Asbury celebrated its seventy-five years of service to God in the Allentown area in 1997. Under the leadership of Irene Seeling, a planning committee put together a multi-faceted plan of celebration. The date of Sunday September 28 was chosen. Publicity was conducted by weekly bulletin historical “Did you know?”items, and other special announcements. The choirs set about planning special music, including the commissioning of a celebratory hymn. Coloring books were developed for the elementary grades to learn about the history of Methodism and Asbury. The Cross and Flame published a special issue containing a brief history and photos. Caterers were hired (so that all members could join the celebration) to provide light refreshments and a luncheon. The clown ministries inflated balloons for the children. A special video containing photographs and music from Asbury choirs continually ran during the morning. Several tables contained photos of a joyous past.
Former pastor, the Reverend Dr. John C. Kulp, brought the morning message. A hymn written by former pastor, the Reverend Dr. Lewis Walley (who was present) was incorporated into the service. Special gifts were presented to Asbury, including a collection of Methodist Disciplines (dating from 1791 to 1996) by the Reverend Kenneth Klingborg (a son of Asbury), a portrait of Francis Asbury presented by the Reverend and Mrs. George de Krafft, an oil painting of old Asbury presented by The Rev. Dr. and Mrs. Charles Yrigoyen, Asbury pastor from 1964 to 1968, and a small bust of Francis Asbury presented by John and Sandy Gauger.
Beautiful Fall weather aided in the celebration by a large turnout of Asbury members and former members. A large number of flowers adorning the sanctuary and fellowship hall were later taken to those unable to attend.
Asbury realized a longtime dream when on March 1, 1998 a carillon was dedicated to the glory of God, and in memory of George and Susan Howorth. The carillon is programmed for automatic playing and can be played manually outside or in the sanctuary or both. Schulmerich, the company that had manufactured Asbury’s handbells, manufactured the system. The company has hundreds of hymns and other songs available. The music is recorded on “solid state” card (which replace tapes and compact discs.) The funding for the system was begun by the Seeling family and increased by substantial contributions in memory of the Howorths, with the balance underwritten by the handbell Choirs.
During the Fall of 1999 Pastor Wright announced he would retire in January 2000. Serving as Asbury’s Senior Pastor since 1984, Robert Wright had set a new Asbury record for length of service by a pastor. Reverend Wright announced that the arrangements were that during the Spring of 2000 a series of speakers were set to fill-in on Sunday mornings and Associate Pastor John Gudekunst would be able to perform his regular duties. A new senior pastor would be appointed at the usual conference times, and be at Asbury by July 2000.
January 23, 2000 saw a church wide retirement celebration. All of the church’s musical groups played, sang and rang during the morning worship services. Reverend Wright spoke on “The Faith that Made a Difference,” a presentation of his own faith experiences and lessons learned during his forty-one years in the ministry.
Following the service the congregation and friends packed the Days Inn Conference Center for a luncheon celebration. Music, remarks, and gifts were presented to the Wrights.
During the Spring of 2000 the congregation learned of the appointment of the Reverend Melinda L. McKonly as Asbury’s new senior pastor. Many members of the congregation were acquainted with “Mindy” since she had served as our District Superintendent for eight years. During that time she had preached occasionally and often worshipped at Asbury. A new milestone was achieved with the appointment of Asbury’s first female senior pastor.