Special services were held from March 29 through April 5, 1981 to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the church’s founding. Dr. Edward Pruden’s “Anniversary Hymn,” first sung in the First Baptist Church of Washington, D.C., while he was pastor there, was sung as part of Tabernacle’s two morning worship services on March 29 and April 5. The services were well attended.
After the church had been without a permanent pastor for eighteen months, in April 1981, the New Pastor Committee extended an invitation to Rev. Keith Harris to become Tabernacle’s tenth pastor. Rev. Harris accepted the call and Tabernacle’s goal was to begin a new era of growth and Christ-centered ministry; to involve the development of new programs of outreach in the local neighborhood while maintaining the already-established, broad metropolitan ministry; to inspire a renewed commitment on the part of the congregation to support the programs of the church with their time, energy, and resources; and to fully support the new pastor in his enabling leadership and guidance.
A special recognition service was held on June 10 honoring Dr. and Mrs. Pruden. Several other staff members resigned in the fall of 1981, also. Dr. David Hammock resigned as assistant pastor, replaced by Dr. Herbert Carlton who had served Tabernacle on several previous occasions. Mrs. Norma Nelson resigned to go with her family to Nigeria for mission work, replaced by Mrs. Connie Beach as Adult Choir Director.
On September 13, 1981, Justin Landon Horne was ordained to the Gospel Ministry at Tabernacle.
On Thanksgiving morning Tabernacle hosted the 37th Annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Service of Central Westend Churches and Synagogues. Two weeks later, on December 13, Tabernacle and Theatre IV, together with performers from local dinner theatres, presented in the Tabernacle sanctuary a Community Christmas Pageant, directed by Bruce Miller, assisted by Claudia Collier and Judy Fiske as Musical Director. The following Sunday evening Tabernacle hosted the Richmond Concert Band’s traditional Christmas Concert. Theatre IV and the Richmond Concert Band continue to use the Tabernacle facilities for meetings and rehearsals.
On December 20, the Chinese Christian Fellowship that regularly met at Tabernacle organized as “The Chinese Baptist Church of Richmond,” under their new pastor, Rev. Samson Kwok.
Membership continued to decline, but 29 additions were recorded during 1981 and 34 faithful members had passed away.
In April 1982 Tabernacle celebrated special Holy Week services. A particularly worshipful Maundy Thursday service was observed with a still-life representation of the Lord’s Supper, portrayed by Tabernacle members. This was a tradition for several years.
After completing a 14-month study regarding needs of additional church-sponsored day care centers in the Tabernacle geographical area, the Day Care Advisory Committee recommended such a facility as an expansion of Tabernacle’s outreach program. On July 27, 1983, Mrs. Cindy Hutchinson was selected as Tabernacle’s first Child Care Center director.
On July 31, 1983, the church extended a call to Rev. Michael Robinson to fill the position of Minister of Education and Outreach. Rev. Robinson began this ministry on October 2.
During 1983 Claudia Collier, Minister of Youth and Music, and Connie Beach, Adult Choir Director, resigned.
For many years, Tabernacle’s sanctuary was elegantly adorned for the Christmas season with garlands and poinsettias. In 1983, the church received a significant addition to its traditional decorations with the presentation of beautiful Chrismon ornaments handmade by the WWW Sunday School Class. The Chrismon Tree continues to be a lovely tradition each Christmas.
Mrs. Elaine Johnson became Minister of Music on October 1, 1984, but when she resigned at the end of 1985, Mr. James Hughes became the choirmaster-pianist. Mrs. Judy Fiske became the Minister of Youth/Organist in 1984.
After an 18-month study by the Priority Study Committee and approval of the Priority Study Report, three new working committees were elected by the church in the Spring, 1985: Administrative Committee to evaluate the organizational structure of the church; Care Committee to coordinate the efforts of every group within the church to care for persons who are ill or bereaved; Facilities Committee to study and evaluate the physical facilities of the church toward complete renovation and modernization of the buildings for current and future needs.
During 1986, the Facilities Committee spent months studying and selecting an architectural firm to advise the church regarding a Master Plan and Feasibility Study appropriate to the needs of Tabernacle. During this same time, the Hall Organ, installed in 1922 in the church sanctuary was worsening and the Organ Committee recommended the church purchase a new Schantz organ.
In 1987, the church approved the adoption of a Master Plan for renovation of Tabernacle facilities, and employed Membership Services to organize and coordinate the church’s Capital Fund Raising Campaign for the organ, building, and renovation program. A “Partners-in Progress” capital fund-raising program was organized under the direction of Massie Fulks and Linda Southworth.
A kick-off banquet was held at the Jefferson-Sheraton on November 29 and a three-year pledge program was affirmed. Richard Denzler chaired a permanent Renovations Committee, elected by the church to carry through the future renovations. The most ambitious and comprehensive Renovations/Replacement program to be undertaken by the people of Tabernacle Baptist Church in more than a century had begun.
Rev. Mike Robinson headed several educational and outreach programs, including a Sunday School Revival group; developed a visitation program specifically targeting the Fan area; and provided assistance to the needy through the church Pantry and Clothes Closet programs.
On March 9, 1987, Tabernacle’s WMU organized to design and produce a Centennial quilt that would illustrate the history of the WMU of the Southern Baptist Convention. Those participating for a full year to produce this lovely work of art were: Mrs. Rosalind Strong, Chairman; Miss Elizabeth Brooke, administrative assistance; Mrs. Frances Birkhead; Mrs. Louise Cochrane; Mrs. Aileene Dagenhardt; Mrs. Emily Daniel; Mrs. Judy Fiske; Mrs. Alma Lacy; and Mrs. Lillian Morris. In May 1988, 11,000 Southern Baptists from 37 state WMU organizations and 24 foreign countries gathered at the Richmond Coliseum in celebration of the WMU’s founding. The Tabernacle quilt was awarded first place in both the local and state competitions. Today, this exquisite quilt is displayed in the Fellowship Hall of Tabernacle Church. On May 15, 1987, the Tabernacle Baptist Sunday School celebrated its 100th Anniversary with Dr. Jack Noffsinger as guest speaker. Miss Elizabeth Thomas, Permanent Records Chairman, arranged an historical display for this special celebration.
By the end of 1989, Phase I of the Renovation Program had been completed. The church had been fully re-roofed; church offices and certain conference/classroom space had been relocated into the original Sunday School building; the Sanctuary choir loft had been raised and redesigned; and a new Schantz organ had been installed – all fully paid.
On the first Sunday of 1990, the dedication of the new organ and the new office suite was observed with a joint session of Sunday School and a special dedication service during the worship hour.
Through the summer of 1990, Phase II of the Renovation Program was underway. Restoration and preservation of 37 stained-glass Sanctuary windows was begun.
In 1989 and 1990 more baptisms were celebrated at Tabernacle than in many combined previous years; and 1989 saw a net growth in membership – the first in a long time.