Posts Tagged ‘pastoral resident’

By Justin Pierson

“What exactly is a pastoral resident?”

I’ve been asked this question often in the months since I began as pastoral resident in August 2020 at Richmond’s First Baptist Church. The idea of a residency in a church setting is a bit of a new concept and for someone unfamiliar with the need for preparation before going into full-time ministry, it may seem like a waste of two years. But when you look closely at the position of a pastoral resident, you will find it to be particularly beneficial, both to the resident as well as to the congregation.           

For Christian ministry, you must have practical experience. Just as reading about driving a car won’t make you a good driver, knowing about ministry is far different than actually working in ministry. Seminary does a good job of giving future ministers the knowledge they need, but practical experience is still necessary to put that knowledge to use. Some ministers choose to start serving in a senior or associate position immediately after graduation. While that is a great option for some, I want to attain as much training and experience as I can before taking on such an important role with larger risks and responsibilities. 

This is why I was attracted to the residency position at FBC and in the short time I’ve been in the position I’ve already performed a funeral, trained for marriage counseling, preached, planned worship, led a youth small group, facilitated the young adult ministry, learned about church communication and digital media, and brainstormed about creative ministries. But I haven’t done it alone. I have received staff supervision, feedback and guidance in each of my experiences. My first six months in this position have given me years of ministerial experience in a very short time.

Learning as I Go
I enjoy most aspects of ministry, but there are certain areas that are more attractive to me than others. Some of these are knowledgeable faith, cultural engagement and acts of justice. These areas are what I hope to pursue during my residency.

Though I have greatly benefited from my time as resident, I don’t want to focus only on my personal development; I want the church to benefit from my service here. I believe that my personal interests intersect with the specific needs of FBC, which is a main reason I feel called to this residency.     

While our church offers so many great opportunities, I hope to challenge us to think about ways to improve our existing ministries and think about the future of our congregation. It is my goal to introduce new ways of participating in the life of a church, to help us think about our place in the greater Richmond community, and to help us become more welcoming to young adults, youth, and those unfamiliar with a faith community. It can be easy for congregations to simply go through the motions, but I hope to encourage our congregation to take risks, try new things, and to be creative in our understanding of church community.    

It can be easy for a resident to end up working alone, but I think it is crucial to work alongside the congregation in doing the work of God’s kingdom. So, will you walk alongside me as we live into God’s calling? Let us work together to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, Virginia through our existing ministries, as well as ones we haven’t thought of yet, being willing to take risks and to boldly serve where God is calling us.

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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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By Sandy Shelton

The score was tied!

Ten seconds left on the clock!

Now, the field goal attempt from the 50-yard line…?
…the final question of Patrick Ian Jackson’s interview for the Pastoral Resident position at First Baptist Church, Richmond, Virginia!

The Question: “And what if our committee decides upon someone else, Patrick?”

Without hesitation, Patrick replied, “Then, this is not the place to which God is calling me.”

Up! Over! Through the center of the goal posts! Game decision point! No further questions from me.

Our search committee was already impressed with Patrick’s outstanding resume indicating his superior educational and career experiences; undeniably qualified and possessing a wealth of gifts and treasures. Yet, I was even more impressed as Patrick told the committee how God had moved in his life to call him to ministry. During all of Patrick’s successful educational and career experiences there had emerged this tugging—and not letting go—by God on the hem of Patrick’s garments.

Patrick JacksonOver the years it seemed that God had been giving Patrick unique ingredients needed for the servant He was calling Patrick to be. But was First Baptist the place where God wanted Patrick to continue his preparation? Surely with the richness of our staff academically and professionally, FBC was more than capable of enhancing growth in all the areas, and more, listed in the Pastoral Resident’s job description.

However, being a relatively new member to FBC at that time I hadn’t fully come to realize the gentle power and strength that sets apart and elevates our church staff to a level all its own. I hadn’t realized this unmatchable gift and treasure they had to offer Patrick: our staff’s deep devoutness, sincerity and love for our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. It is rare to find such depth, and height and width of the love of God by an entire ministerial staff. From what a magnificent base to gather and nurture one being called into God’s service.

After accepting our invitation, Patrick told me that he and His wife, Yvette, fervently prayed, “that God would prepare the hearts and minds of the people at Richmond’s FBC to receive us and that God would prepare us to receive them.” How little did they know that that work had already been accomplished?

It was into this family of God that Patrick and Yvette Jackson came some two years ago.

Under the tutelage of Associate Pastor of Christian Formation, Steve Booth, Patrick hit the ground running. Soon after they arrived, I found myself in an adult Sunday school class in which Steve and Patrick taught as a team, and in which I took many notes.

Shortly after, we as a congregation began experiencing Patrick’s powerful voice from the pulpit as he so effectively read the Scriptures. Next, came his strong, compassionate, current and relevant prayers. Then his contribution to the bass section of the choir. AND his sermons!

Simultaneously, new healthy leadership skills, as Patrick says, were becoming his “by osmosis; watching Jim (Dr. Somerville) and others navigate issues of worship planning and execution…keeping prayer as a foundational strategy,” especially during COVID-19.

Patrick was also gleaning strength and support from the Resident Support Team, a team of FBC members who pray for and encourage each resident, and his meetings with Steve Booth. From these times Patrick feels Steve became more than a supervisor; Steve became a friend.

Especially enriching for Patrick was his participation in the Services of Prayer and Healing; likewise, being able to officiate at funeral services and being with the family members and giving them hope in Christ.

FBC staff and church members were also getting to know and appreciate Patrick.

Candi Brown, Minister to Children, shares that she found Patrick to be “approachable, relatable, sincere, caring, a good listener, smart and with a good sense of humor” in addition to “his passion and love for Christ and his genuine desire to minister to others.” Candi appreciates lunch conversations, office chats, laughter shared and prayers spoken that have nurtured their friendship.

Bessie Taliaferro remembers Patrick’s support as she struggled with a seminary topic. Not only did Patrick supply her with reference material, but he also provided a play list of gospel songs that he listened to during trying times. On Bessie’s graduation day, Patrick and Yvette were there.

Deborah Hocutt cherishes an unforgettable moment with Patrick. He stood in the pulpit one Sunday just about to give his sermon. Needing some personal words of comfort that day Deborah says, “Patrick looked directly at me, stared a few seconds, then smiled as if all things were going to be fine…. I cried through his sermon from that moment…. A moment so incredibly genuine, just like Patrick’s heart.”

The Fred James Family says they “really love Patrick and Yvette.” They “loved sitting behind Patrick while Yvette preached one Sunday. He was so vocal in his encouragement…yet stoic at the same time.” “He speaks with authority and conviction, and I see Jesus through him,” Julie says.

Emerson Shelton admires Patrick’s groundedness in the faith, his good presentation and his amenability. How thankful Emerson is that Patrick’s and Yvette’s prayer for the preparedness and reception of our and their hearts and minds was resoundingly answered.

Yes, I have no doubt that First Baptist Church, Richmond, Virginia was where God was calling Patrick Ian Jackson to serve. Through the many pastoral opportunities offered Patrick was nurtured and he flourished. Yet I believe the greatest treasure was not on an achievement list. That treasure was our living out together what the love of God looks like in a holy and healthy body of Christ. What an example to forever hold in our hearts and minds and to never lose sight of as Patrick and Yvette leave and we remain! What a moment to realize that truly,

“…the greatest of these is love.”

Sandy SheltonSandy Shelton and husband, Emerson, joined FBC in 2016. A retired Christian Educator, Sandy enjoys being a part of FBC’s Adult Formation Committee, Joy Singers and Church Choir. Sandy’s retirement days with Emerson, playing in her string trio with dear friends and wonderful moments with grand kids are among her cherished blessings from God.

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By Steve Booth


Richmond’s First Baptist Church is excited to welcome our new pastoral resident, Patrick Jackson. Patrick, a native of Tennessee, came from a home where church was a large part of his growing up environment. After high school, he had the opportunity to attend Harvard University, where he received the Bachelor of Arts degree. From there, Patrick moved to Washington, D.C., to work on Capitol Hill as a Legislative Assistant to a couple of members of Congress. In 1998 he enrolled in the University of Wisconsin Law School where he studied law and received a Juris Doctor degree. After law school he practiced law in Columbus, Ohio, and became active in a local church. Though his professional life was extremely hectic, his love for the church grew and he became a devoted member of the music ministry. It was in that church-going environment that he began to sense a call for something more, “a still small voice” that manifested in some deep theological musings with friends. These musings caused many of Patrick’s friends to tease him and suggest that he consider going into the ministry, yet Patrick didn’t give it much thought at the time.

Yvette & Patrick JacksonAfter several years as an attorney in Columbus, Ohio, he returned to Washington, D.C., to work as a legislative assistant to U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown. While in Washington, Patrick married the former Yvette Hensley. As he and Yvette began attending church regularly, he found himself thinking more and more about his friends’ playful suggestion regarding vocational ministry. Patrick served as a faithful member of the praise and worship team, began leading a small group Bible study, and studied the Bible more intensely. It was through these experiences that God continued to prepare his heart for vocational ministry. Eventually Patrick was led to apply to the Spiritual Mentoring Program led by U.S. Senate Chaplain Barry Black. Patrick recounts, “One day after the regular weekly Bible study, Chaplain Black asked me if I ever thought about going to seminary.” Patrick’s response was, “I honestly said ‘no,’ but the question stirred something in me, something I believe had been percolating for some time.”

Returning to Columbus in 2011, Patrick and Yvette joined Patrick’s home church, where Patrick once again poured himself into the church’s music ministry. He remembers, “It felt different. I began to sense God’s tug on my heart for preaching and pastoring get stronger. I felt it so strongly that after much prayer and seeking wise counsel, I accepted God’s call, applied to seminary and matriculated at Andover Newton Theological School in August 2013.”

Patrick JacksonReflecting on his new position as pastoral resident at FBC Patrick explained, “One of the things I learned early on when I sensed God’s call to ministry was that it was a call to prepare. Although God has blessed me with a number of opportunities to gain valuable hands-on ministry experience, I know that I have a lot to learn. FBC is a tremendous place to learn, grow and fulfill this call to prepare.” He added that along with growing as a preacher and teacher at FBC, he wants to learn more about what it means to have a heart for the people of God. Both Patrick and Yvette are “excited to get to know our new church family.” We welcome Patrick and his family into our fellowship and are confident that God will bless us as we journey together over the next two years.

Editor’s note:
FBC began the pastoral residency program in the fall of 2010 when Lindsey McClintock accepted the call to serve at Richmond’s First Baptist Church. Lindsey was followed by Hanna Zhu (2012-14), Nick Deere (2014-16), and Brett Holmes (2016-18). Our church family has been blessed by the contributions of these outstanding women and men. Our pastoral residency program stems from a desire to foster lasting, healthy leadership in new ministers while enriching and strengthening congregational life. The primary purpose of the residency program is to provide an opportunity for the next generation of vocational ministers to integrate theological education with the practice of ministry.

Our pastoral resident selection committee included Debbie Boykin, Sandy Shelton, Erin Cumbia, Rob Brown, Jim Somerville, Lynn Turner and Steve Booth.

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Story by Brett Holmes, Pastoral Resident, 2016-2018. Photos by Susan Brown and Janet Chase.

One of my favorite movies from last year was Lady Bird, a coming-of-age comedy starring Saoirse Ronan as Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (although one would be forgiven for assuming it is a biopic about the former First Lady). The film follows Lady Bird through her senior year at a Catholic high school in Sacramento, California and is a hilarious, heart-breaking and beautiful picture of teenage life in the early 2000s.

The story invites us into her world. Part of that world is her experiences as a senior in high school, particularly the anxiety of applying to colleges. Lady Bird desires to attend a college on the East Coast because it will allow her to get out of the staunch, soul-sucking Sacramento that she’s called home her entire life.

In one scene late in the movie, Lady Bird is meeting with the Vice Principal, Sister Sarah, to discuss an earlier incident, but the scene turns when Sister Sarah tells Lady Bird that she read her college essay.

Sister Sarah looks at Lady Bird and tells her she can see in her writing that she clearly loves Sacramento. Confused, Lady Bird asks, “I do?” Sister Sarah says, “Well, you write about Sacramento so affectionately and with such care,” to which Lady Bird deflects by saying, “I was just describing it.” Sister Sarah responds, “It comes across as love.” Lady Bird comments, “Sure, I guess I pay attention.” And, it’s here that Sister Sarah begins to home in on her message: “Don’t you think maybe they are the same thing? Love and attention?”

Love and attention. Perhaps these are two sides of the same coin. When I first saw this scene, I wanted to rewind it—I wanted to listen carefully to those words from Sister Sarah all over again: “Don’t you think maybe they are the same thing? Love and attention?” Those words played in my head like a broken record for weeks after seeing the movie.

As my time at Richmond’s First Baptist Church draws to a close, I am reminded of these words. I am reminded that love and attention are so closely related that they might just be the same thing. During my time in Richmond I have been shown a lot of love and a lot of attention, but more than that I have been taught what it means to pay close attention to the lives of God’s people.

Throughout my (almost) two years as the Pastoral Resident, I have been invited into homes, hospital rooms, Sunday school rooms, but most importantly into relationships with countless loving people who call First Baptist their church home. I have had the opportunity to teach, preach, pray, cry, celebrate, and eat meals with so many wonderful people.

Love and Attention

During these last two years I have grown into a pastor because the people of First Baptist granted me the space to learn. I remember the first time I stood in the pulpit to preach and looked out at a congregation eager to give this young pastor a good ear. I remember being asked to lead retreats and getting the opportunity to invite people into the strange and beautiful mystery that is prayer. I remember going with the Lambs class to the annual Virginia Baptist Special Needs Retreat at Eagle Eyrie and how, for the one weekend in October, I was given a glimpse into their genuine love for God. I remember the overwhelming impossibility of remembering everyone’s name and having to accept that my most repeated phrase of my first year was, “I’m sorry, please remind me your name.” Yet, in spite of that you each welcomed me, loved me, and generously helped me along.

Ministry can be a daunting task. I recall early on during my time here talking with a member of the Young Professionals Sunday school class and thinking, “Why do these people trust me to answer life’s most difficult questions? What can I say that can be worth anything?” Slowly, though, that anxiety left because I began to realize (and see) that my job is not to have the answers, but to sit with the questions—to wrestle, to be present, to pay attention.

This is perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned about ministry. I want to have all the answers and I want to fix problems. Yet, as Henri Nouwen said, “Ministry means the ongoing attempt to put one’s own search for God, with all the moments of pain and joy, despair and hope, at the disposal of those who want to join this search but do not know how.” What I’ve learned about ministry at First Baptist is to pay attention to the lives of everyone around me and to pay attention to what God is doing because “Don’t you think maybe they are the same thing? Love and attention?”

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Story by Jeannie Dortch. Photos by Jeannie Dortch and Sean Cook.

Author Alexandre Dumas immortalized three heroic musketeers who served their French king with unflagging devotion and courage. Currently First Baptist Church members are encountering three young men, all working in service to their King, the Lord Jesus. Unlike the musketeers, however, they work under different staff members and in unrelated capacities.

In Service to Our King

Brett Holmes, Scott Biggers and Justin Pierson

Justin Pierson, 24, is from Roanoke and a first-year student at Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond. As second cousin to Steve Blanchard’s wife, Susan, Justin lived with the Blanchards when first in Richmond. This led to conversations about part-time work in FBC’s Compassion Ministry. While earning his MDiv degree at BTSR, he spends 18 hours a week as a Compassion Assistant, reporting only to Steve. Operation Christmas Child and CARITAS have been two responsibilities, along with attendance at Grace Fellowship and weekly participation in FBC’s Community Missions. Justin has been impressed with how well volunteers in the Compassion Ministry interact with people in need in the community: “When they perceive a need, they brainstorm to determine how to reach out to help in the best way possible.” Justin’s call to ministry is strong, and he feels fortunate to be able to work in such a large church with so many opportunities for growth.

Scott Biggers, 25, from Harrisburg, NC, is in his 3rd year at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond. After much soul searching and study of the differences in Presbyterian and Baptist theology, Scott discerned that he longed to live out his call as a Baptist pastor. That is how he made his way to FBC; he joined in October 2015 and was baptized in January 2016. Last summer, Scott fulfilled an internship as a chaplain at MCV, and this year he is serving as an intern to Jim Somerville, whom Scott will shadow until June 2017. He also has secured a part-time preaching position at a church in Keysville, VA. Scott remarked about his experience at FBC: “Because so much ministry and mission is done at this church, I am beginning to see and know what I like best. In this way, my internship is helping me shape my pastoral identity. My impression so far has been that everybody who comes here wants to be here. They love their church. “A common question I hear is ‘What will the church look like in the future?’ To me, FBC is a good example of what church should be (like in the future).”

In Service to Our King

Brett Holmes, 29 and a Mississippi native, is a graduate of Truett Theological Seminary at Baylor University in Waco, TX. As FBC’s current pastoral resident, he is being mentored and supervised by Steve Booth until the summer 2018. While working as a bank teller after college, Brett volunteered at a local Baptist church, working with youth and college groups. Encouraged by the experience, he enrolled in a hybrid program at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary that allowed him to work, take online classes, and attend in person once a month. Brett’s desire, however, was to attend seminary full time. Learning that Truett offered a student loan program, Brett visited, applied, was accepted, quit his job, and moved to Waco. While there he evolved from wanting to teach and talk about theology in a university setting to wanting to teach, preach and discuss theology within a church setting. The shift came when he recognized that inside church is where theology happens, and theology had become Brett’s passion. One of his friends at Truett, Nick Deere (former pastoral resident), encouraged Brett to apply to FBC for their two-year residency program.

As FBC’s new pastoral resident, Brett is a paid employee on FBC’s staff for two years. Brett’s first year is spent working in each ministry area with each staff minister learning how to do ministry applicable to that area. In his second year, he will focus on what comes after his residency while maintaining an active presence within the congregation and in worship.

Brett shared, “What most impresses me is how healthy the staff is. In a church this large, it is rare to avoid conflict and yet, here, everyone works well together. It is good to see a model of what a healthy staff can be. That bleeds down into the congregation, providing safety and a place to feel comfortable.”

The motto of the three musketeers was, “All for one and one for all!” Though Justin, Scott and Brett do not hold the same position, their motives reflect the same purpose—to glorify God and bring honor to Him in their joint service to God’s people at FBC.

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Story by Nick Deere. Photos by Allen Cumbia and Allison Maxwell. Video by Sean Cook.

Goodbyes are never a fun part of life, and saying goodbye to a church full of people I care so much about is especially tough. As I approach the last month of my residency, I feel like I am nearing the end of a good book that I don’t want to finish.

calloutI moved to Richmond two years ago – less than a week after I graduated from seminary. The church and even the city were very much a mystery to me, but gradually I began getting the hang of how the church worked. And even though it took me three months to figure out that there was a third floor, I learned my way around.

Quickly this church became a home to me. The staff took every opportunity to teach and mentor me. And the people of this church have treated me like family. Over my time here I have shared meals, attended Christmas parties, received gifts, and joined in many great conversations. This congregation has shown me more love than I ever could have asked for and for that I am deeply thankful.

Goodbyes are never fun.This church has also  been a place that has nurtured me in my ministry. I was given the opportunity to serve and learn. I got to go to Eagle Eyrie with the Lambs class, speak at the Youth Bonfire, preach in church, take part in hospital visits and so many other parts of ministry.

FBC has not only taken me in as a member, but also let me be a minister, and for that I will always be grateful. The ability to be a minister but still be in a position to learn is the great strength of the residency program. It provides a launching point. I can see it in just how much I have grown over the past two years. While I still have a lot to learn, I will leave much more experienced and confident than when I came. In fact, one of the few things that helps me be able to leave First is knowing that I am making way for someone else to experience this great program.

Goodbyes are never fun.When I was ordained in May, I had a moment of looking out over the sanctuary at all the faces of people who had prayed and cared for me. This service blew me away and will always hold a special place in my heart. But that moment does not stand alone; it came at the end of almost two years of prayer, encouragement and trust. My gratitude for this time is so great that all I can do is say thank you. Thank you for letting me serve this church, and thank you for all you have done. I will carry the memories, lessons and friendships I have found at First Baptist long into my ministry.

Watch related video, “Nick Deere.”
“Read related story, “Taught by the staff and congregation.

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Story by Nick Deere. Photo by Dean Hawthorne.

calloutI joined the staff at Richmond’s First Baptist Church as a pastoral resident in August 2014. Being fresh out of seminary, this is my first position at a church beyond an internship. In many ways it is the beginning of my ministry journey. In fact I have had a lot of new beginnings here: I have come to a new city where I have been making new friends. I also have been learning new things about ministry, from preaching to teaching, sending emails to learning how to work a staff calendar – all important skills.

Nick DeereA friend who had just started a job as an aerospace engineer commented to me that it took him six months before he felt like he was actually helping. He explained that even with his high level of education he still had a lot to learn. He had all the tools, but applying them to the actual everyday work of his job took time. Much like engineering, or a whole host of other professions, pastoral work takes time to learn. My time in seminary gave me a good set of tools and knowledge, but when it comes to actually doing pastoral work, some practical experience helps greatly, which is what so excited me about FBC’s pastoral residency program.

Often ministers in my position have to learn on the job with little outside help. The pastoral residency program allows me to be a minster on staff and at the same time provides me a helpful level of supervision to learn about my new role.

The important part about my learning process is that I am not only being taught by the staff but also by the congregation here at First Baptist. This congregation has already been so welcoming – thank you so much for that. I also want to thank you in advance for your patience. In reality all ministers make mistakes, but I will probably make more than my fair share.

When I was growing up and playing sports, my dad used to tell me that if I would be attentive, I could learn more from a loss than a win. I am sure some of the reason for this advice was due to my lack of athletic abilities, but I think there is truth in that statement outside the world of sports. The residency program is structured to be a place that allows for mistakes and sets up a path to learn and grow from them. I hope my time here will have a good deal of successes too, but I am thankful for the grace you have shown in allowing me a place to develop into ministry.

At this point in my journey, I am not sure where my road of ministry will lead. I am discerning the exact shape my call will take. This time of discernment can be confusing, but so far it has been a great time of learning new things about myself, my faith, and the church. I am really excited to be at First Baptist Richmond. I appreciate all your prayers on my behalf, and also, I enjoy conversations and meeting new people. So please, if you haven’t yet, come up to me in FBC’s halls and let me thank you in person for welcoming me into this church.

Read related Baptist News Global story about trending pastoral residencies.

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Story by Hanna Zhu. Photos by Susan Brown.

On a Sunday in September 2008 I visited Richmond’s First Baptist Church (FBC) with a fellow seminarian (from Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond) who kindly took me to church. I had just moved from Beijing and was without a car. What a blessing that this would not only be the church that I now call home, but also the place that offered me an internship and a post-graduate residency.

Callout-zhuBLOGFrom July 2012 to June 2014 FBC provided a space for me to learn about ministry in a congregational setting. It was not classroom learning anymore. It was now real life happenings. From paying hospital visits and leading retreats, to spearheading a task force and preaching a Sunday sermon, every opportunity led to a deeper understanding of who I am, who Christ is, and what doing church is all about.

Hanna ZhuAnd I learned that I love doing church. I love doing church because the people at FBC taught me that doing church is first of all being the church. Doing church can be mechanical, but being the church has to be organic. You can’t be church if you are not breathing together, laughing together, mourning together, and rejoicing over joys of doing ministry together. The church is a body, as Paul illustrates in 1 Corinthians 12. Not just an ordinary body, but the body of Christ. People at FBC gave me a glimpse of the vitality of that body.

Hanna ZhuWhen I look back on my experiences as an intern and a resident at FBC, my heart is full of gratitude. There are no other words that can describe it. What a blessing FBC has been to me. So many people have touched my life and made it better.

With gratitude to my supervisor Steve Booth, Jim Somerville, other ministers and staff, and many, many precious congregants and lay leaders. You have offered tremendous hospitality by welcoming me – a stranger from a foreign land – to make my home among you. And better yet, you have blessed my calling as a woman minister and selflessly invested in me. Thank you.

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