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Posts Tagged ‘worship’

Photos by Paul Bickford, Susan Brown, Janet Chase, Win Grant and Jess Ward.

Worship is what we’re here for. In worship we acknowledge Who’s in charge and who isn’t, what’s important and what can wait. We give thanks and we praise and we intercede. We sing of God’s glory and blessings. We read the stories of God’s saving presence. We tie up the loose ends of last week and prepare for the next. In worship we seek our truest selves. Worship is the center of our lives, whether in a cathedral or a country church, under a tree – or in a gymnasium.

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While we’re worshipping in the Gym, here’s what’s been happening in the Sanctuary.

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By Billy Davis. Photos by Sharon McCauley.

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Puppet team at RIR

We have all heard the old adage, “If at first you don’t succeed – try and try and try again!” This certainly was true for those of us on the Richmond Baptist Association (RBA) team who started a ministry among the thousands of raceway fans coming to Richmond International Raceway (RIR) for the two big spring and fall NASCAR weekends.

We first focused on a Sunday morning worship service. Seeking approval to begin such an outreach effort, we received a “Yes,” but when the NASCAR Daytona executives changed the RIR venue from Sunday to Saturday night, our ministry was no longer needed.

Opportunities did not close to us, however. Motor Racing Outreach of Charlotte, NC, which provided worship, counseling and a children’s ministry for NASCAR drivers and crew member families on Saturdays, invited the RBA team to join them in their work at the Richmond track.

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Ministry volunteers at RIR

Early in 2000, Dover and Middle District Associations joined RBA’s team in a broad-based ministry effort at RIR. Then the RIR was purchased by the International Speedway Corporation (ISC). The new ISC president and many of his staff are Christians who knew the value of a raceway ministry. These two changes began a significant time in the development of the ministry now known as Central Virginia Raceway Ministries (CVRM).

CVRM provides chaplains for each race weekend at RIR. These chaplains minister to families in many situations, including when injuries and deaths occur. Our volunteers, both lay persons and clergy, work in four-hour shifts. In addition to counseling, they distribute between two and four thousand pieces of Christian literature, Bibles, driver picture cards, and hospitality packets each weekend. The Virginia Baptist Disaster Relief Unit joins us in handing out cookies, lemonade and cups of water to fans. The Puppet Ministry from FBC has entertained children with their message of God’s love.

Raceway weekends bring to Richmond enough fans to make up a city as large as the fifth or sixth largest in our state. They come with all the needs of any city this size. One fan, a recent Christian, asked if he could hang out with us each day. He said, “I’m a former alcoholic. If I go back to be with the guys and gals I’ve come with, I could fall off the wagon.”

We believe there is a need for the ministry among the 100,000 plus fans coming to RIR for each race weekend. As Dean Kurtz, Executive Officer for Guest Services, ISC Daytona, said, “Everything under the sun is found at a race track and the steeple ought to be also!!”


ICON-billy-davisBilly Davis served as the RBA Consultant for church programs, strategic planning, partnership missions, and deacon, youth and senior adult ministries. Since retiring, he has followed his great passion for Raceway Ministries at RIR where he has served as a chaplain and volunteer coordinator since 2000. Billy and his wife, Linda, have two children, Barry and Susan, and three grandchildren.

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By Sally Ann Smith. Photos by Paul Bickford.

Callout-tv-crewAs worship fills the sanctuary each Sunday, there is a discreet and dedicated team of volunteers capturing the joy and message of Sunday morning and delivering it to the living rooms, hospital beds, hotel rooms, and prison cells of those who cannot physically attend First Baptist.

Since November of 1986, FBC’s TV Crew Ministry has extended God’s love beyond the church walls. As David Powers, Associate Pastor of Communication, notes, the response has been overwhelming: “Every week we hear from someone who says, in effect, ‘Thank you for being a lifeline for me – providing a way to worship right where I am.’ Heaven comes a little closer to earth every Sunday morning at 11 am as those folks gather in front of their TV or computer to worship with us.”

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Camera operator’s view of WebClass

The FBC TV Crew is a team of about thirty who are devoted to this ministry’s success. Generally, each volunteer works about half the weeks of a two-month schedule, but there are many who are geared up and excited to serve almost every week.

MediaTeam4Amy Kane was drawn to this ministry because, “It is a ministry of faith, and it allows me to serve without my ‘self’ getting in the way.” Amy reiterates that often it is the team’s prayer to remain “transparent” as they do their work during the worship service. “I think this does happen, because when I meet new people at church, they sometimes say that I look familiar, but they can’t place me.”

While the team works hard to stay invisible as they perform their jobs, they are responsible for making our Church’s message and mission the most visible.

MediaTeam5In recent years, the ministry has extended ways to broadcast the Sunday service beyond just television. Now, the service is also streamed over the Internet and shared via podcasts, allowing members and seekers to access and participate in FBC’s service from literally any part of the world.

Janet Chase, who has served on the crew for over a decade, notes, “I regularly hear kudos from family who ‘attend’ FBC on TV when they can’t get to their own church. My in-laws even tune in online when they are weathered-out of their local services in far Southwest Virginia.”

MediaTeamWhile away on vacation, members like John and Shirley Seibert still start Sunday with their church family on their iPad.

In October 2011, the Ministry launched a WebClass Bible study. It is streamed live from a studio on the second floor of the FBC building Sunday mornings at 10:00. Shelia Dixon, who manages the questions and comments that come via email during the WebClass, shares that what she loves most about this ministry is getting to know the hearts of the people our church wouldn’t be able to connect with otherwise: a teen with cerebral palsy, a physically ailing woman in Tulsa, and many local seekers. They are “very inquisitive with tons of questions,” she says, and because of our Church’s use of technology and willing volunteers like Shelia and her husband, Charlie, these people can interact and continue a spiritual dialogue within the class from their homes.

MediaTeam2Many long-distance attendees never have the opportunity to come inside FBC’s real walls. But for others this technology provides a future member’s first introduction to First Baptist – a safe, loving and worshipful setting in their homes transitions into their home church.

TV Crew members: Bill Bandy, Chuck Batteau, Kevin Beale, Paul Bickford, Matthew Brown, Keith Carroll, Janet and Mark Chase, Susie Coomer, Elise and Skyler Cumbia, Charlie and Sheila Dixon, Win Grant, Rick Henshaw, Bill Hodge, Amy Kane, James Kyle, Bob Linkous, Jim Mairs, Scott Medina, Mark and Trevor Norton, Benjamin Oliver, Jack and John Pettigrew, Dwight Ross, David Storey, Brenda Street, John and Richard Ward, Ollie Wells, Stephen West, Tom Wright.

To get involved in this powerful and vital ministry, contact David Powers at 358-5458, ext. 117. A current need is for volunteers to serve as stage managers, camera operators, and crew members for the WebClass. As with most of God’s work, the only experience needed is a willing heart; the team will provide plenty of training.


Sally Ann Smith Sally Ann teaches 8th grade English at St. Catherine’s School. She serves on the Ministry Consultation Committee for Hanna Zhu, contributes devotionals to Appointment with God, and is an active member of the young couples class with her husband, Clint. Sally Ann and Clint reside in the Near West End and are proud parents of their daughter, Bellamy, who will be two in February, and are excitedly expecting a son at the end of January.

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Photos by Bev Alexander, Win Grant, Lowrey Holthaus and Linda Moore.

Memories treasured,

Advent candle-lighting

Advent baptism

Advent worship

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Advent worship

Hanging of the Green

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Hanging of the Green

Hanging of the Green

Hanging of the Green

Hanging of the Green

Hanging of the Green

Memories being made,

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Gingerbread churches

Gingerbread churches

FLO Christmas tea

FLO Christmas tea

FLO Christmas tea

God’s promise kept,

65th annual youth Christmas pageant

65th annual youth Christmas pageant

65th annual youth Christmas pageant

65th annual youth Christmas pageant

65th annual youth Christmas pageant

65th annual youth Christmas pageant

and God’s promise to come.

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve

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Christmas Eve

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By Richard Szucs. Photos by Win Grant.

A new hymnal is coming to Richmond’s First Baptist Church. Celebrating Grace Hymnal is the result of a collaborative initiative by more than 50 Baptist leaders – pastors, church musicians, composers, scholars, and laity – from the United States and Canada.

The Creative Worship Team (see Editor’s note) works with Phil Mitchell, Minister of Worship, to examine FBC’s worship services and identify changes to make them more meaningful and effective. That process led the Team to search for a new hymnal that would include traditional hymns and gospel songs, as well as some of the hymns, gospel songs and praise songs written since our present hymnal was published.

Allen Brown expressed it well: “Some of you who have had about as many birthdays as I have will remember the hymnal we were using in the 1950s. It was The New Baptist Hymnal, published in 1926. Then a Baptist hymnal with many new songs was published in 1956, and we purchased that one. Nineteen years later, in 1975, the next one was purchased. Then, sixteen years later, in 1991 we secured the Baptist Hymnal we are now using, and it has served us well. Now it is 20 years later. Worship styles and patterns have changed and many new hymns and songs have been written since 1991. A new hymnal will make these available for us to use.”

The Team studied a number of hymnals and unanimously selected Celebrating Grace: A Hymnal for Baptist Worship, released in 2010. They were impressed with its editors’ high standards for music, texts and support materials. Each hymn and song was selected both for its musical contributions and its theological soundness. Interspersed throughout the hymnal are scriptures, responsive readings and litanies that draw from God’s Word and offer opportunities for response from God’s people.

Phil Mitchell summarized the feelings of the Worship Team when he said, “The hymnal is a good fit for our congregation because its core contents are at home in a church that worships in traditional worship expressions. It contains some new, more contemporary hymns/songs as well as new, traditional tunes and texts. It is steeped in doctrine that is thoroughly Baptist and uses fresh and imaginative ways to say what we believe. It provides a number of new ways to express our praise and thanks to God in worship.”

All hymnals will be bought strictly through individual donations; no funds will come from the church budget. Donations in any amount are welcome. An individual or group may purchase one or more hymnals in honor or memory of someone for a donation of $15. A hymnal plate will be placed in the front of the hymnal recognizing the donor and the individual who is being honored or memorialized. Donor cards and envelopes are on the kiosks. For information contact Phil Mitchell or any member of the Creative Worship Team, or visit www.celebrating-grace.com.

Editor’s note: Members of the Creative Worship Team are Richard Szucs, chairperson, Barbara Booth, Allen Brown, David Carter, Janet Hauser, Lindsey McClintock, Jim Norvelle, Becky Payne, Martha Pugh, and Ruth Szucs.


Richard SzucsRichard Szucs is a radiologist with Commonwealth Radiology and Chairman of Radiology at St. Mary’s Hospital. He and his wife, Ruth, met at First Baptist Church. Their daughter, Alexandra, will attend Bridgewater College in the fall and their son, Matthew, will enter the tenth grade at Midlothian High School. Richard is a deacon, teaches 11th grade Sunday school, and sings in the church choir and One Accord. He serves as leader of the Creative Worship Team.

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By Lindsey McClintock. Photo by Anthony M. Nesossis.

It can be difficult to worship and work in the same place. That’s the challenge many ministers face.

Megan Lowe

Megan Lowe found herself in the midst of this conundrum when she accepted a staff position at FBC as Children’s Ministry Assistant, working specifically as the Children’s Worship and Child Care coordinator.

Megan was dedicated as a baby (as Megan Sterrett) at FBC. From birth to college FBC was like a second home to Megan, a place of comfort, relief from life’s stresses, and a sacred place. Lynn Turner was her youth minister and the most influential minister impacting her life and development as a Christian. Lynn, she said, was always welcoming and friendly but also one to “call you out when you were out of line,” making her a role model in expressing the love of God and the expectations of discipleship. Megan felt that FBC was her church home and was always glad to come, be it for corporate worship or youth ministry.

While attending VCU, Megan became very involved with the Intervarsity ministries and found a wonderful peer group of fellow Christian university students. On Sundays this group would attend church together, exploring different churches around Richmond. It was in this group that Megan met Brandon Lowe, later to become her husband. FBC was still her home church but her engagement with the congregation was different than she had experienced as a child or youth.

Accepting a position on staff further changed that relationship. In the first year of her employment Megan saw FBC as both her place of worship and work which seemed fine, although she rarely got the chance to worship with Brandon. “I kept thinking we could worship together as a couple during the summers when I did not have children’s worship obligations but those opportunities were few and far between.” After a year of trying, Megan and Brandon decided they needed to find a different place of worship.

Being employed by FBC and having such close ties from growing up in the church brought a lot of anxiety, guilt and fear of judgment in transferring her membership to another congregation. The timing was also very unfortunate as she and Brandon found another church and withdrew her membership at the height of the membership/baptism conversation which, she emphasized, had nothing to do with their decision. Megan was pleasantly surprised in receiving great amounts of support and understanding from FBC members in reaction to her decision, which made her even more proud of FBC.

“It was a huge relief and joy to be able to worship as a couple again in total freedom. Working at the church I spent a lot of time preparing Bible studies and leading children’s worship, however, I had not realized how this had become an intellectual exercise of preparation and not one of the heart feeding me spiritually,” she recounted. It was not until she found herself worshiping next to Brandon at City Church of Richmond (whose worship services are Sunday afternoons) that she realized how much this had been missing in her life. While Megan loves her work at First Baptist Church and values the faith community which raised her, transferring her membership to a new congregation proved an important step for her continued faith development.

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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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