Posts Tagged ‘story’


Philip Delano and Erin Cumbia.

By Jeannie Dortch.

In many ways, the summer of 2010 in Ružomberok, Slovakia reads like a fairy tale for college students Philip Delano, a senior at William and Mary, and Erin Cumbia, a sophomore at Liberty University. 

Like Hansel and Gretel, Philip and Erin tentatively left home, uncertain of what to expect from their eight weeks abroad or of their competence to meet the challenges that would lie ahead. They clung to their trust in the Lord and His promises to guide them, tucking flexibility into a side pocket for extra measure.

Erin lived with Pastor Egor Conka and his wife in a flat above the Ružomberok Baptist Church, while Philip roomed with and shadowed 29-year-old Graham Leeder, a British missionary from New Castle. As they traveled to different areas of Slovakia to conduct English camps for seven to 15 year olds, Erin taught crafts and vocabulary lessons. Philip played American football and Frisbee with the students, but he also developed action packed English lessons for the daily Bible themes studied at camp: Accepted, Protected, Saved, Forgiven, and Living.

Both agreed that learning English was the vehicle used to pique the interest of the youths, but the Christian impact was made through building strong relationships and friendships with their colleagues and with the children whom they mentored.

The breadcrumbs that Hansel and Gretel dropped to mark their trail back home were quickly devoured by the woodland birds, but the breadcrumbs of Jesus’ love that Erin and Philip dropped nourished the many children they encountered. Even now, many of Erin and Philip’s protégés have followed their trail through the heart of Eastern Europe all the way back to Richmond via Facebook and email.

Erin and Philip noticed that Slovakians have less disposable income than Americans do, fewer distractions, and less need to rush from here to there. This lifestyle assured them of more time for conversation and real bonding – “slow down” being the take home message for both of these dedicated interns. “The whole experience gave me a clear perspective on what really matters,” commented Philip. Erin added, “Rather than just going to church, these people lived church in their everyday lives.”

When asked what advice they would give to would-be missionaries, Philip continued, “It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you are willing to allow God to use you. Showing Christ’s love through actions is the key.”

Erin followed up by saying, “Taking an interest in the people by learning about their culture and traditions and immersing yourself in their everyday lives shows that you care for them.”

Philip and Erin (fourth and fifth from left) with Slovakian friends.

Hansel and Gretel returned home with pearls and precious stones in their pockets, saving their family from poverty. Erin and Philip became rich with pockets full of experiences that led to new friendships in Christ, others to nurture, memories to last a lifetime, and a willingness to be used again and again for the glory of God. A storybook ending with happily ever afters all around!

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By Robert Dilday. Photos by Win Grant.

Worship at Richmond’s First Baptist Church is multifaceted, transforming, grounded in Scripture and deeply sensitive to God’s presence – in a word, liturgical. Some Christians are skittish of the word because liturgy, for them, connotes sterility, anachronism, an inability to transform. That’s because, in part, they associate it so closely with the distant Christian past. Yet, this ancient method of encountering God is uniquely suited to pointing to God’s presence in a postmodern world.

Liturgy, says worship writer Mark Galli, lives out a story in a story-deprived world. Western culture has lost its story. The narrative which modernity gave us – that human life is progress, that science and technology will resolve all difficulties – has been shattered by a century of world wars and economic collapses, holocausts and genocides, pandemics and terrorist attacks. In contrast, liturgy reenacts a profound narrative. It’s a story – The Story, actually – that begins with God’s creative act and the choosing of a people. Through them the Creator was revealed to the world – by the gathering of a nation and the insights of that nation’s prophets, and, ultimately in the supreme revelation, by Jesus Christ.

But the story continues among generations of believers – including us – who have discovered broken lives healed by the God revealed in Jesus, and who look hopefully to the time when all creation will be redeemed.

Worshippers pray during Sunday morning worship services.

When we welcome others to worship, we welcome them, not just to a service at the corner of Monument and the Boulevard, but into a drama that is epic – and one which will transform them.

How does liturgy reenact the story through worship at FBC?
By embodying worship in four “acts.” The call to worship and opening hymn gather us as God’s people, a preview of the ultimate gathering of all believers from all eras to praise God. We hear the Word through Scripture and through preaching drawn from it. We symbolize Christ’s sacrifice by taking the bread and cup in Communion. And we respond and are sent out to engage in God’s great gathering mission.

By engaging Scripture. If the Bible is, as we proclaim, God’s word, then immersion in it will be lifechanging. Each Sunday, wide swaths of it are read – from the Old Testament, from the Epistles, from the Gospels. Generations of believers have crafted a reading schedule – the lectionary – which reminds us of our story, evoking gratitude for God’s mighty works in the past and promises for the future. That’s why a robust “Thanks be to God” is the appropriate response to the reader’s reminder that what has been heard is “The Word of the Lord.”

By participating in the prayers and praises of past generations. We pray the Psalms in the call to worship. We sing the Doxology in gratitude for God’s blessings. We recite (and, once a month, sing) the Lord’s own prayer.

Jim Somerville baptizes Will Wright.

By symbolic reenactments.
Baptism represents both God’s initiative in offering love and relationship, and the response we make to that great gift. In Communion we are reminded of Jesus’ blood and broken body, and experience His presence in a remarkable and mysterious way.

By living the Christian year. The Christian year isn’t a medieval timekeeping device superseded by the atomic clock. It’s a deeply spiritual – and profoundly counter-cultural – reenacting of the life of Christ as a way of ordering one’s own life. FBC begins the church year by reflecting on the mystery of God’s incarnation at Advent, celebrates Christ’s revelation to the world at Christmas and Epiphany, journeys with Him to the cross in Lent, rejoices in resurrection and a Spirit-filled life at Easter and Pentecost, and proclaims the signs of the Kingdom during the days that follow, until Advent renews the cycle.

In the end, liturgy reminds us of the one great character in our story – God – and anchors the focus there. “ ‘I come to seek God because I need Him,’ may be an adequate formula for prayer,” said the devotional writer Evelyn Underhill. “ ‘I come to adore his splendor and fling myself and all that I have at his feet,’ is the only possible formula for worship.”

Robert Dilday (robert.dilday@gmail.com), a member of FBC since 1986, is a deacon and member of the Church Choir and One Accord, and led the church’s former contemplative and contemporary worship services. He has two sons – Harrison, 22, an engineer in the U.S. Navy based in San Diego; and Andrew, 19, a sophomore theatre major at Baylor University. Robert is Associate Editor of the Religious Herald, the biweekly newsjournal of the Baptist General Association of Virginia. He enjoys running, reading and music, and sings in a local jazz band.

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