Years of Growth

Depression Years

While the church struggled during the depression years to pay off the debt, the spirit of the church never slowed.New members joined, and abundant programs for all ages were established.

In 1937 a six-year mortgage reduction campaign was begun in an attempt to retire the $112,000 debt remaining.The congregation pledged toward this program.In October a mortgage burning ceremony was held in the church.Only $12,000 remained.The bank sent congratulations, and former pastors joined the celebration.

Men's Class

An Asbury Men's Bible Class was established quite early, but there are no class attendance sheets available before 1940.Some class books since then are also missing.But the class took over the large fellowship hall area and had fine attendance.The peak enrollment was 180 men.On October 27, 1953 when William Villard was class President, the Methodist Men of Asbury received its official charter from the Conference.Conference lay leader, G. Stanley Lynch, made the presentation.C. Burnley White of Cornwell Heights was the speaker for the ceremony.Alfred Redfield, Asbury lay leader, also participated in the ceremony.

A popular Men's Class teacher was Edward Sandow who taught the class from 1951 until his death in 1963.Mr. Sandow was Executive Secretary of the Allentown YMCA, and was also instrumental in the founding of the Allentown Council of Churches.

In 1958 the men formed an orchestra which played weekly for opening worship for the general Sunday School.It was composed of several accomplished musicians and even included a violin section.The leader of the group was Dr. Valgene Routch.He had played in Sunday School orchestras since boyhood, before coming to Allentown.He was supervisor of music in the Allentown School District, and at one time conductor of the Marine Band. In addition he played clarinet in the orchestra.In later years the orchestra became somewhat smaller and played only for the Men’s Class.

Pastoral Change

In 1952 Asbury’s pastor, the Reverend George Laughead passed away.He was known for his evangelism.The Bishop’s cabinet eulogized Rev. Laughead as a “sleeping giant.”

On February 1, 1952 the Reverend F. Lewis Walley was appointed to Asbury.His mother had been a first cousin of a previous pastor, Wayne Channel.Walley was immediately popular with the congregation who appreciated his sense of humor. The membership soon grew to over 1500.He was also active in the community.He served as President of Allentown area council of Churches, and was active with the boards of the UnitedFund, and the Lehigh Valley Crippled Children’s Society.

After the morning service on October 13, 1952, a large group of the congregation made a pilgrimage to the West End Cemetery to the graves of the Muffley sisters,David Unangst, and Catharine and Samuel Petit. They had been moved to the 10th Street Cemetery plot of a nephew, James M. Ritter, in 1909, when the Linden Street Church moved.Reverend Walley spoke on the theme, “Faith of Our Fathers”, praising the faith the Muffley sisters had in the future of Methodism.A brass trio played several numbers, and concluded the program accompanying the gathering that sang the hymn, “Faith of Our Fathers.”

Dedication of a Sanctuary Light occurred on February 22, 1953.This fulfilled the admonition of Exodus 27: 20.“And you shall command the people of Israel that they bring to you pure beaten olive oil for the light, that a lamp may be set up to burn continually.”

Another innovation was called “Bible Reading Sunday.”On January 31st 1954 more than 71 members of the congregation, changing every fifteen minutes, read the New Testament in its entirety.

Of special interest, the church budget grew from $22,000 to $100,000 during Reverend Walley’s tenure.

Effective January 15, 1964 Dr. Walley became the Superintendent of the North District of the Philadelphia Methodist Conference.Bishop Fred P. Corson appointed the Reverend Dr. Charles Yrigoyen as the new senior pastor at Asbury.

The Walley family was given a send off tribute on January 17, 1964.Mrs. Ellsworth Machin, Jr. chaired a program in Asbury’s Fellowship Hall, which included a dinner, special music, and special presentations by congregational leaders and former associate pastors John Carter, David Powell, and John McEllhenney.


In 1954 a program of remodeling and redecorating took place.Homer Hatfield, chairing the expansion fund committee, called for a sequential step program.First, more space would be provided for the primary, junior, and intermediate departments, and the electrical wiring and lighting would be improved.After this was completed and paid for, the next step would be to take over the attached parsonage to create offices for the secretary and pastor, more classrooms, "and a church parlor for board,
committee, and ladies group meetings." Of course, this necessitated the acquisition of a new parsonage for the pastor and his family.

The church found what was deemed to be a suitable house for a parsonage on 28th Street.The former parsonage was now named "Wesley House”, and was quickly found to be very convenient for small meetings because of the kitchen facilities, and the ease of heating one or two rooms instead of half of a large building as required when meetings were held in the main church facilities.The cost of the total program was estimated at $75,000.

Aldersgate House

In 1961 an opportunity to expand the church's facilities presented itself and the adjoining property was acquired.The former YWCA headquarters was a beautiful Victorian style home (the home of Frank Koch until 1937). The purchase price was announced as $75,000.The property covered a tract with 105 feet fronting on Hamilton Street, and a depth of 230 feet to Maple Street. The church named the new property "Aldersgate," and it was quickly adapted for youth Sunday School and other programs.Some adult classes held socials in this facility.The unused land between the Church and the house was converted into badly needed parking.The dedication of the "Aldersgate Meeting House" was held on May 19, 1963. Earl Wieder, President of the Board of Trustees, presented the building for dedication.Lester M. Eshleman, General Superintendent of the Sunday School, and Dr. Raymond Shettel, Chairman of the Commission on Education, participated in the service.Bishop Fred G. Holloway, of the West Virginia Area Conference, addressed the gathering.The bulletin noted that the Aldersgate name was drawn from John Wesley's account of his "heart-warming" experience at the society on Aldersgate Street in London.By the late 1960's, a coffeehouse type program for youth was established in the basement.

New Pipe Organ

In 1962 Asbury upgraded its pipe organ with a specially built Gress-Miles organ that boasted five manuals, seven divisions, 84 ranks and 4554 pipes.The organ operated on low wind pressure.The pipes were imported from Germany and the ivory for the keys from England.The console was hand carved walnut.This was the largest organ to be built by the new Gress-Miles firm.Because the firm would be allowed to demonstrate the organ to potential customers, the purchase price of $40,000 was somewhat misleading, and the value of the installed organ might be "double the purchase price."

Woodrow K. Schadt, Minister of Music at Asbury performed the Dedicatory Organ Recital On the Gress-Milesinstrument Sunday, September 16, 1962.His selections included music, which would demonstrate the various capabilities of the organ.

Lawrence Kistler, a William Allen High School senior, and assistant organist at Asbury, performed another concert on February 14, 1965.His presentation included selections from Bach and other well-known composers.He concluded the concert with his own composition, “Sonata No. 1 for Organ.”

Asbury's detailed history was researched and compiled by John H. Gauger, Asbury Church Historian