My Church Family
My association with River Road Church began when I was a student at Westhampton College. Mr. Cary, a member of the church, drove over in a bus to pick us up. Mr. Hasty was pastor then and we met in what is now the Fellowship Hall. I remember one Sunday morning when the windows were open and a breeze blew an associate minister’s notes from the pulpit. There was an utter silence in the hall as he left the pulpit and walked down the steps to pick them up. He relieved the tension when he laughed and said that he needed his notes to continue. Even then, River Road was a very special, distinctive church. It was different from the Baptist church in which I had grown up. The ministers wore robes and there was a split pulpit. The music was different, too, but it was all good!
Dr. Richardson succeeded Mr. Hasty as minister and the Sanctuary was built. I remember all too well the Sunday that Dr. Smart went up to the lectern after the sermon and announced that we had lost our “beloved shepherd.” What a sad time that was for our church!
Dr. Slatton followed Dr. Richardson and it was during those years that I became more involved in the church. I was rasing a son and was anxious for him to experience church and its teachings as I had. We attended Sunday mornings and evenings and Wednesday evenings; and after Chester came, we went on mission tours. Margaret and Chester became second parents to David, and Lloyd Jackson dubbed David, Doug Phelps, and Hill Almond “the three musketeers.” What better friends could a mother want for her son than Doug and Hill?
There was the time I was hospitalized and had a terrible reaction to the morphine that I was given. I became paranoid and thought that my nurse was trying to kill me. Who came to reassure me? Chester and Margaret. Who came and spent the night with me? Kitty Davis. Who came in numbers through my room to assume me that I wasn’t alone though family was far away? My Sunday School class. Who called, sent cards, and brought food? My church family.
I offer these personal experiences to underscore the fact that God’s church is a building, yes, but it’s more than that. It’s people of faith who are there for another through good times and bad. It’s a community that cares not only for itself but also for others, showing compassion and love.
We all want our families’ futures to be secure, but River Road’s future needs to be secure, too. Will you include the church in your will, however much it might be? I have.
Written by Beth Wilson
A Continuing Commitment
We were married in the Chapel at River Road 40 years ago on a clear, crisp fall day with Dr. Slatton officiating. We remember this day so clearly. In the years since, much of our personal and spiritual growth has been due to the worship and community we experience here. River Road Church has been a cornerstone of our lives, and in it we have found a place where we can strengthen and deepen our Christian beliefs while also engaging in meaningful dialogue about our questions and doubts. Some of our closest friends are church members, and we would feel a notable void if River Road were not in our lives.
Last month, we traveled to the Southwestern US and visited five national parks. We were grateful to be able to experience the beauty, wonder, and grandeur of these natural environments. One could sense the presence of God in these places, especially out in the stillness of the wilderness away from the trailhead. Our national parks exist because of the foresight, commitment, and sacrifice of those who saw the need to protect for future generations these unique features of our country’s landscape. This legacy is not automatically guaranteed but must be nurtured and maintained.
As with our national parks, the Endowment Fund must continue to be nurtured and funded by and for current and future generations. At River Road, in the 1960’s, church leaders sought to provide for the long-term support of church programs. These leaders and those who followed recognized the need for a fund to make possible programs and initiatives not provided for in the annual budget. Numerous capital improvements, mission trips, and special programs would not have been possible without the Endowment Fund.
Our annual giving to River Road has always headed the list of our contributions. In developing our estate planning documents twenty years ago, we included RRCB in our bequests. As we update our estate plan, our commitment to the Endowment Fund is central to our giving. This is a way we can be a small part of “giving forward” for future generations. Whether you are a young family or of an older generation, please consider including the Endowment Fund in your estate plan. By doing so, you will help to ensure the continuance of River Road as a community of “Thoughtful Faith,” a place of acceptance and welcome.
Written by Steve & Christie Lessels
Giving Out of Gratefulness
The decision to include RRCB in our estate plan was a very easy one for Bonnie and me. There is no institution in our lives which has been more transformative for our family. We were so fortunate to have become members so many years ago. This church has been the cornerstone and influential force in our lives. The clergy and congregation are truly our extended family, celebrating with us our highlights and comforting and providing the necessary support when we experience challenges and loss.
Early on we immersed ourselves into the life of the church. Our family experienced the spiritual growth we had sought through our involvement on church committees, participating in mission trips, and working with others with community outreach efforts. Through these experiences our lives have been positively impacted and we have benefited greatly. It is a joy to be a part of this wonderful spiritual environment with its educational opportunities, the beautiful music, outreach, and sermons which can both inspire and challenge you. Moreover, we are grateful that our children were able to grow up in this church and benefited from the education and mission trips which reinforced. This early childhood education certainly influenced our children as they are active in their respective churches raising families in Christian environment.
As Bonnie and I reflect on our accumulated personal resources, we are well aware that we are blessed. But, we also understand we are merely stewards of these resources. There are great needs in our community and beyond. We have a responsibility and desire to “pay it forward” so that future generations will be afforded these educational and spiritual growth opportunities from which we benefited. It is this desire and for this purpose that we have made a commitment to RRCB pledging a portion of our estate. We encourage all who can to prayerfully consider including this church in your estate plan as well.
Written by Oliver & Bonnie Way
Originally published in the 2017 Winter Quarterly Explorer