On October 30,1879, the first Episcopal Church service was held in a schoolhouse by the Rev. John A. Deal who had begun his work in Macon County (our county) in 1877 and lived in Franklin, North Carolina, twenty miles away.

By 1884, regular services were held in people’s homes. Mr. Deal wrote about Highlands:

“Here in the land of clouds and evergreens, I established one of my most promising missions, supported in winter by the resident congregation that enlarged as the summer homes and inns filled.”

On September 24, 1894 the Rt. Rev. Joseph Blount Cheshire, D. D., Bishop of North Carolina, organized the Mission of the Incarnation in Highlands.

In 1896 the original church, now the chapel, was completed thanks to a generous donation from the Church of the Incarnation in New York City. For many years the church was open primarily in the summer.
When roads improved and year round work was possible, a rectory was built in 1941, and the Rev. Frank Bloxham moved in. In 1950 a parish hall was added while the Rev. Dr. A. Rufus Morgan was Missioner.

The Church of the Incarnation remained a mission until 1956 when it became an independent parish. In 1958, Incarnation became a self-supporting parish under the guidance of the Rev. Dr. Herbert Koepp-Baker.

Dr. Koepp-Baker was an internationally recognized authority in clinical psychology and speech pathology, teaching in nationally known universities, and his leadership in Highlands was widespread. He was instrumental in reopening the local hospital, founding a hearing clinic and administering the Asheville Orthopedic Hospital.

Dr. Koepp-Baker’s community involvement was an outreach which Incarnation parishioners still seek in their rectors to this day.

The Reverend Gale D. Webbe, S.T.D.,was our rector from 1960 to 1971. A noted theological author and educator, he greatly strengthened the life and work of the church, and the parish prospered. In 1972 the Rev. Fred Hovey became our rector and a new rectory was built.

The Rectory Today

The Rev. Charles Bryan arrived in 1979. The number of communicants, summer and year-round, was greatly increasing as more people were finding this summer resort a desirable year-round place to live.

During this time, a lovely prayer garden, landscaping, and a beautiful church entrance were created; the “Parish Post” newsletter was begun, the office was computerized, sound and video systems were installed and many other improvements were added.

Father Bryan also gave a substantial amount of his time and talent to the community by founding the local Hospice program and spearheading the revitalization of the Highlands Inter-Church organization. He was a leader in the ecumenical cooperation among local ministers and gave strong support to environmental groups, the Highlands Playhouse and the Chamber Music Festival.

The Rev. Dr. Robert Michael Jones was called in July 1995. When Fr. Mike arrived we were a small town yet a cosmopolitan church whose year round congregation swelled to more than capacity when the summer members returned.
“The Episcopal Church of the Incarnation First 100 Years” was published. On August 18, 1996, Bishop Robert Johnson and Father Jones officiated at a reenactment of the laying of the cornerstone and consecration of the church.
In 2002, we designed and built an addition to create a new sanctuary (increasing the seating capacity from 100 to 240), new offices, classrooms and meeting rooms, a library, a great hall, and a modern kitchen as well as a handicapped access elevator.

© 2015 Jeremy Harwell; Source: AtlantaMagazine.com

Church facade following 2002 addition