A Note from Reverend Timm Ashley
Welcome to First Baptist’s website. We are happy to welcome you electronically to discover more about us. There are many factors that define a congregation. First, there’s location. We’re at Main Street and West Avenue in La Crosse, diagonally across from the YMCA. From its first days in 1852 (we were the first church founded in the city); First Baptist has been close to the heart of the city. We also have the city of La Crosse close to our heart. We are a church at whose “heart” is making God’s love in Jesus a reality to our community. Second, we are defined by our size. We are a small congregation. There are some churches into which worshipers can disappear. That’s not true here! There is no one who doesn’t “count” here. We care about individual’s ideas and goals for ministry. Being in a small congregation can be hard work. It’s hard to hide and be invisible here. Third, we are defined by being a Baptist congregation. More than that, we are a Baptist congregation affiliated with about 5500 other unique congregations across the country – the American Baptist Churches in the USA.
This affiliation gives us one of the ways in which we choose to define ourselves. We sometimes talk about First Baptist as a “different Baptist experience.” This is not meant to slur other kinds of Baptist churches, only to say that American Baptists generally stand for a holistic mission to body, mind, and spirit in the name of Jesus. American Baptists stand for the participation of all God’s people in the life of the church. American Baptists see ourselves as only one tiny part of God’s people, and we relish our connections with other churches and faith groups. American Baptists believe that each church is a unique expression of God’s grace and has not only the right, but the privilege of defining its own values and mission under God.
We also use three words to define who we are: accessible, inclusive, and thoughtful. We are accessible. This not only refers to our building, which, for the greater part, is on one level so that all people can access us, but also refers to the way in which we try to accomplish our mission. Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened down, and I will give you rest.” At First Baptist there is no “party-line” you have to take in order to come. All are welcome.
Such a thought leads to the second word: we are inclusive. We are diverse in age and in the ways we understand life and faith. At First Baptist we simply welcome people and seek to include them, as they are. We do not ask them to pass tests or have no questions about their faith. We are simply here to include those who come. We believe that our diversity is part of our strength, and part of God’s plan for the world. No cookie-cutter Christians here.
Third, we are thoughtful. We believe that part of a faith journey is to work away on questions. We try to think about our faith. Sometimes examining the questions is at least as important as getting answers (at least right away). In both our worship and our education, we encourage thought, study, and the use of God-given intelligence as we think about how God is active in the world today. We study the Bible and our Christian tradition using lessons from our reason and our experience of life.
If any of this appeals to you, come and give us a try. We worship at 10:00 a.m. on Sundays and for adult education on Thursday evenings at 7:00. I’d love to meet you.
Timothy R. Ashley, Ph.D.
About Reverend Dr. Ashley
Dr. Timothy R. Ashley was born into an American Baptist minister’s home. He earned a BA degree in literature from the University of Sioux Falls, an MA in Hebrew and Old Testament from the American Baptist Seminary of the West, and a Ph.D. in Hebrew and Old Testament from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.
Dr. Ashley has experience as a minister and a teacher in the United States and Canada. He served as an American Baptist minister in South Dakota and Colorado before moving to Nova Scotia, Canada, in 1982. In Canada Dr. Ashley was Professor of Biblical Studies in the Faculty of Theology of Acadia University for over twenty years. During this time Dr. Ashley also served as Associate Dean of the Faculty of Theology, and Acting Principal of Acadia Divinity College. Since May of 2003 Dr. Ashley has been the minister of the First Baptist Church of La Crosse.
In addition to many articles and book reviews, Dr. Ashley has co-written several sets of Sunday School Curriculum for Judson Press (the most recent in Fall 2004) with his wife, the Reverend Maxine Ashley. He is also the author of a commentary on The Book of Numbers (Eerdmans, 1993), and co-edited a book of essays, You Shall Be My Witnesses (Mercer, 2003).
Dr. Ashley is married to Reverend Maxine Ashley, who was born on a farm in Iowa and grew up there. She has been a public school teacher in Minnesota and Iowa, as well as a minister of Christian Education in Canada, and a teacher of Christian Education at Acadia Divinity College. For fifteen years she served there as the Dean of Students. She now serves on the staff of the American Baptist Churches of Wisconsin, and as the chaplain at Onalaska Care Center.