff and many others. Above all, we are incredibly thankful for your generous gifts throughout this year. We have not been together in person these past months, but we have felt the love of your gifts and prayer. Every Monday and Thursday, the volunteers in the food pantry are blessed to be the ears of the church. We hear “thank you,” “God bless you all” amid frustration and struggles, and sometimes someone comes in singing a song to the Lord. I hope when you pray and give to this ministry, you hear those voices of gratitude and hope in your heart.

Check out the website for more updates on the compassion ministry.       


1 https://www.feedingamerica.org/about-us/press-room/feeding-america-study-projects-local-food-insecurity-rates-amid-pandemic-could

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By Steve Blanchard and Justin Pierson

Justin and Tori

Richmond’s First Baptist Church has a new Pastoral Resident who is a familiar face. He has been a part of our fellowship for about four years. Justin Pierson, our new Pastoral Resident, began working at FBC in the Ministry of Christian Compassion several years ago, and he and his wife, Tori, have been involved in so many ways in the life of our church.

What you may not know is the journey that brought Justin to his decision to go into the ministry.

Justin grew up in Roanoke, Virginia and began considering a vocation in the ministry as early as high school. He continued to explore his calling to the ministry while at Virginia Tech where he was involved in the Baptist Collegiate Ministry, leading music for worship services and participating in Bible studies. He volunteered with youth ministry events for churches throughout Virginia and in the summers worked for various churches and Christian camps.

As Justin explains, “After graduation, I was almost certain that I would pursue ministry, but I wasn’t sure of the next steps. Although my psychology degree was useful for ministry, I knew that I needed more education if I wanted to properly serve, but I wasn’t sure if seminary was the next step. I wanted a break from school and wanted to understand how ministry is done in other parts of the world. So, I traveled to Vienna, Austria to live and serve for six months. I interned with a Baptist congregation there ministering to young people and Farsi-speaking refugees. It was amazing how different that experience was from my former church experiences in the U.S.”

on mission in Bosnia“This experience solidified my calling to ministry, but also sparked my interest in faith, culture and justice. I saw how this congregation sacrificed to serve refugees whom society had forgotten and tried to exclude. I saw how their congregation was growing, attracting young people, discussing complex theology and its modern-day application, and living into its calling regardless of its cultural unpopularity or financial risk.”

Justin playing guitarIt was after this experience that Justin knew he was called to the ministry and, after leaving Europe, he enrolled at the Baptist Theological Seminary in Richmond (BTSR) and started working part-time as an assistant in the Ministry of Christian Compassion at FBC. It was through his work in the Ministry of Christian Compassion that Justin discovered that the heart of FBC was similar to what he had seen in the congregation in Vienna. He saw people willing to serve those in need, and a congregation willing to adapt to the needs of those who are served. And he saw a staff eager to help young people and form the next generation of leaders. As Justin explains it, “I found people willing to do the unpopular thing in order to live into the calling they believed in.”

After graduating from BTSR, Justin entered Union Presbyterian Seminary where he recently completed his Master of Theology. Throughout seminary, Justin continued to work part-time with the Christian Compassion Ministry.

Justin in worship

Throughout his years of serving in the Compassion Ministry, Justin found that FBC was a place in which he was interested in furthering his ministry experience and a place that would welcome his ideas and interests. Justin added, “I value the staff at FBC and wanted to continue to be a part of the ministries here.”

After working with Justin in the Compassion Ministry, Steve Blanchard, FBC’s Associate Pastor for Compassion, has found that, “Justin is a willing and dedicated worker, open-minded, passionate and talented in a variety of ministry areas. His faith has really taken shape as his own and his desire to continue to explore, ask questions, seek justice, learn and grow are just a few reasons why I believe he is an excellent choice for our residency program.”

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