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Posts Tagged ‘years of ministry’

By Robert Thompson

Life is a constant state of beginnings and endings, alphas and omegas, firsts and lasts. After forty-one years of active ministry, Steve Booth is writing a new chapter in his life as he prepares to retire. Seventeen of those years have been with Richmond’s First Baptist Church as Minister of Christian Formation.

Steve and I have been friends for almost forty years. We met when we were pastors on the Northern Neck of Virginia. He was pastor of the Fairfields Baptist Church, and I was serving the Corrottoman Baptist Church. There is a lot of history, lots of stories (some to be told, others not). I trust him with everything. This interview was to be face-to-face. We started with good intentions, but COVID-19 had other plans. We have interviewed through email. Now, imagine the two of us are talking face-to-face:

Robert: Steve, tell us about some of your beginnings, your family and education.

Steve: I was born in Brookhaven, Mississippi, the son of seminary trained ministers. I was one of three children, with a sister, Beth, and a brother, Mark. After high school, I attended Campbell University in Buie’s Creek, North Carolina, graduating in 1976. As I began my studies at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, I thought I would move into the hospital chaplaincy program. But as I sought clarification of my call, the pastoral residency program drew me, and I moved forward with my call to congregational ministry. The Highland Baptist Church in Louisville licensed and ordained me in June 1979.

Robert: We are interested in the influences upon your life and your areas of service. Share some of those ministry opportunities.

As a young adult discerning my call to ministry, I found reassurance in the writings of Thomas Merton. He was a powerful influence. Merton’s writings assured me that calling was not about picking the right door but trusting God’s acceptance of my desire to seek his will with all my heart.

This freed me to try on a number of different ministry hats. My vocational ministry journey has included serving as a youth minister, pastoral resident, pastor, associate pastor, Christian educator, denominational consultant and pastoral supervisor. Much of my ministry has been in Christian education, and I have had the privilege of serving the Huguenot Road Church, the Ardmore Church in Winston Salem, North Carolina, the Richmond Baptist Association, the Bon Air Church and FBC.

Walking through each open door, trusting God’s leadership for each step, embracing a variety of ministry callings has provided not only much joy, but also an expansive view of congregational contexts and the unique challenges that ministers face and navigate daily.

Booth photos

Robert: Share with us some of the highlights of your ministry.

Steve: I have been immeasurably blessed to serve eight different congregations and one local association. Each of the ministry contexts stretched and grew me as a minister. I left each with a deep gratitude for the people I served and the grace and love I experienced.

My first position following ordination was as a pastoral resident at Orange Baptist Church. The experience was profoundly helpful and formative in my early ministry years. As an aside, one of my greatest joys has been to pay forward that experience by helping begin, shape and guide FBC’s pastoral residency program. The five residents that I have been privileged to work with—Lindsey McClintock, Hanna Zhu, Nick Deere, Brett Holmes and Patrick Jackson—have served FBC with distinction and commitment. I’m grateful to call them colleagues and friends.

In 1990 I was invited to be part of the Baptist General Association of Virginia’s Young Leader Program under the direction of Dr. Bob Dale. It was during this course of study that I was introduced to Bowen Family Systems Theory. The Theory has been a profoundly helpful compass for navigating my personal and professional life. I’m convinced that “systems thinking” has been the single most helpful resource in helping me survive and thrive as a congregational minister.

Serving on the adjunct faculty at three theological seminaries in the disciplines of supervised ministry and Christian Education Formation has provided me an opportunity to guide, support and encourage young ministers as they prepare for ministry.

One-on-one conversations utilizing my gifts in pastoral supervision, spiritual direction, discipleship coaching, pastoral counseling, and coaching have been sacred and treasured gifts and opportunities.

Serving with some of the most gifted ministers and support staff on the planet (particularly at FBC) has been a gift. They are colleagues but, more importantly, my friends.

One final highlight, although emerging out of the darkest time in my life, was the unconditional love and support I received from FBC during a personal life crisis. Through the ministry of our Divorce Recovery ministry and the support of ministerial colleagues and loving fellow church members, I began a season of healing. A few years later, a new era in my personal life began when I met and fell in love with Martha, or Marti. I am forever indebted to FBC for loving me through those dark days and allowing me to continue as one of their pastoral ministers.

Robert: What have you learned over these past forty years?

Steve: That is an interesting question. I suppose my first lesson is to realize that my life has been a constant state of letting go of my need to control and letting God be in control.

Related to allowing God to be in control is learning to trust God’s will for my life. Again, Thomas Merton speaks to me through his book, Thoughts in Solitude,

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.”

Perhaps the greatest lesson I have learned is letting God love me and in turn help me love others in appropriate ways and words.

Robert: What brings you joy?

Steve: There are so many joys in my life but let me share eight:

  1. Accompanying young ministers as a mentor and coach in their early days of ministry
  2. Facilitating Bible study and small group experiences. Creating spaces for people to reflect on their spiritual journey
  3. Helping couples prepare for marriage
  4. Serving with ministry colleagues (leaders and support staff) who are also very good friends
  5. Being a part of the Shalom-Darnell Bible study class
  6. Enjoying time with my Northern Neck minister-brothers and their wives
  7. Marti and our six children and 12 grandchildren
  8. And Marti! Marti! Marti!

Robert: Would you do it over again?

Steve: Absolutely! A few bumps I might negotiate differently, but no regrets! Thanks be to God!

Robert: Steve, thank you for sharing some of your life with us. You are loved for who you are and for the gifts God has given you to share. We will miss you. God bless you.

 


Editor’s note: A retirement reception to recognize our love for Steve and his contributions to the ministry at FBC will be held at a later date when we can gather safely.

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