Posts Tagged ‘Sunday school’

Story by Erin Cumbia. Photos by Skyler Cumbia.

calloutIt’s a funny thing to grow up. Life moves on and familiar things change around you at an alarming pace. Even time itself seems to speed up.

I grew up at First Baptist Church and spent a great deal of time there in Youth group and other activities. I considered it a second home. Then I left Richmond for college.

Finding a New Place for MyselfIt was an odd feeling to come back after four years to something I had known and loved. With the exception of a fresh coat of paint and a few changes in decorations, the church building is much the same. However, the church itself has changed. Some familiar faces are missing and new ones have taken their place. Though I expected it to stand still in my absence, time in its ever-moving current had reshaped my church family. And I needed to find a new place for myself in its community.

Coming back to First Baptist Church as an adult has been a different experience and in some ways very challenging. I still felt welcomed and at home, but I was no longer one of the Youth. All those I had at one time considered my closest friends were no longer there. Some had moved on to new places and new jobs; others had simply gone in different directions. I found myself basically starting from scratch. To be honest it took me a while to settle in as I tried a couple of Sunday school classes that didn’t quite fit.

Finding a New Place for MyselfThen I found the Young Professionals, a group of young adults who don’t fit into the usual categories of young couples or married with kids. Our current class ranges from recent college graduates to those well established in their careers. The inevitable nature of this sort of class is that it grows and then declines as the members move on to other places in their life journeys. I happened to find the Young Professionals at the beginning of one of these cycles, and it has truly been a blessing to be involved in its life and growth over the past two years.

ss-class-collegeAside from the traditional Sunday morning study, The Young Professionals class has created a platform for its members to get involved in the life of our church. We have participated in service projects and formed a book study group during Lent. We have also spent countless hours together with potluck get-togethers and dinners out. The Young Professionals is a prominent spiritual foundation and support for me and is something I look forward to every week. I consider every one of the members a friend and am so thankful for the time, conversation, and community I have found in them.

I know that time will once again reshape First Baptist Church and the Young Professionals, but I am thankful for my community as it is now and know that it will continue to prepare me for the next part of my life journey.

Erin Cumbia

Erin Cumbia has been a part of First Baptist Church since birth and is a third-generation member. After graduating from Liberty University with a degree in Fashion Merchandising and Interiors she moved back to Richmond. She worked as a bridal consultant at Bella Rosa and is now seeking a new career direction. Erin is also very involved in the Young Professionals Class.


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Story by Jeannie Dortch. Photo by Dean Hawthorne.

Shine down Your light on me
Let the people see
That in Your presence darkness flees
Father of light
Shine down on me
          “Shine Down” by Sandi Patty

December is a time of international missions’ emphasis. In First Baptist’s Chapel, the East Window is a fitting symbol of that emphasis. It reflects centuries of evangelism, missions and Christian education.

In the top circle of the window, Jesus reads from Isaiah 62, revealing that this scripture has been fulfilled in their hearing and that the Lord has sent Him to bring hope to the world.

In the circle below Him, members of FBC’s Female Missionary Society listen to Luther Rice, a Baptist missionary to India and Burma. Their support helped him continue his work and that work, in turn, led to the formation of the Foreign Missionary Society of Virginia.

Chapel east window

The left center shows the 1814 founding of the Goodwill Centers in Richmond. These centers cared for children and provided assistance to the needy. Three centers continue to serve Richmond neighborhoods today.

In the right center children participate in the first Sunday school class in the South, at FBC in 1816. Sunday school was a controversial concept at that time. FBC members disagreed about the idea of launching a Sunday morning Bible study program. The disagreement contributed to a church split and the formation of Richmond’s Second Baptist Church.

In the upper left, Lott Cary, a former slave and member of First Baptist, preaches from the pulpit of Providence Road Baptist Church in Monrovia, Liberia. Having sailed to Africa in 1821, he helped establish this church that continues to thrive today.

The emblem of the Baptist World Alliance is seen in the upper right. This organization began in London in 1902, largely through the efforts Robert H. Pitt, FBC member and editor of the Religious Herald. Dr. Theodore F. Adams, pastor of FBC from 1936-1968, was the first Virginia Baptist to serve as its president (1955-1960).

The lower left depicts Lewis and Henrietta Shuck and Robert and Frances Davenport, who were appointed in 1835. The Shucks were the first Baptist missionaries to China; the Davenports served in Thailand. The Shucks and Robert Davenport were all members of First.

On the lower right is Lottie Moon, after whom the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering (the Southern Baptist Convention offering for international missions) is named. She served as a missionary in China for 39 years and is seen teaching some of the women and girls she loved and served until her death in 1912.

The East Window spotlights a 230-year history of FBC members filling the lives of people all over the world with the Father’s light. That legacy continues in the congregation’s daily commitment to the charge of KOH2RVA. The standard set by those commemorated in the window serves as an apt model for FBC members to shine on!

Copies of the fully illustrated Memorial Windows, written by Theodore F. Adams and The Open Door, the church’s history from 1780-2005, are available for checkout or purchase in the church library.

Jeannie DortchJeannie Dortch joined FBC in 1974 after being lovingly mentored by the members of Buddy Hamilton’s Sunday school class. A grandmother of four, Jeannie has served as a deacon, taught in our children’s, youth, international, and adult Sunday school departments, but is presently a member of the WebClass. A retired teacher, Jeannie enjoys exercising, cooking, reading, ringing bells with FBC’s newly formed senior adult Joy Ringers directed by Ruth Szucs, and writing articles for FTF.

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By Steve Booth. Photos by David Powers.

WebClassOn October 9, 2011, the Communication and Formation ministries of Richmond’s First Baptist Church partnered in beginning an online Bible study class. Facilitated by Dr. Michael Harton, the class is webcast from the First Baptist Church campus via the world-wide web. The class takes place at 9:45 a.m. each Sunday – at the same time hundreds of other adults, teenagers, children, and preschoolers are studying God’s written word.


Initial WebClass facilitator, Dr. Michael Harton.

When a minister in another church heard about WebClass, he voiced the obvious question, “What do you hope to accomplish with this new ministry?”

“To provide those unable to come to the church building an opportunity to engage the Scriptures and grow as disciples,” was the response.

But after further reflection, it also includes providing a safe place for people to receive and ask honest questions emerging from dialogue around a biblical text.

Recently I was interviewed by a young doctoral student who was assessing the value of online theological education. I must admit being cynical regarding its effectiveness when I was first asked to serve as an online instructor. The personal engagement needed between facilitator and students was hard to envision.

What I discovered, however, was unexpected: The online experience created the safe emotional environment necessary for open and honest questions and dialogue. With the guidance of a thoughtful and sensitive facilitator, the student is encouraged to question and reflect theologically on how one moves from awareness of God to belief in Christ to a living faith evidenced in behavior and choices.

WebClassRobert Mulholland says that Christian “spiritual formation is the process of being conformed by God into the image of Christ for the sake of others.” That is the ultimate goal of all Bible study classes, whether online or in a more traditional setting. And just as in more traditional settings, men and women choose to participate in WebClass, taking an intentional step in cooperating with God in their spiritual formation.

Editor’s note: Over the initial three months of the class, each Sunday an average of 20 online participants joined eight who take part on the set. Online participants can contribute to the discussion and ask questions at www.FBCRichmond.org/webcast.

There are many online resources for personal Bible study. Here’s a partial list.









http://netministries.org/bbasics/bbasics.html (includes Bible Pronunciation Guide)





http://www.bible.is/ENGESV (online audio Bible)

Steve Booth (Booth@FBCRichmond.org) serves as Associate Pastor for Christian Formation at Richmond’s First Baptist Church. Before joining the pastoral staff of First Baptist in 2002, he served the Bon Air Baptist Church, Huguenot Road Baptist Church and the Richmond Baptist Association. He also serves as an adjunctive faculty member for Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond. He is a native Mississippian with family roots in North Carolina. He received the B.S. degree from Campbell University in Buies Creek, NC, the Master of Divinity degree from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY and the Doctor of Ministry degree from Andover Newton Theological School in Boston, MA. He and his wife, Barbara, are the parents of three children.

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