FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – MAY 9, 2017
After completing 38 years of service as executive director of the Virginia Baptist Historical Society, Fred Anderson has announced his plans to retire on July 31, 2017. In 2000 Anderson expanded his service becoming the executive director of the new Center for Baptist Heritage & Studies. Both institutions are headquartered at the University of Richmond.
Anderson has written 18 books on Baptist history and over 1,100 history columns for the Religious Herald, the state Baptist newspaper in Virginia. He developed historical character monologues of noted Baptist ministers which were offered in over 500 presentations across Virginia and beyond.
Under his leadership, the Virginia Baptist Historical Society’s building was renovated to become a living museum. He commissioned 36 scenes for the Virginia Baptist History Mural by Sidney E. King which is a feature of the museum. He wrote God’s Stories: An Illustrated History of Virginia Baptists which gives the story behind each panel in the mural.
Periodic exhibits have brought tour groups from across Virginia and the eastern United States. A landmark exhibit was “free indeed!” which told the relationships between whites and blacks in the Baptist churches of antebellum Virginia as well as the trials and triumphs of Virginia’s enslaved. The current exhibit is “To See a World,” telling the stories of travels of 19th century Virginians. He also has created traveling exhibits which have been mounted across Virginia and beyond.
The Society serves as a repository for Virginia Baptist records. Under Anderson’s leadership, the Society’s church records have increased from 1,200 to over 4,000 record books. The collection is used by researchers from across the world. The Society also publishes an annual journal.
The Center for Baptist Heritage & Studies has produced numerous books and other educational materials. It holds conferences and convocations on various issues. Under Anderson’s leadership, the Center began appointing outstanding college students as Heritage Fellows and to date 26 Virginia students have been appointed. They undertake a project which is published for distribution. The current class of Heritage Fellows intentionally made friendships with students of other faith groups on their campus and have written a book entitled Keeping the Faith which will be published in May.
Fred Anderson serves on the Baptist Heritage and Identity Commission of the Baptist World Alliance and has participated with other Baptist historians around the world. For 35 terms he has served as clerk of the Baptist General Association of Virginia.
Anderson says, “We are Virginia Baptists. We are people with an identity, a history and a presence in this garden we call Virginia.” He has devoted his life to telling this story.
Frank Schwall, president of the Virginia Baptist Historical Society, remarked, “Fred Anderson has worked with unwavering commitment, enthusiasm, creativity and excellence. He has brought Virginia Baptist history to life.”
Fred Anderson will be honored at the Society’s annual meeting on May 16 at River Road Church, Baptist in Richmond.