THE HISTORY OF INCARNATION
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." Much is the same today.
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 and in 1958 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. His 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 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. In 1991
the Rev. Deacon Joseph Ward was assigned to our parish and served as
chaplain at Highlands-Cashiers Hospital as well as serving faithfully
in the life and services of the parish.
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 Church of the Incarnation entered the second century of
existence in 1996 and a book entitled “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. There
was much to celebrate. We were growing and, at this time, there were
three services with overflow into the Great Hall during the summer season.
The Rev. Deacon Alan Hetzel was ordained and was assigned by the Bishop
to Incarnation to serve as the Chaplain for Highlands-Cashiers Hospital,
Fidelia Eckerd Nursing Home and Hospice; he is a faithful teacher and
minister to us all. He retired from Incarnation in 2005. Our
summer Deacon, The Rev. Susan Harrison from
Savannah, Georgia, assisted with services and parish life.
|In July 2002, the decision
was made to maximize the use of our property. We chose to stay in town
and not to disturb our original church which is on the National Register
of Historic Places. An addition was designed 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.
In October 2004 we called our new rector The Rev. Brian C.
Sullivan. Coming from the Diocese of Atlanta, he brought his
young family. Since a day care program had already been
established at the church, it was a perfect fit for Fr. Sullivan
whose interests in children and young adults had already begun
in Atlanta with the Kids4Peace program which brings children of
Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths together. He became involved
with the school’s Parent Teacher Organization and building on
the existing pre-school program. His work encouraged younger
families to become active in the church. He became a part of the
team from Incarnation to go to the mission in Tierra Muscudy,
Haiti. After almost six years at Incarnation, Fr. Sullivan
accepted a call to be the first Rector of St. Benedicts Church
in Smyrna, Georgia.