Our Legacy of Child Care
As Christian people, we believe that God is the giver and sustainer of life. We believe the Church is called to be an instrument of God’s grace in the world and, therefore, we trust that God provides the resources that are needed for us to fulfill that purpose. Every single resource at our disposal is a resource that God has provided to equip us in God’s mission in the world. Some of these resources are monetary while others are made of brick and mortar. Some of these gifts are physically tangible while others exists inside unique believers, moving parts that collectively work together in the body of Christ. Then, of course, there are the resources God provides through relationship, through partnership, outside of the church. In the mystery of God grace, we are given exactly what we need to fulfill our purpose. We are embracers of a Gospel that challenges the perception of scarcity through our trust in a God that gives in abundance.
Through the gift and work of remembrance, our local congregation celebrates our origin story as a faith community. 140 years ago, our small little community of faith was created for the specific purpose of providing guidance and mentorship to underserved children in this neighborhood. All of those years ago, the children lived in small little farm houses, many of them separated by vast fields and groves of willow oak trees. As city boundaries expanded, paved streets and new houses were built atop the rural fields and over the roots of willow oak trees. While the context changed, the mission of the little mission church at Grove and Meadow remained. We have always felt called to walk alongside children and their families. It’s in our DNA and always will be.
As we now find ourselves 15+ months into the Covid-19 pandemic of 2020-2021, we have become increasingly aware of the growing disparity that exists for children and families in our city. The weight of the pandemic has expanded the educational gap and it will take the entire community to help close that gap in the years ahead. While we certainly don’t pretend to grasp the complexity of the problem, we DO understand that we are called to part of the solution.
Present Moment: Has God Brought us an Opportunity?
Join us as we think through the possibilities in partnering with Cindy Hutchinson and ExCELL. This potential partnership is just one of the many ways we might use our physical space to continue the ministry to children that’s such a part of our history, our DNA, and our passion. ExCELL is currently looking for a new location for their offices and storage and we’ve been contacted by Tabernacle native Cindy Hutchinson and asked to consider a request for space and partnership.
UPDATE: Click link below to listen to the audio recording of our May 31 Q&A Meeting
Please revisit this Q&A section frequently as we will be updating it with responses to questions we’re hearing from the congregation.
Who is Cindy Hutchinson?
Cindy was born, raised, baptized, and married right here at Tabernacle! Her calling to children’s ministry and education led her to open the Child Care Center that continues at Tabernacle today. Her legacy remains with us, even after she moved on to work in preschool ministry and then later to work at ExCELL, an organization focused on childhood literacy.
What is ExCell? What do they do? Why does their work matter?
ExCELL brings together families, communities, and early childhood educators to ensure that children receive enriched and coordinated learning opportunities to support the development of the early language and literacy skills that are predictive of reading success.
Established in 2008, ExCELL continues to grow and provide its programming throughout the state of Virginia to promote high-quality early childhood experiences. The ExCELL program has provided training and support to hundreds of classrooms, teachers/educators, and administrators, as well as thousands of families and children.
What is the request?
ExCELL is moving from their current office space in July of 2021 and looking for a more permanent space from which to work. They are interested primarily in office space for leadership and storage space for their literacy materials. The request we are considering is for office and storage space in our building, as well as the potential for a deeper partnership that connects our various ministries to the work that ExCELL does in literacy.
Do we think that God might be opening a door with this request?
We’ve heard countless times over the last year that we as a church need to figure out how to use our building in different ways. We’ve heard in from one another and in the Communal Journal and, we believe, from God. This opportunity presents itself at a time when we’re taking stock and asking questions about who God is calling us to be. When we look back on our history, we see work with children and families as part of our identity and calling.
Can volunteers get involved with their program?
Absolutely! It’s our hope that partnering with Tabernacle Baptist Church comes to mean not only using our building but being part of our community. ExCell has volunteer opportunities for a wide variety of skills, from preparing materials to working directly with children.
What makes this request for space different from other requestS in the past?
We would enter this relationship with hopeful intent of relationship-building in the neighborhood. In turn, the partnership would be used as a potential model in what it might look like to be more deliberate in our partnering with local organizations like the Richmond Concert Band. We also see an opportunity for this partnership to yield crossover benefits with existing ministries in our church, such as the Child Care Center Ministry, and Community Ministry.
CAN EXCELL HELP OFFSET THE ADDITIONAL EXPENSES RELATED TO ADDITIONAL USE OF THE FACILITIES AND UTILITIES?
Absolutely. Peggy Strong and Bonnie Bailey, our Facilities Use Committee members have been working closely with ExCELL on this. They would contribute a minimum of $500 month with the possibility of a larger financial contribution as grants are submitted.
Where would their offices be?
Most likely in some of the rooms on the third floor of our Education building. Our partners at ExCELL would also need storage space for paper resources they distribute at events in the community. We’ll talk more about these specifics at the May 30 Q&A Meeting.
What Does a covenant partnership mean?
Each year the Richmond Concert Band collects old musical instruments from the community and places them into the hands of public school students with a desire to learn but without the financial resources to purchase/rent instruments. Tabernacle knows about this and we celebrate it….BUT….we’ve never been part of it. Covenanting through partnership would suggest that each unique entity that calls Tabernacle’s building home would covenant to support this endeavor through active participation and relationship building.
For years now Tabernacle Baptist Church’s Community Ministry has been blessed by the Richmond Concert Band’s donation of thousands of donated pounds and or financial contributions. The gift is presented at the annual Christmas in the Fan Concert. These resources are immediately used to support families experiencing food insecurity. Covenanting through partnership could bring the remainder of the circle together (TCCC + ExCELL) to coordinate, re-frame, and lean into relationship building with one another and also members of our community.
The potential is limitless. Covenanting through partnership breaks the pattern of our sharing space with outside organization and leans into God’s gift in relationship building. It’s the story of fishes and loaves.
It’s parents from the child care center, the band’s clarinet section, parents that
have been served by ExCELL…..coming together to cook and serve breakfast on Saturday mornings in Community Ministry. It’s a child care center teacher, a flute player, librarian, and/or youth group members showing up on Saturday during food distribution…..helping to carry grocery bags and walking beside neighbors from our front door step to the steps of their home 5 blocks away. It’s an invitation to Church members, our Child Care Center Ministry Family, and Richmond Concert Band members to meet up at a local library to help setup and later take down the tables and chairs needed for today’s ExCell event. Its providing the use of church buses to drive neighbors to the Richmond Concert Band’s new concert. It’s an invitation for the whole circle to drive up Camp Alkulana for a work day. It’s a monthly version of the annual fan feast.
All of the organizations with a mailing address at the corner of Grove and Meadow are simply being asked to seek out ways we can be of mutual support to one another. When it makes sense to come together, we do so. When it doesn’t make sense, for logistical or any other reasons, we don’t. Stepping into a more deliberate relationship from the onset with ExCELL allows us to take the model we’ve been using in the sharing of space with non-TBC entities and building on it. If those folks can join the amazing ministry taking place in Community Ministry…..everyone wins. If we can join the amazing work community partners are doing, without needing to slap a TBC label on it, everyone wins.
Partnership simply means, striving to help others thrive, being good stewards of the space we’ve been given, and leaning into God’s gift of neighborliness.