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Help WantedIn Tappahannock, Virginia, Ministry Needs Company
Story and photos by Celeste Ryan Blyden
Longtime Tappahannock (Va.) church member Chris Tyson stocks shelves during his volunteer shift at The Veggie Corner and WRAR AM 1000.
It’s just after noon on Sunday and though the sun beams directly on my head, it’s chilly in Tappahannock, Va. Leaving the warm car running and my family buckled within, I dash into a small, white building to find Chris Tyson stocking shelves with yellow-labeled jars of Super Food, a nutritional supplement.
“How can I help you?” he asks.
“So, this is the store, huh,” I reply, moving past him to get a better look. “You have everything here.”
The Veggie Corner is a tiny store that only houses about three aisles, a glass-door refrigerator and freezer. Notwithstanding, it’s well stocked with familiar brands of canned and frozen veggie meat, environmentally friendly health and beauty supplies and a variety of food staples for the health conscious and health intrigued.
“Wow, you have TruWhip all the way down here?!” I exclaim opening the freezer near the back of the store. “I’ve been trying to find this for months in Maryland!”
Hurrying to the check-out counter, I place it down and announce, “I want this, ok? Let me get some cash, and I’ll be right back to pay for it.”
Though I act like there’s a line of people waiting to nab my TruWhip, I needn’t worry. There’s only one other person in the store, and she’s buying a tub of soy margarine.
And herein lies the problem, or better said, the opportunity.
You see, the Veggie Corner is just one of the many ministries run by the Tappahannock Seventh-day Adventist Church. Tappahannock, a city of about 2,000 people, is located in what’s known as the Northern Neck of Virginia’s Chesapeake region. It’s just 50 miles southeast of Fredericksburg, Va., on Route 17 South and hugs one of the inlets of the Chesapeake Bay. George Washington grew up in this area, and signs along its roads reveal many historic milestones in America’s past. A glance at The Local Scoop, which features articles about boating, wine and seafood, would suggest that today’s residents and visitors live on the water and off it. The 70 or so Adventists who live and worship in Tappahannock are “seeking to lead this community which it serves to Christ.”
Head Elder Stan Nickens
While they may be small, this Potomac Conference congregation is clear about their mission and desires to have missionary-minded members join their ranks.
“We have a number of ministries, but we need volunteers to move here and help us,” explains Tyson who is voluntarily spending part of his Sunday afternoon manning the store and radio station. He hands me a paper with a list of their ministries and needs: junior academy, community services, health food store, radio station, citrus fruit program, community supper, health outreach seminars and a webmaster.
To solicit help, they recently ran an ad in the Visitor that read, in part:
“Are you looking for rural living or a Pre-K through grade 10 school in a rural area?” Tappahannock, Va., is that rural area. …”
“That’s why I’m here,” said Dixie Chapman, who introduced herself after attending my post-potluck communication workshop. “My husband and I read the ad in the Visitor. We wanted to move to the country, so we came from Baltimore, got jobs and here we are.”
Her husband, Rumal, helps videotape the sermons. Their three young children help populate the church’s PreK-10th-grade school—Tappahannock Junior Academy—which currently enrolls 71 students.
The church board is planning to run the ad again soon. “We are a small church, but we are known in this community,” noted Pastor Clinton Adams, via telephone before my visit. He’s been here for many years, and this is his second stint as pastor of the close-knit congregation. To make in-roads in the community, he took the necessary courses to serve as a volunteer EMS worker. He also pastors the Carter Memorial church, 17 miles northeast of Tappahannock, and the Kilmarnock church, 30 or so miles southeast.
He’s pleased to see members so committed to their outreach ministries, even if it seems like there are more ministries than members to run them. And he’s especially excited about their AM radio station, WRAR 1000, and the FM station license they applied for and won beating out dozens of other applicants because it will further their outreach efforts.
On this sunny Sunday afternoon, in the little white building that houses that radio station and health food store, I ask Chris Tyson if they have a community garden. “We ought to because we’ve got about 15 acres,” he says. “That’s another reason we need more people to move here and help us.”
Learn more about Tappahannock church at www.tappsda.org.
This 15-acre campus houses the Tappahannock Seventh-day Adventist Church (where a Spanish group also meets on Sabbath); Tappahannock Junior Academy, a PreK-10 school; a health food store called The Veggie Corner; WRAR AM 1000; and several other outreach ministries. They also run a large community services center in town, one of the largest in the Potomac Conference.