Look Who’s Blogging!

It’s Ralph Starling, Minister of Christian Invitation at Richmond’s First Baptist Church.  He’s just started a blog called, “Ralph’s Adventures…Blogging about Life, Hope, and Adventure.”  I hope you will take a look and leave a comment.

I remember the conversation I had with Ralph two years ago, shortly after I had come to Richmond.  We sat in a booth at Arianna’s (one of his favorite places) and talked about his future.  He seemed tired, worn out from being in the same role for 18 years and wondering if it might not be time for a change.  He talked about his love for people, especially people who are broken and hurting, those who have a hard time fitting in at church, those who come from other countries and cultures.  He sighed and said he had been thinking about going to China to teach English and that’s when I said, “Ralph, what if you were our Minister of Diversity?  What if it were your job to look for every person who has been pushed to the margins of society and bring them to the center of the church?”  His face lit up.  “I could do that 24/7!” he said.

So, even though Ralph is not technically our “Minister of Diversity,” in his role as Minister of Christian Invitation he has brought a lot of diversity into the church.  He’s been heading up the Divorce Recovery Workshop for nearly twenty years now, and through that ministry hundreds of broken and hurting people have been loved into the life of our congregation.  He was in charge of our ministry to singles from the time he arrived in Richmond, and again and again he has made a place at First Baptist for people who might otherwise feel awkward around so many couples and families.  In the two years that I’ve been here, Ralph has come through the door almost daily with someone you would never expect to see in a Baptist church, most recently with a few dozen Bhutanese refugees (see the picture on his blog).

Ralph seems to love the people Jesus loves, and he seems to reach out to the kind of people Jesus reached out to again and again—the ones who needed it most.  He’s not perfect.  He doesn’t always show up for staff meeting.  But when he’s not there he is probably with someone who needs him even more than we do, and so we try to be understanding.  “That’s Ralph!” we say, smiling.  Out there loving the people Jesus loves:

24/7.

5 thoughts on “Look Who’s Blogging!

  1. Thank you, Jim, for recognizing that special quality in
    Ralph. He is not only a friend to “others” but to all
    he meets.

  2. I have liked and respected Ralph since he arrived at First Baptist. He has been a great blessing to the church. When I have seen him on TV, in First Baptist segments, I have also felt that he would be a great TV personality, too! Had we lived in the time of Jesus’s earthly visitation, I am sure that Ralph would have been among the Apostles!

  3. About two years ago I was invited to an international luncheon in Pusey House by a friend and where I met Ralph for the first time. He immediately invited me and my friend for lunch in the near future, which we did. And we did a couple more times after that. The day I walked up the aisle and joined the church, I called Ralph and let him know for he was in a retreat somewhere else….Ralph has been one of the influential persons at First Baptist who made the church now I call home a welcoming place to me, a Chinese, who never knew the Baptist life before.

  4. Ralph is a gifted person and an asset to our church and its staff. The divorce recovery workshop is known far and wide and more than one person has said to me, “That workshop saved my life.” I personally have appreciated his attentiveness to persons with special needs and his involvement in special education ministries since that was my area of work prior to my retirement. Now he is making a difference in the lives of a large number of new Americans. Ralph’s prayers are a blessing.

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