A Hendersonville church known for attracting religious scholars from around the world to its annual lecture series is now presenting the youngest speaker they’ve hosted.

The Rev. Matthew Wright, an Episcopal priest, writer and retreat leader will be the featured speaker for the Walter E. Ashley lecture series on Oct. 20, 21 and 22 at First Congregational United Church of Christ.

The western North Carolina native will be the most youthful presenter for the regular lecture series.

“He is an old soul at age 31, if that makes sense. He is steeped in wisdom,” said Linda Welch, the administrator of the Ashley lecture series. “He is in the same vein as a theological scholar.”

Wright’s weekend at the church will focus on the topic of Reclaiming Wisdom: How Christianity is Evolving in the Third Millennium.

A press release from the church quotes Wright as saying he wants people to view Christianity in a different way.

“I want to reclaim Christianity as a path of transformation and awakening,” he said. “So often, it’s about believing. But at its heart, Christianity is a path.”

Wright grew up in Murphy and graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is a student of Cynthia Bourgeault and a teacher for Northeast Wisdom.

Wright is also priest-in-charge at St. Gregory’s Episcopal Church in Woodstock, N.Y.

He is described as a gifted speaker and writer who is inspirational and dynamic.

“His youth adds a freshness of perspective,” according to the press release.

Welch said First Congregational decided to invite Wright to speak after some church members learned about him from people who had heard him speak at the Wild Goose Festival in Hot Springs.

“They said, ‘This young man is really something to hear,’” Welch said.

Wright explored various paths in his own faith from his roots in the Pentecostal faith he practiced in the mountains, to Zen and Sufism.

After watching some of his talks on YouTube, First Congregational invited him to speak. The factors of his young age and ties to the area were also appealing to the church, she added.

“We’re open to exploring the spiritual side to Christianity,” she said. “I think it’s going to be exciting.”

Wright’s weekend at First Congregational will begin at 7 p.m. on Oct. 20 with his discussion of How We Lost Our Wisdom: Recovering the Christian Contemplative Path and Reclaiming Jesus as Wisdom Teacher.

His visit will continue at 10 a.m. on Oct. 21 with a lecture from him on The Gospels of Thomas and Mary: Restoring Wisdom Texts and Teaching. At 1 p.m. on Oct. 21, Wright will discuss Christianity in a Second Axial Age: Teihard de Chardin and Raimon Panikkar as Prophets of an Evolving Path.

Admission fees are $25 for each lecture on Oct. 20 and Oct. 21 or $75 for all three lectures with lunch included on Oct. 21.

Wright will speak twice more, at 9 a.m. on Oct. 22 during the church’s adult forum and at 10:30 a.m. during its worship service.

Both of the events on Oct. 22 are free; each will be held in the church’s sanctuary.

Welch said she expects 75 to 100 people for the Oct. 20 and Oct. 21 lectures and about 150 to attend the worship services on Oct. 22.

This year is the 10th year of the lecture series at First Congregational.

The Walter E. Ashley Lecture Series began at the church in 2006 after Ashley’s wife, Jo Ann, established the series in honor of her late husband. Ashley wanted to commemorate her husband’s passion for fostering Jesus’ teachings of love, peace and justice, according to the First Congregational website.

The series aims to deepen the conversation about what it means to be a Christian.

“I think our hope for the lecture group is that people will hear something different and have a moment of realizing that things may be different than they thought they were,” Welch said.

Tickets are available at fcchendersonville.org or they may be purchased in person at the church at 1735 Fifth Ave. W. Scholarship assistance is also available.