Bursting at the Seams

What to Expand

The church continued to grow in its new location. One of the first expansion needs to present itself was a larger nursery. Worship attendance increased from less than 400 per Sunday to more than 550 by 1986. Projections showed well over 700 in worship attendance by 1998. Similarly the church school attendance had continued to average over 350 per Sunday. Would it grow to 495 by 1998? A facilities utilization study committee was appointed in 1984 to study current and future needs. Chairing the committee was Thomas Gibson.

The leadership of the congregation was surveyed as to program needs in May of 1985. These thoughts formed the basis for an all Congregation survey also in 1985. In ranked order the congregational priorities were:

  1. Expanded educational facilities
  2. Elevator (The UMW was already raising funds for the elevator.)  
  3. Multipurpose Room
  4. Additional Office Space
  5. Expanded sanctuary seating
  6. Redesign of chancel/choir area

The survey indicated an addition to the present building was preferred almost 2 to 1 over a separate building.

The Need for Space

The growth in church staff, increased worship and Sunday School attendance, a growing pre-school program, and the results of the congregational survey formed the basis for a report to the congregation in the Spring of 1987. The Wolf Partnership was engaged as architects for possible renovations. They drew plans and presented costs estimates. The Building Committee recommended approaching the project in phases. Phase one would concentrate on the need for offices, the elevator, and classrooms. The addition would project toward the main parking lot, and since it would occupy some of the lot, additional spaces were to be created in the upper lot. Cost estimates for phase one were $1,025,000. A fund raising campaign was projected to raise $450,000 to supplement $280,000 already on hand. A mortgage of $300,000 could then complete the financing.

May 31, 1987 was designated for the congregational meeting. The Reverend Robert Wright, now pastor, preached on the topic, “Building the Future” with I Corinthians 12:12 -27 as his text. Sixteen new members joined the congregation during the service. After the service, the Congregational Meeting began. There was much discussion about the choices made for phase one. Some expressed the opinion that the multi-purpose room should be in phase one and the offices later. The final vote was 185 in support of the plan, 64 opposed and 2 members abstained.    And so Asbury was to grow again.

In response to the May meeting, the Building Committee revisited the multi-purpose room concept to see if it could also be accomplished in phase one. A subcommittee was appointed under the leadership of Kirk Brown. The room was renamed the Family Life Center . The congregation was presented a report showing the locations for this facility, as well as the programming which could take place there. The additional cost projection was $650,000. Its viability would depend on the Fall Financial Drive. The resulting campaign supported only enough for the original plan, but the possibilities were now clearly projected for the future when funds would make it possible.


Groundbreaking ceremonies were held on August 14, 1988 at a 10:15 a.m. service. Pastor Wright preached on the topic: ”when the Temple Was Being Rebuilt” based on Acts 2:37-42. The hymn “Marching to Zion ” was sung by the congregation. Jack Ihm, Lay Leader, led a ceremony in which many representatives of Asbury programs and membership participated.

  • Representing the teaching staff and children’s church School: Heather Herrel, Tim Kratzer, Kathy Whittaker and Roger Hines.
  • Representing the senior and junior high youth: Kathy Kovatch and Steve Howorth
  • Representing the United Methodist Women: Clara Koch and Dot Torrey
  • Representing Asbury’s tradition and history: Mildred Black, Laurie Black and Dick Black (3 generations of members).
  • Representing Asbury’s new families: Jack Jarrell, Dianne Jarrell, and Amanda Jarrell
  • Representing the congregation: Samuel and Eleanor Henritzy

As the brass choir played “Marching to Zion ” other members of the congregation also broke ground. The playing of the Chimes of the Trinity and a balloon release concluded the ceremony.


Bishop Susan M. Morrison conducted the Service of Consecration for the addition on September 17, 1989.    Her message was entitled “Courage to Be,” based on Luke 7:26 -50. Thomas D. Gibson, Chairperson of the Building Committee, along with representatives of the Wolf Partnership, architects, and Bracy Contracting, Inc. presented the addition for consecration. Lay leader John Ihm, who had chaired the Commemorative Gifts Committee, presented the gifts for dedication. Accepting the gifts was Dick McCreight, Chairperson of the Board of Trustees. In attendance for the Consecration Service were District Superintendent the Rev. Melinda McKonly and former District Superintendents from 1971 to 1988, the Reverend Harvey Marsland, the Reverend Robert Longenecker, and the Reverend Susan Hassinger. Also in attendance was the Philadelphia  Episcopal Area Bishop James M. Ault (1972 to 1980).


Asbury decided to honor former church leaders by naming the Reverend Dr. F. Lewis Walley “Pastor Emeritus” on August 27, 1989 and Bishop James M. Ault “Bishop in Residence” from June 1992 to July 1997. Both clergymen were in regular attendance at Asbury at the time.  

Business Administrator

New staff positions were soon added. An active member of the congregation, Tom Gibson, was appointed as part-time Business Manager and supervisor of a growing office staff in 1988. His duties quickly multiplied as a regular staff member and the position became full-time in 1992.

Researched and Compiled by John H. Gauger, Asbury Church Historian.