Posts Tagged ‘organist’

Story by Allen Brown. Photos by Allen Cumbia, Win Grant and Allison Maxwell.

Easy to Follow His CallOn February 12, 2015 Becky Payne completed 25 years of extraordinary ministry as a member of the staff at Richmond’s First Baptist Church. During that time she has served as organist, soloist, children’s choir coordinator, accompanist for choirs, ensembles and soloists, advisor for senior adults, handbell choir director and ringer, and organizer and director of the JoySingers and the Youth Girls’ Ensemble. Becky has taken additional responsibility for many mission trips and choir tours and for a long-running Bible class for FBC members who live at Lakewood Manor.

In a recent interview Becky shared about her ministry at FBC.

Leaving First Baptist Church, Jackson, Mississippi, a place where you served happily and successfully for 11 years, was a major step for you, personally and professionally.

Yes, but for me the call of God was to “go.” I saw it not as a “leaving” but a “going.” Believing fully in God’s faithfulness, I found it easy to follow His call.

What are some memories of those early years at First Baptist?

becky-friends_350pxThe surprise of renovation. I had left a church which had just finished a major renovation, then learned that we were to do the same here. The renovation process causes big adjustments for an organist and accompanist. Also, I remember that it took time to balance staff responsibilities, each finding our niche and then finding ways to support each other.

Then there was the surprise of process, finding that the pace of most everything was much slower, especially in church life. In my previous church, things happened quickly and, other than scheduling, without needing the approval of deacons or committees.

Other vivid memories include the illness and subsequent death of our senior pastor’s son. The love and support shown to their family by FBC people told me so much about my new church home. (Dr. James Flamming was pastor from 1983 to 2006. His son Dave died in 1991, a year after Becky’s arrival.)

In your many roles since you arrived, what have been the most meaningful personal and spiritual parts of your ministry?
Worship and relationships. When I am using music to help people feel the presence of God, it is fulfilling. When the people sing “Worthy of Worship” or “Amazing Grace,” for instance, these become holy moments for the church family. But it is not about me—God is using my hands and feet and talents to glorify Him—to point people toward Him.

Personal relationships have been so important, especially walking through difficult times with someone. One of my spiritual gifts is discernment. I can feel the pain and share in the difficult but special process of walking with them.

Tell us some warm memories or “aha” moments.
becky-directing_350pxThere are at least three music moments that are special. One is our congregational singing of “The Lord’s Prayer” after communion. Another is when we sing “Silent Night” on Christmas Eve. Those two moments make me fully aware of what it means to be a part of the body of Christ and the power we share in that relationship.

The third is when the Youth Girls’ Ensemble sang “Blessings.” The phrase “what if the trials of this life are blessings in disguise…” When I selected music for the Ensemble, I looked for text more than melody. As they practiced, they sang the words over and over. For this piece they internalized a great truth: If we let Him, God uses what happens in our lives for good. I was glad to be part of their learning this lesson.

One memorable personal event occurred after I had been here about 10 years. I was driving home from a conference and realized for the first time that I felt I was coming home. This was my place and still is.

How do you feel about your work with seniors?
When I was new to Richmond, I met the Wendy Bunch (a small group of couples who met on Sunday nights after church, first at Wendy’s, then in homes) – the Seldens, the Dixons, the Shearons, the Harringtons, the Lucys, the Elmores, and others. They embraced me with such love and care that I knew I was in the right place.

As my work with seniors grew and became a significant part of my ministry, I found my life enriched on every level. We have studied together, laughed and played together, prayed together, grieved and celebrated together. Our senior adults are the heart of this church. I love them.

You’ve gone on several mission trips. How have they changed you?
beckywithchild_350pxI was a Sunbeam and a GA (Baptist missions organizations for children), and I had a missions-minded mother, so of course I’ve always had a desire to see God’s world and His people. But nothing could have prepared me for what I experienced in Germany and Indonesia.

In Essen, Germany, I learned what it felt like to be considered part of a cult (how many Germans view Baptists). That sense of separation was overcome as I watched a young girl weeping when she sang “Fairest Lord Jesus” in German while some of us sang in English. I realized anew that God is everywhere and that we serve the same God. And I have lasting friendships with members of our host church there.

The two trips to Indonesia were medical missions. It was a life-changing experience to be among people who had lived through a tsunami, who had never seen a doctor or white people. Many of them walked for hours to wait all day, hoping to be treated. Yet there were always more than we could possibly see each day.

Despite that disappointment, blessings abounded. Indonesia is a place where I should have been afraid, but I wasn’t. I witnessed a miracle as our group prayed for a girl who was obviously demon-possessed, and we saw her healed. Also, relationships among team members were deepened. We became more accessible and more important to each other as we recognized a new meaning in being brothers and sisters in Christ.

You are truly ministering to us through your exceptional instrumental and vocal skills. Tell us your feelings about this.
My calling is to teach others about the love of God through Christ Jesus. Music is the means, not the end. My abilities are God’s gift to me and He has been generous. I believe the greatest ability is availability—to be willing to use what God has given me to point others toward Him.

Editor’s note:
Becky’s last day as FBC’s organist will be June 28. She will retire on June 30, 2015.
View a video about Becky produced by Sean Cook and Allen Cumbia.

Allen BrownAllen Brown was Minister of Music in Baptist churches in North Carolina and Virginia, before becoming Director, Department of Church Music, at the Virginia Baptist General Board, from 1962 until his retirement in 1993. He has served the Music Ministry of Richmond’s First Baptist in many ways, including as a member of the search team that brought Becky Payne to FBC. He has been on Partnership Mission trips to Brazil, Germany, Slovakia and India. Allen and his wife, Charlotte, have two sons, four grandchildren, and two great grandchildren.

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Our organist this morning

By Clint Smith. Photo by Dean Hawthorne.

Chris Ward is one of those critical behind-the-scenes people often taken for granted. Neither his profession nor his pastime places him under a spotlight, but should one day pass without his service, nearly everyone would notice his absence.

Chris Ward

During the work week, Chris answers 911 emergency calls as Communications Supervisor and paramedic with the Richmond Ambulance Authority. On Sundays, Chris is often heard before he’s seen, filling in for Becky Payne on the church’s pipe organ. Chris, who recently turned 30, is passionate about his trade, his art and his Lord.

Chris found First Baptist Church in early 2004, shortly after moving to Richmond from his childhood home in Roanoke, Virginia. “From the first Sunday I visited, I knew this was where the Lord wanted me to be,” Chris said. “Everyone was so friendly and welcoming.”

Just months after joining the congregation, meeting Becky, and scheduling weekly practice sessions on the sanctuary organ, an attractive career opportunity arose near Chapel Hill, North Carolina. For more than six years, Chris served as both a field paramedic and a full-time organist at a large Baptist church.

But despite fulfilling two of his greatest passions, Chris was unsettled. “The hardest thing about moving [to North Carolina] was leaving FBC,” said Chris. “After just two years, I really felt that God was pulling me back to Richmond.” After four years of faithful prayer, the Lord provided Chris a chance to come home; in December 2010, he walked down the aisle to rejoin the congregation.

There aren’t many paramedics who moonlight as organists. How does one choose, and much less master, these two disparate professions? By following childhood dreams. “I always thought I would have a career in public safety,” Chris said. Some gentle nudging at an impressionable age took him in that very direction. “In high school, a few friends approached me about joining the local volunteer rescue squad as an EMT. I agreed and enjoyed it immensely.” The Lord took care of the rest: during his senior year of high school, God opened a door for Chris to become a career paramedic.

That same dedication applies to Chris’s musical journey. “I was interested in the organ since the early years of elementary school,” he admitted. Following six years of dedicated piano instruction, Chris began studying organ at age 14. Countless hours of practice took him from apprentice to where he is today.

Chris doesn’t seek attention or require recognition. Occasionally his name appears in fine print in the Sunday order of worship (“Chris Ward is our organist this morning”), but he’d rather see Christ receive the glory for his efforts. “I am grateful for the opportunity I have to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to earth. My job allows me to ‘be Jesus’: to share His love, His grace and His compassion with people in times of distress. Most of the people I encounter I never see again, but I hope that I was able to bring a little bit of Heaven into their world.”

Clint SmithEditor’s note: Chris and Clint grew up across the street from each other in Southwest Roanoke, and were playing together from age two. They were in the same Boy Scout troop and members of the youth group at First Baptist Church, Roanoke. They remain best friends to this day.

Clint and his wife, Sally Ann, are members of the Young Couples class. Sally Ann is an eighth grade English teacher at St. Catherine’s School and a member of the Richmond Christian Leadership Institute’s Class of 2010. Clint is a full-time student at the Mason School of Business at the College of William and Mary and a member of the deacon fellowship. They were married at the church in 2007 and currently live in the Near West End with their daughter, Bellamy. Clint enjoys live music, cooking, traveling, and spending time with his family.

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