My tenure as the fifth pastor of River Road Church, Baptist concludes on Sunday, November 22. What happens next?
When the staff gathers, probably on the morning of November 23rd, Dr. Dan Bagby will sit at the head of the table. Dan has been designated as head of staff and daily operations during the interim. The proverbial buck will stop at his desk and in his capable hands. This is not his first rodeo. Dan also will be our preacher during Advent.
A second, familiar face around the table will be the Rev. Chester Phelps. Chester has been employed as Minister of Visitation during the interim. He will bring to the mix his knowledge of our congregation. For 15 hours each week Chester will visit hospitals, retirement communities, homebound members and will be available for weddings, funerals and other pastoral duties.
Beginning in January an Interim Preacher, Dr. Herbert O. Browning, will enter the pulpit each Sunday. Bert retired in 2013 following 18 productive years as pastor of Huguenot Road Baptist Church in our city. For a decade prior to that he was pastor of Culpeper Baptist Church. Bert grew up in Ettrick, graduated from William and Mary and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and earned a Doctor of Ministry degree from Union Theological Seminary (Presbyterian) in Richmond. He has served as President of the Baptist General Association of Virginia and currently chairs the Board of Trustees at Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond. His wife, Rose, is a retired school teacher in Chesterfield County Schools. They have three daughters and three grandchildren.
Bert brings excellence to the River Road pulpit. His sermons are thoughtfully prepared, beautifully illustrated, pastorally sensitive and skillfully delivered. He and Rose are winsome people who combine devotion to the Gospel with a progressive, generous spirit. You will come to love them and eagerly await Bert’s weekly messages.
The remainder of the staff will serve in their customary places as the interim moves forward through December and into the new year.
This interim staffing model, as our Constitution and By-Laws specify, was recommended in a timely manner by an ad hoc committee of deacons chaired by Susan Phillips. They worked hard and deserve our congregation’s thanks.
General oversight of the church when the church has no pastor belongs to the Executive Council. The Council is composed of the chairs of our four major boards: Administration, Deacons, Missions and Christian Education and Spiritual Formation. Also on the Council are the chair of the Finance Committee and one non-voting representative from the church staff. The current make-up of the Council is Gladys Fleming (Deacons), Laura Thorne (Administration), Bob Shoemake (Missions), Will Thorne (Christian Education and Spiritual Formation), Bill Stanton (Finance) and Dan Bagby (staff). In January the Executive Council will retain Stanton, Bagby and Shoemake, and will add new chairs Martha Day Dumas (Administration), Charlie Early (Deacons) and Martha Lou Green (Christian Education and Spiritual Formation). Again, the church is in good hands with these friends in positions of leadership.
And what’s next for me? I’ll figure it out as I go along.