What: On June 7, 1914, the First Congregational Church in Asheville was chartered. This weekend Asheville’s First Congregational UCC will be celebrating its centennial with a special One Hundred Year Dinner for congregation members and a celebration worship service on Sunday, June 8 at 10:30 a.m. The service will feature a brass quintet and guest preacher Rev. Dr. Richard Ward, the Fred Craddock distinguished chair of preaching at Phillips Theological Seminary.
Why: Xpress spoke with current Senior Minister Joe Hoffman to find out more.
Xpress: What are some of the milestones from the church’s past 100 years?
Hoffman: The founding pastor, Rev. Dr. Brainerd Thrall, brought Boy Scouts to the Western North Carolina region. He also started the Thrall School for Boys in 1920, which met in the church, and he was the headmaster. A first building was erected in 1917.
The church has been fortunate to have had many well educated and motivated clergy such as the founding pastor. Rev. Frank Ratzell pastored the church from 1951-64 and was a strong advocate for racial justice and desegregation. Dr. Paul Limbert came to pastor this church after serving as president of Springfield College and then serving for 10 years as the secretary general of the World Alliance of YMCA’s in Geneva, Switzerland.
How do you plan on furthering your mission in the years to come?
In the past 18 years, under [my] leadership, this church has worked hard for equal rights and justice for the LGBT community, become a Just Peace Church and worked for Environmental Justice — such as being the first faith community in WNC to install solar panels. As we begin our second 100 years, we seek to continue following in the ways of Jesus, which we think is a way of justice and love for all people.