Get to know our talented and dedicated ministerial staff through the listings below. Some of them may surprise you!
Feel free to contact any minister with questions.
Tate Addis, Organist
Tate Addis joined the staff of First Baptist Church as Organist in August of 2015. In this position, he collaborates with the Minister of Music in a comprehensive music program, teaches organ and piano in the church’s Academy for the Arts, directs the Youth II Handbell Ensemble, accompanies the Asheville Youth Choir, and presents a monthly series of organ recitals entitled ‘Bach’s Lunch.’ He also serves as Assistant Director and Accompanist for the Asheville Symphony Chorus.
Prior to coming to Asheville, Tate served for two years as Wilson Family Sacred Music Intern at New York City’s Brick Presbyterian Church. He has also served as organist at the Yale Berkeley Divinity School in New Haven and Second Presbyterian Church in Kansas City.
Tate Addis holds the Bachelor of Music degree from Wichita State University; the Master of Music degree from Yale University; and the Artist Diploma from Oberlin College. His primary teachers were James David Christie, Lynne Davis, and Thomas Murray. Additional studies were with Marie-Louise Langlais and Roman Summereder.
Tate, his wife Laura, and their pet pig Virgil make their home in Asheville.
David Blackmon, Coordinating Pastor
David and, his wife, Susan have lived in Asheville since 1990. Both Georgia natives, they moved to the Land of Sky as that first home post college days. David served as a chaplain at Mission Hospital. Susan retired from teaching at Valley Springs Middle School after 34 years om education. Much of the past 30 years was spent raising Jonathan (Wife-Celia), Ryan (Wife-Hillary) and Elizabeth (Husband-Cody Jones) and sharing in life as fellow members at First Baptist Church of Asheville. They now have one grandchild, Greenleigh Blackmon, daughter of Jonathan and Celia.
David joined the staff at First Baptist in 2009 as Coordinating Pastor. It was a natural step in giving back to a congregation that had shared so much with the Blackmon family. In his work, David has enjoyed supporting the staff and church leaders as they imagine and implement the church’s future together. His role has also allowed him time to spend with members as they navigate illness and loss, joy and new seasons in life.
If you find David swinging in a hammock with a book at Lake Burton or digging around in the garden at home, you will have stumbled upon a good day. He also enjoys walks along the Davidson River and milkshakes from Dolly’s.
David received his BSED from the University of Georgia and a Master of Divinity from Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. He followed this time with an internship in pastoral care at Athens Regional Medical Center. In his later career, David completed a MHA at Chapel Hill and the Shalem Institute’s program on spiritual direction.
Tommy Bratton, Minister of Christian Formation
Tommy joined the FBCA staff in 2004. As Minister of Christian Formation, he leads the Christian education and spiritual formation ministry of the church, which seeks to explore the connection between faith and everyday life through spiritual practices, Bible study, theological reflection, and cultural engagement.
He enjoys leading Bible study, writing curriculum for adult Christian education, and helping people reflect on their spiritual development.
Tommy received his Bachelor of Arts in Religion from Furman University; his Master of Theological Studies from the Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta; and an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership from Western Carolina University. Post-graduate studies include a certification in Spiritual Direction from the Haden Institute and a certification in Labyrinth Facilitation from Veriditas.
Tommy is married to Laura Robertson Bratton. They have three sons: Ryan, Jake, and Ben.
Tommy enjoys reading, listening to classic country songs, playing ping pong, and watching sports.
Leah Brown, Minister with Senior Adults
Leah graduated with a B.A. in Psychology from UNC-Asheville. She received her Master of Social Work from UNC-Chapel Hill and is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. Her clinical focus is aging and end-of-life care. She provides both individual and family counseling.
Leah is a proud native of Asheville. She and William married in 1991 and joined First Baptist Church of Asheville in 1999. They have two sons, Cameron and Collin.
Leah joined the staff of FBCA in 2008. She provides pastoral care and programming for Senior Adults. Leah is the staff liaison for the Sacred Garden, Communications and Outreach, and Endowment.
She enjoys playing the piano, singing in the choir, reading, going to concerts, seeing movies with her family and friends, and watching Carolina basketball!
Casey Callahan, Minister with Students
Casey grew up on a family farm in Travelers Rest, SC, where the best parts of life occurred outdoors. He studied the soil at Clemson University and then shifted studies to the soul at Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond (Virginia). Casey frequently finds points of intersection between the sacred and the mundane, and deeply enjoys exploring such intersections with others.
He is married to Martha Ann H. Callahan, and they have a son, Brennan, and a foster daughter, both of whom fill their lives with joy and wonder. Casey completed a doctoral degree program in 2017, which focused on the exploration of Celtic Spirituality. He loves making up new games with his kids, sharing laughs with friends, and embarking on hike and adventures with his wife. He joined the staff at FBCA in 2014.
Doctorate of Ministry, Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary
Master of Divinity, Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond
Bachelor of Science, Crop and Soil Environmental Science, Clemson University
Wally Davids, Operations and Finance Manager
Bio coming soon.
Austin McIver Dennis, Senior Pastor
A native of Henderson, NC, Mack was ordained to the ministry of preaching in 2003. After five years as pastor of First Baptist Church, Mt. Gilead, NC, he studied homiletics and reconciliation at Duke Divinity School (Th.D., ’14), and taught there as adjunct professor until 2016. He came to First Baptist Church of Asheville after serving as interim preacher at Warrenton Baptist Church in Warrenton, NC.
Mack’s interests lie at the intersections of preaching, biblical interpretation, theology, and reconciliation. Both his preaching and scholarly work are concerned with faithful responses to division, conflict, and violence. His dissertation explores the theology of faith leaders involved in The Greensboro Massacre and The Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He is the editor of The Luminous Word: Biblical Sermons and Homiletical Essays, an anthology of sermons and essays by Old Testament scholar, Ellen F. Davis (2016).
In both his pastoral and scholarly work, Mack commends the ways God’s reconciling love is revealed in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the church and world. He has a deep sense of call to pastoral ministry, bearing witness to the gospel’s transformational power, and honing the art and craft of Christian preaching.
He lives in Asheville with his partner, Erin, and their two children.
Kim Garner, Ministry Assistant for Finance and Christian Formation
Cindy Hart, Ministry Assistant for Communications
Cindy Hart has served on the FBCA staff since 1996. In her role as the Ministry Assistant for Communications, Cindy assists with all internal and external publications for First Baptist. She loves her job because it allows her to share her creativity with her church family and to interact regularly with the community.
A native of western North Carolina, Cindy holds a business degree from Mars Hill University. During her free time, Cindy enjoys exploring Asheville with her friends, cooking, traveling to the beach or to visit her sons in Boston, and spoiling her Boston Terrier, Izzy.
Gloria Sainio, Ministry for Music
Gloria Sainio has been in the Asheville area for 9 years, graduating from Montreat College in Music Business and Management. As a student, she was the assistant to the music department and her passion for arts administration grew. After graduation, she was office manager at Asheville Lyric Opera during productions of Don Giovanni, South Pacific, Die Fledermaus, The Impresario, and West Side Story. She is a member of the Asheville Symphony Chorus and is fluent in Finnish. She enjoys hiking and finding the best brunch spots in Asheville.
Clark Sorrells, Minister of Music
Clark Sorrells has been the Minister of Music at First Baptist since 1997. He co-ordinates the worship life of the church, conducts the Adult Choir and is Director of the Asheville Youth Choirs. Through the Academy for the Arts teaches private voice and piano lessons.
He has a Bachelor’s of Church Music from Carson Newman University and a Master of Divinity in Church Music from Southern Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.
He is married to Karen Sorrells, Associate Minister of Music at FBCA, and they have three adult children, Lillie, Hannah and Jacob. Clark enjoys all genres of music, all types of sports, and all subjects of stimulating conversation.
Karen Gray Sorrells, Associate Minister of Music
Karen joined the FBCA staff as Associate Minister of Music in 2002. She helps lead the music ministry across all ages, coordinating and directing children’s choirs, directing youth and adult handbell choirs, in addition to serving as pianist for worship services. She has taught at the collegiate level, written curriculum for children’s choirs and is a frequent choral clinician and conference leader at both state and national events. Karen is also Director of the Academy for the Arts at First Baptist Church.
Karen received a Bachelor of Arts in Music (Piano) from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a Masters in Church Music from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. Post-graduate studies include a Kodály Certification from the University of North Texas in Denton.
Karen is married to Clark Sorrells, Minister of Music at First Baptist Church, Asheville. They have three children: Lillie, Hannah and Jacob. She loves traveling, reading and especially spending time with family.
Amy Stertz, Minister with Children and Families
Amy joined the FBCA staff in 2015. As Minister with Children and Families, she works to create ways for families to deepen their relationship with God and each other while they are at church, in the community, and at home. She enjoys seeing faith come alive in children as they explore the Bible, learn spiritual practices, serve others in missions and ministry, and engage fully in the life of the church.
Amy received a Bachelor of Social Work from Mars Hill College and a Master of Divinity from Campbell University Divinity School
Amy is married to Joe. They have a daughter, Sophie. She loves good conversation, a good laugh, a good book, a good football game, and more than anything spending time with people she loves.
Heather Swanson, Pastoral Ministry Assistant
Heather is grateful to serve the First Baptist community as Assistant to the Senior Pastor. She began on staff in the spring of 2020 following her move from Philadelphia, and in the whirlwind of a global pandemic.
Heather is passionate about engaging God’s creation through rock climbing, backpacking and cycling, and is excited to make her home in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Volunteering at the community garden in Black Mountain, spiritual and theological reading, singing, and going exploring with her nieces and nephews, all bring her great joy.
A former French teacher and a practicing spiritual director, Heather looks forward to combining her administrative skills and spiritual gifts to support the work of First Baptist in Asheville.