Posts Tagged ‘worship arts’


Story compiled by Nancy Mairs

Phil MitchellPhil Mitchell, Associate Pastor of Christian Worship at Richmond’s First Baptist Church, is not only an accomplished musician and choir director, but also a published author and composer of many handbell, choral and congregational hymns. He has blessed our church through music since 2001, and along the way found time to earn a Doctor of Ministry degree from Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond. His ministry to us has been rich, so perhaps the best way to know and understand Phil better is by reading some heart-felt sentiments from those who know him best and have served with him during his time at First Baptist.1

Becky Payne, retired Associate Minister of Music/Organist

“Imagine what God can do with hands that are open, with hearts made new…”
Those lyrics were written by my friend and co-worker, Phil Mitchell, and, we have seen “what God can do…” through Phil’s life. He is an unusually gifted musician, choral director, soloist, instrumentalist, composer, and most importantly, a true minister.

Phil’s wonderful combination of skills has brought meaningful and beautiful music to the life and worship of our church through the years. He has done this by using his skills and training while giving opportunities and encouragement to our youth and adults to share their musical gifts.

I have been privileged to serve with many music ministers, but Phil is the most easy-going and gentle-natured of them all. Musicians are often labeled as “temperamental”—not Phil. I believe this is because he genuinely cares about people—those with whom he serves and those he leads in the music ministry. He has discovered the secret to fulfilling his calling; he blends his giftedness and caring to create a true sense of community and family among those he leads.

We continue to be blessed by his leadership, his music and his servant-heart.

Kathy Thompson, choir member

I have had the privilege of being a member of the adult choir for several years. Every week Phil chooses music that enhances our worship and brings us a little closer to God. Phil’s gifts and talents create an atmosphere of learning and fun, and gives us the opportunity to work together to make music. His knowledge, understanding, and creativity motivate us to better lead our congregation in worship. Phil inspires, teaches, encourages, entertains, loves us and always leads us to become a better choir. Most importantly, Phil makes worship a priority and through his example, our worship becomes more meaningful. Phil Mitchell is a gift to FBC.

Steve Booth, Associate Pastor, Christian Formation

Phil and I first met when I joined the pastoral staff of Ardmore Baptist Church in Winston Salem, North Carolina in 1990. Phil was serving as the Minister of Music and was already a highly regarded member of the Ardmore staff. He was loved by the congregation, especially those involved in the music ministry. In only a few years, Phil had raised the bar musically and was regarded as one of the most effective pastoral ministers on staff. When I was exploring a call to join our FBC staff, I contacted Phil, who had been here for a little over a year. He reassured and encouraged me to come and be part of one of the most gifted and caring pastoral staffs he had ever experienced. I’ve been thankful for his good words then, and inspired and challenged by his wisdom and uncanny insight into pastoral ministry ever since. I’m grateful to call him colleague and friend. And, on the more playful side of his personality, I’ll never forget his love for the characters of the Andy Griffith Show. If you haven’t heard Phil’s impression of Barney or Gomer, you are missing out on the fun!

Devra Powers, choir member

Phil Mitchell wears many hats. Not only is he our “choir director,” he is minister of music, worship planner/leader, composer, teacher, encourager, and spiritual leader. One important part of his ministry is his spiritual leadership. He is a student of the Revised Common Lectionary which is used to guide the theme of our worship services. Phil doesn’t just read the week’s scripture but uses the lectionary in his personal devotional time. He works to incorporate hymns and anthems related to the Lectionary readings into our weekly worship service, and collaborates with other leaders to give order and meaning to each worship service. The way the music, readings, and other elements come together around a central theme in the worship service is not accidental. It is the result of prayer and careful planning. Anthems are selected and rehearsed many weeks prior to the service. Phil challenges us as choir members to expand our skills. He reminds us to not just learn the music, but to really hear and understand the words and meaning of what we sing. And, he encourages us to sing those words with clarity so that they will minister to those who are listening. During choir practices, he shares his heart with thoughts about life and his views of music ministry. Each rehearsal ends with an encouraging word, prayer concerns, and then he leads us in closing prayer. He shared with me that two of his favorite hymns are Amazing Grace and O God Beyond All Praising. No surprise when you also know that one of his life scriptures is from Psalm 121, “I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of Heaven and earth.”

So with hands that are open and a heart willing to be made new, our friend and associate, Phil Mitchell, has shown us what God can do, and continues to do through those who love him and are called according to His purposes.

choir rehearsal

1 Phil Mitchell’s daughter, Erin Thomas, contributed a love letter about her dad, Just My Dad, which is too lengthy to include with the other sentiments in this article. Since Erin’s reflections on her dad are too good not to share, you can access them by clicking on the link above.

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