Our Story


Our story began in 1867 long before any of us were born- right after the Civil War. Blacks were not allowed to attend white churches and there were no black churches to attend. St. Matthias is believed to be the oldest African American congregation in Asheville. The original church was known as Freedmen’s Church, and was formed to not only serve as a place of worship, but as a parochial day school, which provided the only formal education at the time for black children and adults.The congregation soon outgrew the original frame building, and the present brick structure was built in 1894 and was completed and consecrated in 1898, as St. Matthias Episcopal Church. The construction was supervised by a former slave and member, James Vester Miller.


James Vester Miller

Today, St. Matthias is a multicultural, diverse congregation that values it’s African-American heritage, but welcomes people of many different kinds and nationalities and backgrounds. The congregation was involved in the formation of Christians for a United Community which although it is made up of a number of different denominations, brings people together to deal with racial disparities in the community.We are a group of Christians who welcome all of God’s creation. We are a very diverse congregation- of various nationalities, and ethnic groups, sexual orientations, rich and poor and homeless. The congregation, through prayerful visioning and honest talks, adopted the following Mission Statement: “St. Matthias is an intentionally diverse and welcoming family that shares the good news of Christ with all”
Features of the building

St. Matthias’ interior features elaborate woodwork, beautiful stained glass windows, a Midmer (tracker) pipe organ, and excellent acoustics.  The interior woodwork is considered to be the most sophisticated of any church in the area built during the latter part of the 19th century.

The adjoining Chapel was added at the turn of the century and consecrated in 1901.  The entire structure as it now stands was financed on a pay-as-you-go basis and is reported to have cost a total of $13,000 (!).  It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.


Rev. H. S. McDuffey