at First Congregational UCC - Hendersonville


Online reservations end May 29th.  Please register at the door after this date.


Rev. Ed Bacon - May 31 - June 2, 2019

The Walter E. Ashley Lecture Series is excited to introduce Reverend Ed Bacon as our latest esteemed lecturer.  The author of              8 Habits of Love, Ed Bacon has been a regular guest host on Oprah Winfrey's Soul Series, on Oprah & Friends Radio, and a guest panelist in the Spirituality 101 segment of The Oprah Winfrey Show's "Live Your Best Life" series.  Ms. Winfrey recently named Ed Bacon a "Soul Teacher" on her "SuperSoul 100" list, a collection of "100 awakened leaders who are using their voices to elevate humanity."

Until his retirement in May 2016, Bacon was the rector of All Saints Church in Pasadena, California for 21 years.  Ed is a national voice on Issues of the Oneness of all creation, rethinking Christianity as non-bigoted, science-friendly, and love-based; as well as promoting faith and justice for all regardless of rqace, gender, religion, or sexual orientation.


  • Rethinking Christianity.
  • Replacing fear-based religion with love-based religion.
  • The new Christian patriotism.









Contact us to learn more about First Congregational.

I came first to the Ashley Lecture Series and remember thinking any church that would have such interesting and challenging speakers must be special. So I came back to a service or two and went to a few Adult Forums. Consistently, I have been intellectually engaged by First Congregational's commitment to questioning, thinking, and life-long spiritual growth.

                                                            Roger Smith


Robin Meyers is the pastor of Mayflower Congregational Church, an “unapologetically Christian, unapologetically liberal” church in Oklahoma City. He is a professor in the philosophy department at Oklahoma City University, a syndicated columnist, an award winning commentator for National Public Radio. A prolific writer, Meyers has most recently authored Saving Jesus From The Church and The Underground Church.

Reverend Dr. John Philip Newell, a Church of Scotland minister, is the former Warden of Iona Abbey, a scholar of Celtic spirituality, a renowned retreat leader, and author of 15 books, including The Rebirthing of God: Christianity's Struggle for New Beginnings. Rev. Newell has a reputation as a charismatic and inspirational speaker who appeals to the heart as well as the head.

An author, speaker, and independent scholar specializing in American religion and culture, Diana Butler Bass calls herself ...a person of faith, a Christian, who attempts to live the generative, inviting, inclusive and transforming practices at the heart of Christianity that can heal the world. Marcus Borg called her book, Christianity for the Rest of Us, “...the most important book of the decade about emerging Christianity and the renewal of mainline congregations.”

Pastor of the West Hills United Church of Canada in Scarborough, Ontario and founder of the Canadian Centre of Progressive Christianity, Gretta Vosper is the author of the bestselling book, With or Without God: Why the Way We Live is More Important than What We Believe. Bishop John Shelby Spong describes her as “a brilliant, insightful and courageous young woman.”

Michael Dowd is an evolutionary theologian, bestselling author, and evangelist for Big History and an honorable relationship to the future. His bridge-building book, Thank God for Evolution, was endorsed by 6 Nobel Prize-winning scientists, noted skeptics, and by religious leaders across the spectrum. His work has been featured favorably in The New York Times, LA Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Newsweek, Wired, Discover, and on CNN, ABC News, and Fox News.

Brian McLaren has been named one of the 25 most influential evangelicals in America by Time Magazine. He is the leader of “the emerging church,” an inclusive network of churches and Christian leaders who worship, interpret theology, engage the popular culture, move beyond denominational and political labels and live in the Gospel.

The late Marcus Borg (1942-2015) was an American New Testament scholar, theologian and author. A fellow of the Jesus Seminar, he was formerly Hundere Distinguished Professor of Religion and Culture at Oregon State University, a position from which he retired in 2007. Borg continues to be among the most widely known and influential voices in progressive Christianity and is a major figure in scholarship related to the Historical Jesus.

J. Pittman McGehee is an Episcopal priest and Jungian analyst in private practice in Austin, Texas. He is widely know as a lecturer and educator in the field of psychology and religion, as well as a published poet and essayist. He is the author of The Invisible Church: Finding Spirituality Where You Are (Praeger Press, 2008), Raising Lazarus: The Science of Healing the Soul (2009), Words Made Flesh, and The Paradox of Love.

John Shelby Spong, whose books have sold more than a million copies, was bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark for 24 years before his retirement in 2001. His admirers acclaim him as a teaching bishop who makes contemporary theology accessible to the ordinary layperson — he’s considered by many the champion of an inclusive faith, both inside and outside the Christian church. A visiting lecturer at Harvard and at universities and churches worldwide, Bishop Spong delivers more than 200 public lectures each year to standing-room-only crowds. His bestselling books include Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism, A New Christianity for a New World, Why Christianity Must Change or Die, and Here I Stand.

The Reverend Matthew Wright is an Episcopal priest, writer, and retreat leader working to renew the Christian Wisdom tradition within a wider interspiritual framework. He is a student of Cynthia Bourgeault and a teacher for Northeast Wisdom. He writes a monthly column for Contemplative Journal and serves as priest-in-charge at St. Gregory Episcopal Church in Woodstock, NY.

Contact us to learn more about First Congregational. 


Contact us to learn more about First Congregational.

Walter Ashley was a long-time member of First Congregational UCC in Hendersonville who had a keen interest in progressive Christianity. After his death in 2006, his widow, Jo Ann, established the Lecture Series to commemorate her husband's passion for fostering Jesus' teachings of love, peace, and justice.

The Walter E. Ashley Memorial Lecture Series continues to deepen the conversation about what it means to live into our Christian identity -- as people, families, fellowships, and nations. We invite contemplative, progressive theologians and scholars, such as John Shelby Spong, John Philip Newell and Walter Brueggemann, to expand our experience of the wisdom teachings of Jesus.

Your contribution to The Lecture Series Endowment is the prime reason our series continues to thrive. We invite you to be a sustaining participant as a Sponsor at $300, a Benefactor at $500, or a Guarantor at $1,000. In gratitude for your tax-deductible support, we include one lecture series ticket (a value of $100) to each Sponsor, two tickets for each Benefactor, and four for each Guarantor.

We thank you for your presence, your support, and your enthusiasm to continue these educational and inspirational gatherings.