It was the first day of October in 1989 when 200 people met for the first time to worship.
Little did they know that they were establishing what would become the Asbury United Methodist Church known today. The Bossier City-based church has not only grown in size over the last 25 years, but so has its initial mission to serve people in their community and around the world.
Carolyn Honaker, a charter member of the church, recalled the days when the members of Curtis Park UMC and St. Stephen’s UMC first gathered at the local community college.
“We were a small church,” she said. “I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else though.”
During their initial two and a half years, the congregation met at the community college campus and began planning the first phase of a building program. The Louisiana United Methodist Board of Church Extension purchased and presented 15 acres of land to the church.
In October 1991, ground was broken for the construction of a 16,000 square foot church facility that included a multi-purpose room that could be used for worship, fellowship dinners and recreation. The facility also contained 16 classrooms, a kitchen and office areas.
On June 7, 1992, the Asbury family met for the first time in their new facility.
Through the years, several additions were made to the church site – a children’s wing, a wing for adult classes, a youth activities area and additional parking.
Then on March 14, 2004, ground was broken on a new 900-seat sanctuary. The grand opening was later held a year and a half later on September 11, 2005.
By this time, the congregation had significantly increased. Kip Holloway, an original member of St. Stephens UMC, said people are drawn to the church to become involved in more than just worshiping.
“There are a lot of ways to get involved,” he said. “There are weekly volunteer opportunities and mission work. That’s what drew me back here. Missions are the life and blood of the church.”
Asbury has a 25 year tradition of reaching out with love to the Navajo Nation. To this have been added trips to Mexico and India with construction teams and medical teams.
Angela Pfanner, Programs Director for Asbury UMC, said the church strives to have a strong influence on the youth when it comes to mission work. The youth group takes a yearly trip to Arizona, which Pfanner said serves as a cultural experience while strengthening the church family.
A majority of the mission work is funded by Asbury’s annual pumpkin patch, which is open for the entire month of October or ’til the pumpkins are gone.
“The pumpkin patch is a big outreach for the community,” Honaker said. “It has become a yearly tradition for some in the community. Money raised from it goes toward our mission work.”
But Honaker said there’s a bigger mission to achieve.
“We are called to be out in the community,” she added. “It’s not just about people coming to us, but it’s about us getting out and going to the people.”
Locally, within the last five years, Renesting, Katy Build, and Faithful Footwear have been created through Asbury UMC. Other mission work includes the VOA Lighthouse, Weekend of the Cross, UM ARMY, the Northwest Food Bank, 7 missions in a day, Angel tree and Blessing Boxes.
Even after 25 years, Asbury is still a growing, exciting place to be and continues to be the vibrant, mission-oriented church it was originally founded on.
“We’ve stuck together through all of it and that makes it special. Those were all exciting times, but there are still exciting times to come,” Honaker said. “We are in a great community and I hope we continue to grow. We can’t even begin to count the number of people we have reached and lives we have touched. It’s even bigger than we dreamed.”
A statement from the church outlines their plans for the next 25 years and beyond.
“Our challenge in the next 25 years is to continue being a beacon in not only our immediate community, but in the world around us. Our doors are always open for new people and challenges as we continue to live out our Asbury story, God’s story and our own stories.”