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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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