Who We Are
Freedom. Friendship. Faith.
Maybe not to everyone, but to us, being Baptist means freedom. Freedom for people to make up their own minds about God and faith, and to do it at their own pace. Freedom to use the mind as a gift of God — to ask questions, to debate, and, even to doubt. Freedom and equality between women and men, older and younger, rich and poor.
At First Baptist Church of Asheville we celebrate your freedom to be and become all that God made you to be. And, we believe Jesus makes it clear that God loves everyone — the whole world and each person in it. All people deserve our respect and love. So, our hearts and arms are open to everyone — young and old, rich and poor, longtime Christians and seekers after faith.
Mission & Vision
At the intersection of our culture and the kingdom of God, the First Baptist Church of Asheville is a community of faith centered on Jesus Christ and committed to his purposes in the world. We are experiencing transformation into his image, engaging our culture with his will and way, and embracing the wholeness of life he offers.
The identity of First Baptist Church of Asheville is centered around five Core Values:
The Lordship of Jesus Christ
We acknowledge Christ as the foundation of our whole lives. Jesus is the teacher of our minds, comforter of our hearts, and Savior of our souls.
The Worship of God
In song, word, and prayer we come together in worship to acknowledge God’s power, faithfulness and grace.
The Authority of the Bible
In its pages we find guidance, comfort and the stories of God. We are committed to teaching, learning and living the truths found within.
The Worth of Each Person
The uniqueness of each individual is celebrated from the newest infant to the oldest adult. We are a diverse people, gifted as individuals and blessed as a whole.
The Call to Service and Missions
Committed to being “salt and light” in our world, we are the hands and feet of Jesus Christ. As a family of faith we work together, care for each other, and spread the love of God throughout our city, state, nation, and world.
We serve Western North Carolina by offering, within a traditional Christian framework, multiple opportunities for deep, personal and thoughtful engagement in a life of faith.
We have an environment of joy and reverence—of genuine celebration and authentic awe.
We focus on “process,” as well as “product,” because we recognize that what we do and how we do it matters.
We honor one another’s gifts, respect one another’s opinions, and care for one another’s needs.
We know that money, influence, and power are, simultaneously, resources and temptations. They can be used for good; they can serve as substitute gods. For that reason, we seek to embody the spirit of Jesus who came “not to be served but to serve.”
We are both Baptist and ecumenical in spirit—Baptist in our commitment to freedom and ecumenical in our recognition of the vast diversity created and allowed by God’s grace.
We have a sense of gratitude for the gifts and wisdom of our history and tradition and openness to change and innovation which help us to answer God’s call.
We are committed to Baptist freedoms: religious liberty, the autonomy of the local church, the priesthood of all believers, democratic church governance, and a commitment to non-coercion in all matters of conscience.
Through the years, First Baptist Church has provided substantial leadership in local and worldwide denominational and ecumenical efforts. It has participated in the founding and nurture of at least a dozen churches in the Asheville community. When our church’s history was published, seventy-six former members of the church were serving in church-related vocations. Of these, twenty-six were pastors, seventeen were foreign missionaries, eight were ministers of education, and four were teachers of religion, social service ministers, chaplains and home missionaries.
Today, First Baptist Church is busy at worship and work. The membership participates in programs for children and youth, choirs, Bible study and mission education. Church members provide key assistance in local, state, and global efforts, as well as helping in Habitat for Humanity, Asheville-Buncombe Christian Community Mission, and many other like efforts for community good. As has been true through the years, “The field is the world.”
The Architecture of the Building
The present church building, and fifth of First Baptist’s worship facilities, was designed by architect Douglas D. Ellington and was completed in 1927. It is one of Asheville’s greatest architectural treasures, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In a time when trends in architecture and fine art were headed toward the Modernism of the early 20th Century, the design of this 65,000 square foot facility represents a collection of ideas and styles. The plan arrangement of major forms and spaces is predominantly based on Beaux Arts planning concepts that stress formality and symmetry. With the surrounding mountains forming a backdrop, this arrangement combines a variety of building heights and mass to fit pleasantly within its context.
Ellington based the design of the sanctuary space on the famous cathedral and dome of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, Italy. Santa Maria del Fiore was the first domed space built during the Renaissance and was considered a feat of engineering in its day. It consisted of two self-supporting masonry domes, an outer and an inner, with a space in between that is fully accessible to its peak. The First Baptist dome, constructed of steel ribs, utilizes a similar concept, yet is accessible only at its base.
The character of the church is essentially derived from Renaissance architecture. Many of the decorative details represent ecclesiastical images and forms found in nature. One example, an abstracted palm leaf, occurs on much of the interior and on all the original sanctuary furnishings, which were also designed by the architect. Due to renovations most of these furnishings have been replaced. The palm leaf among other details brings out Ellington’s sensitivity to the natural environment and enriches the building’s overall character.
Upon completion, First Baptist Church immediately took its place as a monument and symbol for our city. This project was one of Ellington’s first major commissions and received fervent praise both by the public and the national architectural community. As a result, Ellington moved his practice to Asheville and consequently was hired to design many of our city’s other great buildings. Some of these include the Asheville City Hall, Asheville High School and the S&W Cafeteria. Many of Ellington’s ideas initiated in First Baptist Church were developed in greater detail for these other structures.