Emily Hull McGee

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.

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.

“‘For Everybody’: Thousands come out – so to speak – for Winston-Salem’s annual Pride Parade,” Winston-Salem Journal, June 22, 2024

Panelist and Workshop Leader, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina, Annual Gathering, “Ten Stories: The Experience of Ten Churches Who Are Becoming Communities of Hospitality for LGBTQ+ Folks,” March 14-15, 2024

Keynote Speaker, Oasis: A Spiritual Retreat for Those Who Minister to Children, Youth, and College Students, Montreat Retreat and Conference Center, February 6-9, 2024

“On the baptism of our firstborn,” Baptist News Global, January 26, 2023

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

Sermons Podcasts


Welcome to our church family! Emily is dedicated to guiding our congregation with warmth and wisdom, inviting all to share in a journey of faith and community. Her door is always open, ready to offer guidance, support, and a friendly ear. We look forward to connecting with you within 3-5 days!


(336) 722-2558 x1001