A 'Longest Night Service' on Wednesday, December 5th

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This year, we will be having a Longest Night Service at the beginning of the Advent Season. We will gather in the sanctuary at 6:00 PM on Wednesday, December 5th for an informal service of reflection and contemplation about the realities of light and darkness that we face during the season of Christmas.

When the Weather Outside Is Frightful...

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Here are a few things to remember when snow, sleet, and freezing rain are in the forecast:

1.) Wednesday evening programming will not be determined by local school closings. The church will broadcast any cancellation on Wednesday via an email, our church’s website, Facebook page and in the local media.

2.) If the weather proves to be inclement on Sunday morning, we will make every effort to have church. If that goal proves to be elusive, we will likely A.) cancel Sunday School and offer only Worship at 10:30 AM, or B.) Schedule worship at 2:00 PM in the afternoon.

You may determine the status of our church programming at any time by checking our website, Facebook page, or our local media.  A decision will be made at least two hours prior to the regularly scheduled event.

Lastly, thank you for your understanding in advance as we strive to make decisions that are complicated by weather conditions which create different realities in our county due to location and elevation. Overwhelmingly, we are striving to provide continuity of ministry offerings while balancing concerns about road conditions.

Sylva 1st Wednesday Evening Programs Begins August 22

Your family is invited to come and take part in our Sylva 1st Wednesday evening programs.  There is something for everyone!  Our Wednesday night programs will resume on August 22.  Supper will be provided (youth and children eat for FREE!) at 5:30 PM followed at 6:00 PM by Mission Friends for Pre-K and Kindergarten and our SHINE ministry for grades 1-6.  7th – 12th Graders will participate in Youth Group and programs designed for their age level.

 Fun Times together! 

Fun Times together! 

SHINE, for grades 1-6, includes children’s choir, drama class and a liturgical dance class. The “SHINE” ministry is designed to help children learn to actively participate in worship through these disciplines. These groups assist in leading worship on Sunday morning from time to time as a part of their spiritual development. This is a time packed full of fellowship and working together to learn how we praise God through different elements of worship, with the focus on music, drama, creative movement and art. 

Mission Friends is a time for our Pre-K and kindergarteners to learn about how Christians are spreading God’s word around the globe and in our own country.  They will learn to pray for these missionaries and find ways that they can help with some of those ministries.  It is an opportunity for them to learn and take part in supporting mission efforts around the world. 

 Learning with friends

Learning with friends

After supper, Youth in grades 7-12 will participate in Youth Group which includes Bible Study, creative worship, game nights, discipleship, and chances to participate in ministry to others.  All this is designed to build community and provide spiritual growth for those in their teen years.  This time is informal, and questions are encouraged.  The teen years are a time of searching and becoming the adults they will be.  A safe place to ask questions about faith and spiritual growth is essential as they grow in their own walks with Christ.  

 Wrapping presents for a Christmas project

Wrapping presents for a Christmas project

And, of course, there is also an Adult Bible Study which meets in the Mission and Fellowship Center immediately following our prayer time at 6:00 PM. Our Bible Study provides parents and other adults a chance to go deeper into scripture, searching out the truths that shape our faith.  There is truly something for everyone in the family! 

We invite you to make this time a priority for your family as we grow together as a community of faith! 

Summer Time and the Livin’ Is Easy


Although Memorial Day Weekend typically signals the unofficial start to summer, First Baptist Church got a week’s headstart.

No, I’m not referring to the typical summer-like pattern that evolves in our mountains with foggy mornings and afternoon thunderstorms. I’m referencing our children’s campout and sleepover this past weekend. As our 1st Explorers Ministry Director, Kelly Brown, details in his own reflection, the young men in our Royal Ambassador program went on a campout to the Davidson river while our Girls in Action had a sleepover at the church.

On Saturday morning, I drove across Highway 276 to rendezvous with the boys as they began to strike camp after a wet night in the Pisgah Forest. Yes, the boys and their leaders were a bit damp, but the bacon that Chris Moore was frying had everyone in a festive mood and the boys played whiffle ball beneath the drippy canopy of leaves. There was an unmistakable feeling of accomplishment among them, and I delighted in the sense of community that had sprung up among the men and boys. With the smell of a campfire flooding my nostrils, I couldn’t help but smile as the men drank coffee and the boys acted like boys. After a long and at times torturous winter, we had finally made it to summer.

Summer is a time for Sabbath-taking. It is ripe for new rhythms, late dinners and walks along a lush river valley. Summer is also a unique time for service and ministry as the season provides unique opportunities to assist our friends and neighbors while we tell them the “old, old story” of Jesus and his love. At First Baptist, we will strive to honor both rest and mission.

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Here are some highlights of what we have planned for this summer:

-Sylva First Wednesdays concludes for the spring on Wednesday, June 6. Our Wednesday night programming in the fall will begin anew on August 22.

-Our joint Vacation Bible School with other downtown churches will run from June 11-15 in the mornings at Bridge Park. There are countless ways that you can serve the children and our families that week. Join us to help lead the children’s small groups, or to provide water for volunteers, or to visit with parents, or to help set-up tables and tents, or to simply be a part of the joyful chaos that is Vacation Bible School. Truly, the sound of children’s laughter is a balm for a sick and weary soul.

-Speaking of children, our 1st Explorers Ministry will again be offering their robust offering to the community with our Summer Explorers Camp. Although you may not have a child or grandchild participating in this wall-to-wall summer ministry opportunity, your Sunday School class can choose to partner with Kelly and our staff to provide unique opportunities of connection with children and their families this summer. I can think of no better ‘home’ mission opportunity than for a group, ministry, circle or couple to adopt a summer camp group of children who will be on campus with us over 40 hours each week. Think of the relationships that could be built and strengthened!

-As a church family, we’ll gather for fellowship on three Sunday afternoons this summer to relax, play and devour ice cream. Yes, we’ll be headed to the pavilion at Deep Creek in the Great Smokies Mountain National Park on June 24 where we’ll eat and play, and we’ll have our traditional potluck picnic at East LaPorte on August 26. But sandwiched between these two events will be a new gathering where we’ll have supper on the church grounds. On Sunday afternoon, July 15th, we’ll enjoy a hot dog supper followed by a veritable feast of ice cream afterward. It’s been some time since we crowned an ice cream maker champion, so get your recipes primed and ready for our contest after supper that evening.

-Of course, it’s not summer without the crack of a bat. Although our children and youth will be at their respective Passport Mission Camps the week of July 4th, that won’t stop the rest of us from taking in an Asheville Tourists game on the 4th of July at 7 PM. We’ll drive separately but sit together. And after the game, we’ll be invited to head out onto the field to take in their fireworks display. Tickets are $10 each and must be purchased by June 4th in our church office.

-Oh, and there’s much more. Our youth will be meeting together on Mondays from 4-6 PM each week, and there will be church hikes and a host of other mission opportunities to be a part of, as well. We know that your family will be traveling and vacationing this summer, but we also hope you’ll choose to broaden your chumminess with our own church family this summer, also.

Summer is a sweet, sweet gift and we’re not about to waste it. So, look around and see God at work in our beautiful mountain home. Feel the mist from a thundering waterfall. Take in an evening with friends by a fire pit. Barbecue on a rusty grill by a cement picnic table in the national park. Listen to the melody of the songbirds. And above all, be thankful.

It’s summer, and the time is ripe to play, rest and serve.

The Place of Our Resurrection: How Christianity Took Root in Ireland and Bore Fruit Throughout the World


“Since many have undertaken to set down an orderly account…I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus.”

Thus begins the Gospel according to Luke. Ever the thoughtful physician, Luke sets out to tell the story of Jesus Christ after carefully investigating the sources and eyewitnesses that were privy to the Son of God. And he does so in scintillating fashion.

Listen for it:

“In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah. His wife was a descendant of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.”

Okay, dazzling writing it is not. But it is accurate, and helpful because Luke grounds his storytelling in historical fact. He is reporting to his benefactor—and to us--that Jesus’s life and ministry happened in real time and in history. The takeaway? The only way to understand Jesus is to understand him in the context of real events. Jesus is no parable. Jesus was for real.

I, too, have tried to offer an orderly account of all that I have learned these last few months. Like Luke, I have sought to carefully investigate the sources that tell the story of a faithful people in a land across the ocean at a time of challenge and difficulty. I have read about this ancient people and have studied their mythologies and examined what daily life must have been like for them. With my family, I traveled to this distant land and walked the paths of saints and sinners alike. I touched centuries old relics and explored monastic cities that are but ruins in a wild landscape. I went on pilgrimage. I reflected on the wisdom of heralded saints. I prayed in ‘thin places.’ I marveled at the beauty of the land. I found the place of my resurrection. And I want to tell you all about it.

To do so, I’ll need to start at a place in history that feels exotic and unfamiliar. Beginning Wednesday night, May 9th at 6:00 PM in our Mission and Fellowship Center, I will begin the story of the Celtic Christian tradition with a presentation about the people of the British Isles. We will learn about the tribal, warrior-like people. We will learn about their love of the land and of song and of storytelling.

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The following Wednesday, May 16th, we will learn about Ireland’s first bishop, St. Patrick, and the evangelization of the Celtic people. We will try to discern fact from fiction and hold the Saint’s own words with a special weight as we demythologize his role and leadership.

On May 23rd, we will hear how the Gospel caught fire among the people of Ireland and transformed a warrior class into a devout and faithful people who lived out a new form of martyrdom.

On May 30th, we will tiptoe into the ruins of Ireland’s monastic cities to consider how the Irish chose to be church together.

On June 6th, we will conclude our story of the Celtic Christian tradition by climbing into the round towers that dot the Irish landscape to see the changes that were on the horizon.

Ultimately, my presentations will blend my research on Celtic Christianity with my family’s travel adventures into a seven-century journey of discovery that may just give us insight and illumination on how we can more effectively be church today.

I felt a great sense of solidarity with a Cloud of Witnesses who had traveled the same path I hiked when I sojourned to the summit of Croagh Patrick. It was there that I walked a trail that hundreds of thousands of faithful had walked over the last two millennia. It’s hard to put into words what that felt like.

In the coming Wednesdays, however, I will try.