By Lance Hickey
Barnardsville – For this week’s edition of places where we worship in Northern Buncombe and Madison Counties, I attended Barnardsville Baptist Church.
I attended the morning service at the church on October 21st. Located on the main strip in Barnardsville on the Barnardsville Highway where the views are soaring and picturesque of the mountains. Barnardsville Baptist Church serves portions of Northern Buncombe County, Madison County and Yancey County, respectively.
Service began at 11 am as congregants enthusiastically gathered in the sanctuary. Scouring the room, I took a seat in a back pew. Several individuals came forward to introduce themselves and welcome me to the church.
The room, filled with people of all ages, resembled what may be called a traditional church setting. A small wooden cross hung on the back wall of the altar. Wooden pews with red cushions, matching the carpeting, encompassed the room. Extension quarters for extra seating opened on both sides of the sanctuary, creating a spacious ambiance in the room.
As service began, Reverend Joey Willis welcomed the congregation. Willis, dressed in a volunteer shirt from the Make-A-Wish Foundation, along with many others in the church, then said an opening prayer to relaying the church’s weekly announcements.
As Willis began presenting church announcements, the priorities and heart of the congregation started to become apparent. Every announcement seemed to have community outreach and well-being in mind. Members were thoughtfully encouraged and afforded the opportunity to not only serve the church, but serve the community at large. Whether it was food drives for hurricane survivors, a local food pantry or Operation Christmas Child, among other opportunities to assist and support, the church undoubtedly had a vision to serve local and distant communities.
The time came to sing a hymn called “Holy Ground” as the music director led the church in a reprise. Parishioners stood in reverence as they sang aloud in a chorus. Pastor Willis then opened up a time for church members involved in a recent mission’s trip to speak about their experience. The mission’s team, including Willis and many youth and young adults, recently headed to Give The Kids The World Village in Kissimmee, Florida to help serve children with critical illnesses and their families. The village is a nonprofit providing weeklong, cost-free vacations to these children and their families. Six of the mission’s team members who served on the mission’s trip passionately communicated their unique experiences while serving on the trip.
The time came for the weekly offering before Pastor Willis stepped forward to sing “What a Beautiful Name” by Hillsong Music while wife, Kelly, accompanied on the piano. The congregation joined in the singing as some lifted up their hands during this time of worship and singing.
Willis then began to present his message. He spoke about the importance of living a life with calculated wisdom while combining a wisdom-filled life with a balanced structure, including selflessly serving others. Willis used a free-form, witty instructional presentation style to communicate his sermon, along with stories from King Solomon in the Bible. As the message concluded, the music team played one more song as an invitational prayer was spoken. Service was dismissed.
Established in 1821, Barnardsville Baptist Church stands as one of Western North Carolina’s oldest and longest-standing churches, impacting the community for nearly two centuries. Reverend Willis has served as pastor for three years, succeeding Jim Hooper following his 11 years as pastor. Some of the church’s history remains unclear due to the age of the church, but its past and current impact on the area cannot be understated. From food drives to the congregation’s involvements in the Adopt A Highway program. The church provides people with an extensive list of opportunities to help out in the surrounding communities.
According to Willis, the church also is very intentional about partnering with other churches in the Barnardsville area, including holding an annual Thanksgiving service with nearly 10 churches from across the area. The service is held annually the Sunday night before Thanksgiving.
Barnardsville Baptist Church was traditional in its presentation. The congregation proved to be hospitably warm and welcoming to guests. The church’s long-standing mission of impacting the community through the demonstration of selfless service could not be more apparent. It’s clear why Barnardsville Baptist continues to thrive after nearly two centuries.