BRENTWOOD — Ruth Spurgeon comes to the Baptist Center here and records the Baptist and Reflector once or twice a month. The former schoolteacher of Nashville has done this for the past 13 years. She said it only takes about 90 minutes and she enjoys it.
The only problem she has ever had is that occasionally her voice “gives out.” But she recovers and continues reading.
Spurgeon said she especially enjoys reading the columns and editorials written by Lonnie Wilkey, editor.
“Sometimes I just want to say ‘Amen’ (on the recording). They make such sense.”
Spurgeon said she first learned about the B&R as a child because her parents received the newspaper and as an adult she has always subscribed.
She learned about the need for readers of the B&R when Charles Couey, a former member of Haywood Hills Baptist Church, Nashville, who is a leader among visually impaired Baptists, shared the need at Haywood Hills Baptist where Spurgeon is a member. She also has been the church organist for about 45 years.
“It was just a service that was needed and I thought I would enjoy it,” said Spurgeon.
For many years she worked with cassette tapes which had to be processed each week before they were mailed. Then the TBC staff began using CDs. A few years ago the staff additionally began converting the recordings of Spurgeon and other volunteers into podcasts or digital audio files.
Also familiar with the tape process used years ago for the recordings is Tammy Harris of the TBC staff who has recorded the B&R for about 10 years.
She volunteered to serve after learning of the need from TBC staffer Beverly Smothers who is now retired. Harris said one of the reasons she volunteered was her work as on air announcer for several radio stations before she was employed by the TBC.
Harris added, “I imagine myself sitting in a living room reading the paper to a loved one. I hope that our blind ‘readers’ get as much out of it as I do. I always try to ask God that those hearing my reading will hear what He wants them to hear through me.”
Carrie Smith and Phil Young of the TBC staff coordinate the ministry.
“We so appreciate Mrs. Spurgeon who volunteers her time and the many former readers who did that and also Tammy and Carrie who have made this ministry possible,” said Young, who is church missions and ministry specialist, TBC.
He noted that the service of providing an audio version of the B&R, which is published weekly except for a few weeks a year, has been provided for about 20 years by the TBC.
The ministry is mainly for visually impaired people across the state who are interested in Tennessee Baptist news, explained Young, but is available to anyone, even if they are not visually impaired. For instance, a podcast of an edition of the B&R can be downloaded and listened to during a workout or a trip.
Podcasts are available without charge at www.tbfblind.org. CDs are mailed out each week to low vision/visually impaired people who request them free of charge.
The ministry was interrupted recently for a few months but has resumed and the podcasts are now available at a new website though it has the same address as the previous website, said Smith who works with Mike Salva of the TBC staff to make the podcasts available.
At www.tbfblind.org files of back issues of the B&R are available. Previous files are not available at the new site but can be made available, said Young and Smith.
Young explained that the ministry was interrupted due to preparation for the relocation of the TBC offices in Brentwood, the holidays, and a need for more volunteer readers.
Plans are for volunteers across the state to be able to read the B&R from their homes, offices, or churches rather than having to appear in person at the TBC Baptist Center in metropolitan Nashville. Salva is currently working on that strategy from the technical standpoint.
Other ministries for the blind