The History of
Asbury United Methodist Church

 

The Asbury United Methodist Church was founded and erected in 1857 in Homesteadville.  The congregation at that time was part of what was known as the Mount Zion Circuit embracing the following appointments: Mount Zion, Blackwoodtown, Homesteadville and Milford, NJ.  The Pastor was the Rev. Perry Gibson, a local preacher, under the New Jersey Conference.  A few years later Centerville, now known as Ferry Ave U.M. Church, was added to the charge.

The building used was on the corner of Second and Centre Streets.  After 21 years it was sold and used for a hall.  We then moved to the location on Wisteria Avenue under the pastorate of Rev. Noah Morris who laid the cornerstone.  The building was not completed until 1882 under the pastorate of Rev. Robert H. Coleman at the cost of $900.00.  Trustees at that time were George Still, Augustus Washington, H. Cooper, Perry Gibson, King Henry Still, J. Jordan and Wesley Bankston.  The following pastors served the church during these times:  Rev. William Brinkley, Sr., Rev. Louis Y. Cott, Rev. John Pierce, Rev. Benjamin Gibbs, Rev. Isaiah Broughton, and Rev. Noah Morris.

The church became a separate charge in 1881 under the pastorate of Rev. Vincent Wallace.  Fifteen appointments were made between the years of 1881 and 1907.

Our first parsonage was purchased under the pastorate of Rev. J.W. Parker. Then Rev. J.R. Holland came and served us from 1926 until 1929.  During this time the old parsonage was sold,  a new one was built, the old church torn down and the new one erected at a cost of $16,000.00.  Much of the work was left incomplete, even though the structure was used for service.

Many improvements were made to the church since that time.  The pastors who served during the 1800’s were concerned mostly with building the foundation.  They succeeded along with the saints who were members of their congregations.  The following pastors built upon the foundation: Rev. J. L. Taylor 1929-1943; Rev. B.B. Carson 1943-1947; Rev. M.L. McKenney 1947-1951 and Rev. J.O. Stanley came to us in the year 1951 and served until 1957.  Under his pastorate the church mortgage was burned in 1952.  The spiritual fervor of the church continued to be strong under Rev. McKenney’s leadership. Afterward Rev. George Geddis served from 1957 to 1963.  Rev. Charles William Cannon, 1963-1987, served the longest term of any pastor before him.

One of the monumental moments in our history was the Great Asbury Revival of 1962. The Revival was slated for only a few nights, but the spirit of God moved in such a way that it lasted three weeks.  During that revival, many people came to faith, a healing took place and the church witnessed a move of God that can only be rivaled by Pentecost!  The Asbury Revival did for our fellowship what the Great California Revival of 1953 did for Dr. Billy Graham and what the Asbury Revival did for Asbury College and the Christian College Community in the 1960’s.

In 1987 upon the retirement of Rev. Charles Cannon, God blessed Asbury with the arrival of Rev. Dennis L. Blackwell.  Under Pastor Blackwell’s administration many improvements were made to the church property.  The membership has grown by leaps and bounds.  The congregation is vibrant, faithful and responsive to this inspired leadership.

Pastor Blackwell has lead Asbury for over twenty-five years, as a trailblazer who helped to shape the new vision of our church.  With this new vision the congregation has grown from an average of forty members attending Sunday services to an average of one hundred-seventy.  Today we offer two Sunday Morning Worship services at 8 am and 11 am.

Stressing the importance of member education, Pastor assisted with the growth of many church ministries including Evangelism Ministry, Lay Ministry, Prayer Ministry, Greeter’s Ministry, Youth Ministry, Married Couples Ministry, Single’s Ministry, Nurse Ministry, Ushers Ministry, Communications Ministry, Outreach Ministry, Mime Ministry, Culinary Ministry, and New Members Ministry.  The Transportation Ministry and Security Ministry were recently created for the safety of our members and guests.  We have also experienced a growth in educational opportunities for Asbury members including Discipleship classes, Bible Studies, Vacation Bible School, Sunday school for all ages and prayer groups.  The General Church recognized and rewarded our efforts when they invited Asbury to be a Congregational Resource Center for Strengthening the Black Church for the 21st Century in 1996.

In January 2000, structural problems forced the congregation to vacate our facility.  Asbury ministries continued to flourish even during the seven years and nine months that we were without a “church home.”  We held Sunday worship at Camden Catholic High School and the Homestead Youth Association.  We are ever so grateful to Monsignor Martin, Camden Catholic High School, Homestead Youth Association, Trinity United Methodist Church, Pennsauken Methodist Church and Calvary Baptist Church for providing us additional worship space and a place for meetings, spiritual nurture and fellowship.   We were blessed with a new church home in Woodlynne where, after complete renovation of the building and grounds, our first worship service was held on September 30, 2007.
Through Pastor’s teachings, members learned about proper tithing which enabled the church to move from traditional fundraising activities like “Men’s and Women’s Day”, baked goods or dinner sales toward the development of individual tithing and various capital fund campaigns , such as “ The Joshua Campaign.”  These teachings have led to a more stable and financially sound base for the Asbury church.

Over the years, Asbury has seen growth in the church support and pastoral staff.  Growth has also taken place in our choirs.  Through recognition and “dignitary” status for their accomplishments, Pastor has engaged the youth and challenged them to strive for academic excellence.

Men’s, Women’s, Youth and Leadership Retreats were introduced during his reign to provide the important time of fellowship and teaching.  These retreats also helped to prepare members for the important work of reaching outside of the doors of the church to the community at large, which is a great passion of our leader.  Pastor Blackwell teaches us that we are all charged with “bringing souls to Christ” and reminds us this should be the top priority of the church and its members.  Our outreach programs included hosting homeless men for two weeks each year, while our youth participated in “hats & gloves” distribution during the winter, and grass cutting services for the seniors in the summer.

Nevertheless, God’s grace permits us to continue an exciting, visionary and life impacting ministry.  With Pastor Blackwell leading the way, Asbury United Methodist Church has gained recognition nationwide.  As we look to the future we are forever reminded that “GREAT IS THY FAITHFULNESS!”