at First Congregational UCC - Hendersonville


The Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III - June 8 & 9

Dr. Moss is part of a new generation of ministers committed to preaching a prophetic message of love and justice, which he believes are inseparable companions that form the foundation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As Senior Pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, IL, Dr. Moss has spent the last two decades practicing and preaching a theology that unapologetically calls attention to the problems of mass incarceration, environmental justice, and economic inequality.

With a unique gift to communicate across generations, Dr. Moss’ creative Bible-based messages have inspired young and old alike. His intergenerational preaching gift has made Dr. Moss a popular speaker on college campuses and at conferences and churches across the globe. He is highly influenced by the works of Zora Neale Hurston, August Wilson, Howard Thurman, Jazz, and Hip-Hop music. The work and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the pastoral ministry of his father, Dr. Otis Moss, Jr. of Cleveland, Ohio, have been primary mentors for his spiritual formation.

Dr. Walter Brueggemann - October 19 - 21

As an American Protestant Old Testament scholar and theologian who is considered the world's leading interpreter of the Old Testament, Dr. Brueggemann is an important figure in modern progressive Christianity. His work often focuses on the Hebrew prophetic tradition and sociopolitical imagination of the Church. He argues that the Church must provide a counter-narrative to the dominant forces of consumerism, militarism, and nationalism.


Walter Brueggemann is the author of numerous books, including Westminster John Knox Press best sellers such as Genesis and First and Second Samuel in the Interpretation series,  An Introduction to the Old Testament: The Canon and Christian Imagination, and Reverberations of Faith: A Theological Handbook of Old Testament Theme.


He served as William Marcellus McPheeters professor of Old Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary, from which he retired in the early 2000s.


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.