The United Church of Christ (UCC) is a distinct and diverse community of Christians that come together as one church to join faith and action. With over 5,000 churches and nearly one million members across the U.S., the UCC serves God in the co-creation of a just and sustainable world. The UCC is a church of firsts, a church of extravagant welcome, and a church where "…they may all be one" (John 17:21).
Church of Firsts
Since 1957, the United Church of Christ has been the church of firsts, weaving God’s message of hope and extravagant welcome with action for justice and peace. Together, we live out our faith in ways that effect change in our communities. The UCC's many "firsts" mean that we have inherited a tradition of acting upon the demands of our faith. When we read in Galatians: "There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus"—a demand is made upon us. And so, we were the first historically white denomination to ordain an African-American, the first to ordain a woman, the first to ordain an openly gay man, and the first Christian church to affirm the right of same-gender couples to marry. We were in the forefront of the anti-slavery movement and the Civil Rights movement. Our response to the demands of our faith is woven into the history of our country.
Today, we continue to change lives throughout the world. We work alongside more than 200 mission partners. We labor ceaselessly to fight injustice, in the United States and abroad. We instill our vision into our youth and young adults, forging leaders who will imagine new dreams. And we sustain and develop church leaders, pastors, and our local churches to live their faith in exciting new ways. We believe in a God that is still speaking, a God that is all-loving and inclusive. We are a church that welcomes and accepts everyone as they are, where your mind is nourished as much as your soul. We are a church where Jesus the healer meets Jesus the revolutionary and where together, we grow a just and peaceful world.
Pictured to the left is Rev. Thrall and his wife. Thrall was the first pastor of First Congregational Church.
Our First Hundred Years
In the beginning...
This church began with the hope of some northern Congregationalists, who had moved to Asheville in the early 1900’s, to establish a Congregational church. They entered into conversations with the Congregational Home Missionary Society in New York which led to a new church start on June 7, 1914. The founding pastor, the Rev. Thrall, and 29 founding members, met at the Manor Hotel Ballroom. The congregation was able to move into its first church building on Easter Sunday, March 31, 1918, located on Merrimon and Spears Avenues.
Our ancestor churches merged in 1957 to become the – a national denomination known for its dedication to social justice, human rights, and eco-justice. We see ourselves as a church of “firsts”: the first mainline church to ordain a woman (1853), the first church to ordain an openly gay man (1972), the first church to post bail for an African American pastor arrested for a non-violent civil rights demonstration (1973); the first church to elect an African American president of a racially integrated mainline denomination (1976); the first to publish a hymnal that honors in equal measure both male and female images of God (1995); the first to call for marriage equality for the LBGTQ community (2005)."
Since the beginning our congregation has struggled for space and even though the church building went through several changes to make people more comfortable, the decision was made to sell the building and seek another place for worship. Much like Moses wandering in the wilderness, we felt like nomads for a few years as a new vision of place was realized. This present building which we call home was purchased from First Christian Disciples of Christ and we moved into to our new space in November 2005.
Knowing that we were settling into an old building, there was a priority to update and preserve. Our organ was purchased in 2006 and the baby grand piano in 2007, the installation of the elevator and sidewalk ramp were completed in 2009. In 2011, the Memorial Garden was completed. Solar panels were installed on the Education Building and a geothermal heating and air system was installed on the Sanctuary side for efficiency. In 2015 the congregation the campaign to upgrade continued with renovation of Friendship Hall, accessible restrooms, improvement of sound system, tuck-pointing, restoration of windows and repainting of the Sanctuary. All this to enable continued ministry from this place.
Looking forward to the future… We have 100+ years of God's faithfulness and, with the help of God, we will be here for 100 more years to welcome and affirm all as God's children with a bias toward yes! Amen!
The Citizen-Times wrote a wonderful article about our 100th anniversary. Click hereto read it.