Emily Hull McGee, Pastor
Rev. Emily Hull McGee serves as senior pastor of First Baptist Church on Fifth, a delightful community of saints practicing bold love and boundless compassion in the heart of downtown Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The beloved community of First on Fifth has modeled courageous leadership over the past few years, as they addressed familiar challenges among historic churches with aging facilities by tearing down two-thirds of their existing buildings and realigning their landscape of ministry with a renewed sense of vision for the community.
First on Fifth’s historic work on their facilities has drawn national interest among other churches and organizations grappling with their sacred space in light of changing resources. Emily has become a trusted speaker and guide for these communities in transition, speaking and writing about these vital expressions of faithfulness in the midst of cultural and ecclesial transition. Most recently, Emily tells the story of First on Fifth in an essay entitled “Bricks and Mortals: Sacred Space and the Faithfulness of Letting Go” as a contributing author to Crisis and Care: Meditations on Faith and Philanthropy (published July 2021).
Prior to her calling to Winston-Salem in July 2015 to serve as First on Fifth’s 12th pastor and first female senior pastor in the church’s 150-year history, Emily served for six years as Minister to Young Adults at Highland Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky. She is a third-generation Baptist pastor in her family, following both her parents, her aunt, and grandfather into the ‘family business.’ (Her brother remains resolutely committed to life outside the ministry!) In her past life, Emily was training to be an opera singer, with Bachelor of Music and Master of Music degrees in Voice Performance from Furman University and Northwestern University, respectively. And it was there, far from the church life of her childhood, then among artists and creatives hungry for God’s story of justice and weary from the church’s narrative of exclusion, that she felt called by God to this sacred work of liberation, reconciliation, and love above all else.
Among other commitments in Baptist life and leadership roles in the broader community, Emily enjoys being close to her alma mater of Wake Forest University School of Divinity and serving with The Baptist Commons, mentoring first-time pastors through Baptist Women in Ministry, and serving on the Executive Committee and Board of the Baptist Joint Committee on Religious Liberty. Many days, you can find her hiking the trails of North Carolina’s state parks, gathering around the table with friends from all over, and running around after her three precious (and precocious) young kids. Emily is married to Josh (owner and “sauce boss” of the Y’all Company, makers of small-batch Southern sauces and storytellers through meal and table), and their children are Liam, Annabelle, and Silas.
You can follow Emily on Facebook (@emilyhullmcgee) and Twitter (@emilyhullmcgee).
- Contributing author, “Bricks and Mortals: Sacred Space and the Faithfulness of Letting Go,” Crisis and Care: Mediations on Faith and Philanthropy, eds. Dustin D. Benac and Erin Weber-Johnson. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2021.
- Contributing author, “Home By Another Way,” Call Stories: Hearing and Responding to God’s Call, ed. Barry Howard. Macon, GA: Nurturing Faith, 2019.
- Contributing author, “The Innkeeper,” Preaching for the Missional Journey, ed. Charles B. Bugg. Atlanta: Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Press, 2010.
Articles, Podcasts, and Speaking Engagements
- Panelist, Church of the Heavenly Rest of New York City, Crisis and Care Book Launch, July 12, 2021
- Panelist, Center for Healthy Churches, The Changing Church Webinar, “If We Build It, They May Not Come,” June 24, 2021
- Guest, The Naked Preacher Podcast, “Preachers are Women,” June 21, 2021
- Keynote Speaker, Campbell University School of Divinity, James C. Cammack Institute for Preaching Lectures, Lecture Series, March 23, 2021
- Keynote Speaker, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina, Annual Gathering, “More Than Enough,” March 19-20, 2021
- Panelist, Center for Healthy Churches, Seven Traits for Thriving in the 21st Century, “Visionary Leadership,” March 11, 2021
- Workshop Leader, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, General Assembly, “Bricks and Mortals” Presentation and Handout, June 25, 2020
- Keynote Speaker, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Georgia, Annual Gathering, “Life That Really Is Life,” November 3-5, 2019
- “First Baptist views demolition project as launching new chapter,” Winston-Salem Journal, July 8, 2018
- “This is What a Minister Looks Like,” Baptist Women in Ministry, January 12, 2018
- “A downtown church forges a new path when it decides to tear down two decaying buildings,” by Yonat Shimron, Faith and Leadership, December 12, 2017
- “Living Neighborly: Facing Some Firsts at First on Fifth,” Nurturing Faith, July-August 2017
- “How my father helped my ministry blossom,” Good Faith Media, June 16, 2017
- “How is Beloved Community cultivated in polarizing times?,” Nurturing Faith, March-April 2016
- Deacon Profile: Emily Hull McGee, Wake Forest University’s Old Gold & Black, November 5, 2015
- “First Baptist picks new pastor,” Winston-Salem Journal, March 28, 2015
- “Does your church need Millennials?,” Baptist News Global, August 30, 2013
- “Love Stirred Within Me,” Baptist Women in Ministry Vocare Magazine, Spring 2011
David Williamson, Associate Pastor Worship, Arts, Administration
The Reverend David Williamson has been Minister of Worship and the Arts at First Baptist Church on Fifth since 1998. One of David’s best loved Scriptures among many favorites is Psalm 139 which reminds us of God’s intimate presence in our lives. David’s ministry focus, Worship and the Arts, grew out of his desire to use art as a tool for spiritual formation and worship. His leadership has helped bring about special arts related programming like the Open Doors Art Classes and exhibits featuring photography, sculpting, and oil painting. During his ministry at FBC, David has conducted numerous special musical performances such as the annual “Feast of Carols” Christmas concert. For the past ten years David has served as the Chorus Master of the Messiah Community Chorus for Winston-Salem’s annual presentation of Handel’s Messiah performed at Reynolds Auditorium.
David earned a Bachelor of Music from Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, and a Master of Music from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.
Learn more about the Arts Ministry at First on Fifth.
Amy McClure, Associate Pastor Children, Senior Adults, Pastoral Care
The Reverend Amy McClure has served as one of the Associate Pastors since March 2015. One of Amy’s favorite passages of scripture is Isaiah 43, which reminds us of God’s redeeming power in our lives and that God calls us by name. In her role as an Associate Pastor, Amy provides leadership in the areas of Pastoral Care, Senior Adult Ministry, and Children’s Ministry. One of Amy’s passions is inter-generational ministry, where people of all ages partner together to be the Church and share the Gospel.
Amy holds a Master of Divinity from Campbell University Divinity School and a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She enjoys connecting with people from all over and loves being part of the beloved community at First Baptist Church on Fifth.
Nikki Byers, Minister for Missions
I am honored to have the opportunity to serve the First on Fifth community in the role of Interim Minister for Missions. In the time that Richard and I have been members of First on Fifth, we have felt a significant connection to this church: the vision, the excellent leadership and of course the many welcoming members of the congregation. And First Baptist is our neighborhood church; we live just a stone’s throw from the back door of the church.
The vision statement- “We are a community in the heart of the city called by Jesus to practice bold love of God and neighbor and boundless compassion for all people”-connects and resonates with me. I think my past experiences will help inform and guide our steps forward to address our mission priorities to mitigate poverty and cultivate the well-being of children.
Read more from Nikki HERE
Mary Kaylor, Minister for Youth
Jake Hill, Music Associate / Organist
A graduate of Appalachian State University, Jake Hill holds baccalaureate degrees in both organ performance and sacred music and master of music degrees in organ performance and choral conducting. Currently, Jake serves as the Principal Organist & Music Associate at First Baptist Church of Winston-Salem, North Carolina and has previously held positions at other churches throughout the state including First Baptist Church of Elkin, Trinity Moravian Church in Winston-Salem and Baltimore United Methodist Church in East Bend.
In addition to his duties as a church musician, Jake has also appeared as a guest organist, performing in solo and collaborative capacities throughout the country in notable venues such as the Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina, for the Piccolo Spoleto Festival, Aeolian Manner in Houston, Texas and St. Mary of the Hills in Blowing Rock, North Carolina to name a few. Other performances include collaborating with several academic music programs throughout the state as an accompanist for choirs and musical productions as well as various ceremonies and services throughout the year.
Jake now resides in Charlotte, North Carolina where he holds principal responsibilities with Cornel Zimmer Organs focused in sales and proposal design, working alongside an exceptional group of talented craftsmen to design and build the best instruments possible.
Abigail Cook, Communications Specialist
Abigail is no stranger to the ministry of communications. Her educational journey led her through a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education from Georgetown College in 2007 and her Master of Divinity degree from McAfee School of Theology in 2010. Abigail has served in ministry in a variety of settings — first in several roles on staff at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California (Executive Assistant to the Dean, then Events Administrator for the school), and most recently, as Director of Adult Discipleship & Communications at Chapel Hill United Methodist Church in Wichita, Kansas. She led in this vibrant congregation for five years through June 2021, and her impact on the church’s life (as shared by her colleagues) was significant and vast.
We welcome Abigail, Jake and their three kids into our church family!