Q&A with JB Burtch


JB Burtch joined the City Church staff on April 8th as our Director of Mentoring. To help you get to know him a little better, we asked him a few questions.

Where did you grow up? What's your origin story? I grew up in Niles, Ohio, a small manufacturing town in what is called the “Rust Belt.” I spent summers with my grandmothers in Alexandria Bay, New York (one lived on an island and the other in town.) This was especially formative because the island kids distrusted the town kids and vice versa -- but I was related to both sides. I attended a small boarding school in Ohio and then was an exchange student for a year in an English boarding school. I graduated from Wesleyan University and Vanderbilt Law School, and then came to Richmond. 

What is your favorite thing about Richmond? Richmond is not afraid to change. The Richmond Susie and I moved to in 1973 was an insular, conservative Southern city with an unexpected tolerance for eccentricity. Today it has become a vibrant center of new ideas and enterprises. I just love watching new generations find their callings and transform the culture. 

What does a typical weekend look like for you? Friday nights are “date night” for Susie and me and we usually go out to dinner somewhere. I meet with some friends most Saturday mornings, then check with Susie about what she wants from the day (or just do my own thing). Sunday mornings I go to St. Stephen’s, and in the late afternoon head for City Church. Sunday evenings I’m the outdoor barbeque chef at home. 

 What are your favorite books? I’m re-reading Harry Potter for the second time and tackling yet another biography of Winston Churchill. He really bloomed when he was over 65, and that inspires me.

Anything you've read recently that you'd recommend? If you like spy novels—and I do—it’s easy to get hooked on Daniel Silva’s Gabriel Allon series. It’s spycraft from an Israeli point of view. 

 Tell us a bit about your work before joining City Church's staff. After law school graduation and a (very) short stint in the Army, I began practicing law here in Richmond in 1973. I’ve practiced labor and employment law ever since, representing employers and senior executives in problems involving unions, jobs and work. The thing I like best about the law of employment is the opportunity to help companies and individuals solve problems so they can move past the immediate crisis and get on with what they need to do to succeed. I’ve also been teaching Negotiations and Client Counseling at the University of Richmond School of Law since 1994. I retired from representing clients at the end of last year, but I still teach and remain active in my son’s law firm (Burtch Law). Since 2007, I’ve served as a spiritual director at Richmond Hill and now see about eight people a month in that role. 

 What do you do when you aren't mentoring folks? Check out www.focusjb.comwhere I post some of my photography. Or look at Instagram (@jbburtch—my black and white photos or @jwburtch—color photos). I learned photography in high school and picked it up again about 20 years ago. I also spend time with Susie and our five grandchildren.

 How did you end up at City Church? (as a worshipper, that is) For a long time, David Boyce and I have been having coffee together with some regularity. Sometime in 2011 I asked David where he was going to church and he told me to check out City Church. I was then (and still am) a member of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church here in Richmond. The first Sunday I visited City Church, Erik was preaching some kind of series. I thought it was pretty interesting, so I came back the next Sunday to see how it would play out. Week after week, I just kept coming back, and it’s now going on eight years. 

Tell us a bit about how you came to this position at City Church. This is something of a mystery to me. I wasn’t looking for anything. Somehow the church leadership noticed I had a lot of younger friends. I started coming early to church just to continue the kinds of conversations that were happening. Then I got offered this job.

What are you looking forward to in your work at City Church? I’m looking forward to meeting more people. I see this mentoring project as having two main components. The first and most important is to identify and train people to who have the skills and personal qualities suited to mentoring others. The second is simply to continue listening -- whether at church, coffee or lunch. It is a real privilege to have people share their lives with me and help them become the people they were created to be. No one really knows the answer to that, but sometimes in the process of conversation, God shows us something.

How can City Church be praying for you as you take on this new position? Pray that I can get out of the way so that whatever God intends, happens.

To get in touch with JB, you can email him at jb@citychurchrva.com.