There are few things I love to participate in more than baby dedications. The primary responsibility for the care of a child rests upon his/her parents’ shoulders. Parents and extended family, on the day they bring a child before us for dedication, are asked if they will embrace their responsibilities with joy and peace. We ask them if they will give thanks to God daily for the love the child brings into their home. We encourage them to make a verbal commitment, in front of the entire church family, to earnestly strive to spend adequate time with their child, developing in the child a strong foundation for life and an awareness of God’s abiding presence.  Parents, will you do these these things? Will you raise your child in faith?

Modeling Christ-like love can not be done alone. It requires the help of others. For this reason, the dedication ceremony continues as the parents turn to face the congregation. We, the child’s church family, are also asked to make a commitment to nurture and disciple. Church, do you promise to walk beside this precious child on her journey? And as she grows, will you earnestly strive to spend adequate time with her, developing in her a strong foundation for life and an awareness of God’s abiding presence? Will you help this child to discover and grow into the person God has called her to be? It is nothing short of sacred to look a child in the eyes and make a promise of this magnitude.

One hundred and twenty-seven years ago, a small little church school was planted in the middle of a grove of trees in the quiet countryside of Richmond, Virginia. The premise was quite simple and the motive was God-inspired. We should, by the grace of God, plant our roots amidst the trees, invite children to live into faith beside us, and see what grows. Our forbearers responded to the question, “Will you…..?”, with enthusiasm and all of these years later we are still blooming where we were first planted. The roots have grown deeper and the branches now span the globe. The pages of this annual book of reports offers a glimpse of how our generation has responded to the same question that was first asked all of those years ago.

The chapter entitled “2013” will tell the story of a group of disciples embracing a culture of call with integrity. The chapter will inform and inspire future generations as it testifies to a group of believers joyfully living out their covenant to Christ with faithfulness. 2013 was a very good year in the life of the church. Some of the highlights include:

  • A cover story was written in Style Weekly about the transformation taking place at the corner of Grove and Meadow. Brothers and sisters from opposite corners of the world have found themselves making a home together.


  • The congregation successfully raised over $20,000 to send a mission team to Malaysia. Samuel UC Lian’s testimony was shared, by way of video, with thousands of youth from around the world at the Baptist World Youth Congress.


  • Rev. Joseph Perdue and Rev. Arthur Wright were ordained into vocational ministry. Both of these gifted young biblical scholars have done, and will continue to do, great things in service to Christ. We were blessed to bring the Church-at-large together to validate their unique callings.


  • Tabernacle was selected as one of only eighty-seven congregations in the United States to receive the National Clergy Renewal Grant for the upcoming church year.


  • Our church family made a significant shift from the Revised Common Lectionary to the Narrative Lectionary in 2013. The change enabled the congregation to take biblical study in some wonderful new directions and has served as a catalyst for a more cohesive approach to spiritual formation.


  • Relationships went deeper and we grew closer together in 2013. Small Group Ministry continued to thrive as more adults are now engaged in Bible Study in the evenings than on Sunday mornings. That said, our Sunday morning program received the blessing of renewed energy and growth over the last year as well.  The Wednesday evening program, for all ages, was stronger in 2013 than it has been in well over 30+ years. Spiritual formation is at the heart of our unique identity as a congregation. The momentum has been embraced and points to a bright future.


  • Strong leadership has emerged from among our Burmese born congregants and we find ourselves witnessing the beginnings of something new. Last December, we hosted the first annual “Joy to the World” celebration. Each of the unique ethnic groups in the church came together to lead a five hour celebration featuring food, fellowship, worship, dance, and gift exchange. It was an amazing day! We started a monthly orientation program with each of the ethnic groups taking turns teaching the american-born members about their unique culture and heritage. Tabernacle also welcomed Khan Naw onto the church staff for the 2013-2014 school year. This exceptionally gifted burmese-born leader is inevitably the first of many seminary and/or doctoral students to serve in an equipping role at Tabernacle.  We are embracing the blessing of our diversity and God is blessing us through it.


  • The deliberateness of our practice of ordinations, baptisms, and baby dedications was evident as we placed these ceremonies in prominent moments in worship and in remembrance of these major faith events on the other side.


  • The church said goodbye to Rev. Cecil Gholston, our beloved Pastor Emeritus. Cecil will be remembered by future generations as one of the every-day saints that helped bring health to Tabernacle again. His quiet and humble service to the church was Christ-like in every way and his presence is missed beyond measure.


  • 2013 will be remembered as an especially creative season in the life of the church.  Lego Sunday School, a program that will be continued into future years, was introduced during the summer of ‘13.  It is also the year we decorated the sanctuary with cinderblocks and tea lights and hung paintings of the “Stations of the Cross” in the balcony of the Sanctuary. Future generations will look back at the photos with smiles on their faces.


  •  The podcast ministry has been active for years now. However, 2013 will be remembered as the year it grew into maturity.  The addition of webcasting during the worship hour enhanced our understanding that the branches of Tabernacle truly span the globe. It has been wonderful to hear from so many family members actively participating in study and worship through the gift of technology.


  • A wealth of energy and time has been spent in the last twelve months preparing for the beginnings of the renovation of the physical plant. Not much of a description will be shared in this report as most of the effort will surface in the year ahead. That said, I believe we will look back to 2013 as the beginning of the shift. The restructuring of the way we organize and mobilize is already happening. Now, it is time to adapt our physical space to facilitate the ministry vision God has given us for the future.


  •  The church staff thrived in 2013. I am indebted to each of you for the use of your God-given gifts, committed service, and friendship.  The entire congregation thanks each of you for your ministry among us and also to the mentors that have guided our student-staff members in their leadership development.


  • Lastly, I am indebted to my Laura, Wade, Brynne, and Cole.  Your love and support has been nothing short of amazing. Your grace surprises me daily and your energy keeps me on my toes. Wade, your baptism is a day I will never forget. Your mother and I are so proud of each of you.


These highlights offer only a small overview of the extraordinary things God did in the life of our church over the course of these last twelve months. Indeed, we are blooming where we were first planted.  The next chapter has yet to be written but, looking backwards, we have every reason to believe that God has great plans for our future. We, like every generation that has come before us, have responded to the question of willingness with faithful action.

These are good days. Thank you for your willingness to lead by example.

Yours in Christ, 

Rev. Sterling W. Severns, Pastor


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