Published: April 29, 2021
August 2–5, 2021, Outdoor
We are pleased to announce that Asbury First UMC will have an in-person VBS this Summer! It will be August 2-5 and it will be outdoors. We will follow all CDC COVID-19 guidelines to ensure the safety of all that participates. Ages 4 through 6th Grade are welcome. For more information and to fill out the registration form, please click here or email Paula Dugan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published: April 16, 2021
We are eager to see you all in person again starting in May! Click here to take some time to watch our "Welcome Back" video for some fun tips and to learn about what to expect about what to expect when you return in order to keep you safe. We hope to see you soon!
We pray this note finds you safe and well in this Easter season. Thank you for your patience and grace during this pandemic moment.
As was announced this morning, we plan to begin our return to in-person worship this May! Beginning May 2, and for the following three Sundays (May 9, 16, and 23), we will be adding a special in-person service in our sanctuary at 9 am. The 11 am service will remain livestream-only until the fall. Beginning on Memorial Day weekend (May 30) and continuing through Labor Day weekend (September 5) we will move outside to a weather-permitting-only service every Sunday at 9 am. Again, the 11 am service will remain livestream-only until the fall. Our hope will be to re-open more fully this fall. All of these services will adhere to CDC and NYS Health protocols including mask-wearing and social-distancing. At this point, we do not plan to add childcare to our services until the fall.
ABOUT THE INSIDE SERVICE: Following guidance from the CDC and NYS Health Department, the services inside our sanctuary this May will have a limit of 150 people. This will allow us to maintain social distancing and keep everyone safe. In our survey, 173 respondents indicated that they are ready to return now; 111 indicated that they anticipate being ready to return sometime late spring/early summer. We have struggled with how to maintain our commitment to being “open to all” while at the same time limiting the number of people who come on these four Sundays in May. In the end, we have settled on stepping out in faith. Here is our request: You are welcome to come to as many of the May services as you would like, but please recognize that it may be helpful to choose one or two so that we can ensure everyone who desires to be present will have an opportunity to worship inside the sanctuary this spring. If there are more than 150 people who come to one of the services in May, additional socially-distanced overflow seating will be provided in the fellowship hall for members to watch the service on a screen in community. The same guidelines will be followed as those in the sanctuary.
ABOUT THE OUTSIDE SERVICE: When we switch to outside services on Memorial Day weekend (5/30), we will not be restricted by the same size limitations. However, this means that we will need to keep the outdoor service weather-permitting-only. We will work out a system for notification if that outdoor service is cancelled (likely to include an email, a statement on our website, and an opt-in text option); a general rule will be that if it is raining, we will not hold the 9 am outdoor service that day. While we will have some chairs available for those who might need them, we strongly encourage folks to bring their own blankets and/or lawn chairs for the service.
MAY SCHEDULE: (5/2, 5/9, 5/16, 5/23)
SUMMER SCHEDULE: (5/30 through 9/5)
We will have more information in the weeks to come about what you should expect during these services. In the meantime, I invite you to check this special FAQs page of our website by clicking here. We ask that you continue to keep our entire community in prayer as we find our way safely back together. We look forward to seeing you soon!
Grace and Peace,
The COVID-19 Re-Opening Task Force
Published: April 15, 2021
Survey Results and Re-opening Announcement this Sunday
Thank you to all who filled out the Return to In-Person Worship Survey! We received 442 responses, which provided crucial data for our COVID-19 Re-Opening Task Force. We plan to make an announcement this Sunday about our plan for re-opening for in-person worship. Please plan to tune in to our service on Sunday for more details. In the meantime, here are some of the key takeaways from the survey:
Published: April 8, 2021
Help us get back to in-person worship by filling out a brief survey!
We have just held our second virtual Easter, and many are wondering when we will be able to celebrate the resurrection in person and in our sanctuary. Soon—we hope.
As we continue to plan for our return, we would love to have each of you complete a brief 7-question survey. Your responses will help us do our best to remain open to all as we love, live, serve, and repeat!
All are encouraged to participate in this survey, whether or not you ever intend to join us for in-person worship.
We are thankful to each of you for your continued support throughout this past year. And for those that may never enter the doors of our sanctuary, we look forward to continuing to connect with you through our streaming services and various virtual small groups and opportunities. We truly are Better Together!
The COVID-19 Re-Opening Task Force
Published: April 8, 2021
Thursdays starting April 22, 7-8:30 pm, Zoom, zoom.us/j/8347173468
Enrich your Eastertide/Springtime by joining Rev. Kathy Thiel and me, Claude Adair, in an insight practice group that will explore the book The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See by Fr. Richard Rohr. We're calling it an 'insight practice group' because our time together will be a mixture of discussion and contemplative practices all geared to building a safe community and opening our hearts and minds to new insights about the word so central to our faith and to reality itself; Christ.
Richard Rohr is a Franciscan priest, founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation (cac.org), teacher, internationally recognized author, and spiritual leader. Of his many books, The Universal Christ, which came out in 2019, is thought to be his most important. Fr. Richard teaches primarily on incarnational mysticism, nondual consciousness, and contemplation, with a particular emphasis on how these affect the social justice issues of our time.
In the foreword to the book Rohr asks, "What if Christ is a name for the transcendent within of every “thing” in the universe? What if Christ is a name for the immense spaciousness of all true Love? What if Christ refers to an infinite horizon that pulls us from within and pulls us forward too? What if Christ is another name for everything—in its fullness." No doubt there will plenty of challenging ideas and associated feelings that come up to give us all a chance to stretch and grow together.
This weekly, 90 minute session on Thursday evenings at 7 pm will run for eight weeks starting April 22 via Zoom. The book is available to order on Amazon, and if you need a copy, please contact Kathy at (585) 271-1050 x106, or email@example.com. Please do your best to read the Introduction and the first two chapters for our first session.
Published: April 1, 2021
Place your orders by Sunday, April 25th!!
Pick up orders on Saturday, May 8, 10:30 am—1 pm, Asbury First
The Asbury Storehouse will be having a Mother's Day geranium sale. This year, the sale is virtual! Visit www.asburyfirst.org/geraniums for more information and to place your order.
Published: April 1, 2021
Tuesday, April 6, 1:30 pm, Click here for more information and to register
Next Tuesday, April 6 at 1:30 pm, our Senior Minister, Rev. Dr. Stephen Cady, will speak at the Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School's Spring 2021 Lecture Series "This Far by Faith." Stephen will be lecturing on The Divided Methodist Church: The Struggle for LGBTQ Inclusion in the Largest Mainline Denomination as part of "The Christian Faith and LGBT Experience" topic in partnership with CRCDS, Lake Avenue Baptist Church, Open Arms Metropolitan Community Church, and Third Presbyterian Church. This year's lecture series will be completely virtual, and registration is required or recommended for most events. See the link above to learn more or register for the lecture.
Published: March 24, 2021
Thanks to everyone for participating in the Easter Finest Photo Parade. To view the parade, click here!
One of the traditions we are missing this year is dressing up in our Easter finest while gathering together for church on Easter Sunday. If you are like us, you've been enjoying the simplicity of church from the couch in comfy pajamas.
So, to take a break from the "stay-at-home" style, we invite you to dress in your Easter finest and take a picture! We'd love to share your photos in a special slideshow before the service on Easter Sunday as part of our Easter Finest Photo Parade.
For more information about Holy Week services, click here.
Published: March 18, 2021
For forty-four years Asbury First has been celebrating Pretzel Sunday and this year, though virtual, the tradition continues. Below you can learn more about this tradition and find links for a pretzel recipe (or use Wegman's pizza dough), a video of Mr. Rogers touring a pretzel factory and more!
Around A.D. 672 Brother John, a monk who lived in a monastery in the German Alps, worked in a bakery with his assistant, Brother Bonafice.
It was time for the season of Lent when people spent more time in prayer. Children would pray with their arms crossed over their chest. So Brother John decided to use some dough to make "little arms" in the shape of their praying arms to remind us of this special time of prayer. The three holes in a pretzel are said to represent the Trinity: one God in three persons.
And so, as time passed, these little arms of prayer became known as pretzels. You may be used to thinking of pretzels as heart-shaped but turn one upside down and you will see the shape of the praying arms.
I bow my head and twist my arms tight, before I climb in bed each night.
I say a prayer to God above to give Him thanks and feel His love.
Published: March 18, 2021
In the worship service today we announced that, effective July 1, Bishop Mark Webb has appointed the Rev. Rachel Dupont to Asbury First as the Minister for Christian Formation and Director of the Discipleship Project. This special one-year appointment is made possible through a generous gift in memory of Shirley Petherbridge in the hope that others might find faith and connection at Asbury First through small groups as the Petherbridge family did over 60 years ago.
In addition to regular pastoral duties, Rev. Dupont will be working on a special initiative called The Discipleship Project, which she envisions as a network of “class” and “band” meetings (the original Methodist small groups) that covenant together to be accountable to a Methodist way of life. These small groups will begin within the Asbury First community to train leaders that will help start similar groups around Rochester, inviting new people into Christian discipleship. Not only does this align perfectly with our Dreamscape goals, but it also provides a new means of meaningful connection for a community coming out of a year of isolation.
The generosity of the Petherbridge family gives us the opportunity to try this initiative for a year. Our hope is that it will be so fruitful that we will be able to identify funding to support Rev. Dupont’s appointment in the years ahead.
The Rev. Rachel Ann Dupont is excited to be joining the ministry team at Asbury First. Trained in Spiritual Direction, Congregational Formation, and New Faith Community Development, Rachel is passionate about guiding individuals, groups, and congregations in discerning and living out God’s unique call on their lives. She believes Christian Formation is all about living our professed values of love and grace, which transforms the world!
Baptized as a baby in the United Methodist Church, Rachel has never left. Rachel has lived her whole life in New York State, and loves to explore this beautiful place with her family. She is a partner, a parent, a pastor, and a friend. She loves good food, fresh air, and reading memoirs.
Rev. Dupont is an ordained elder in the Upper New York Annual Conference, where she serves as the Coordinator for Annual Conference Worship, and as a delegate to General Conference. She has served as the pastor of four churches in Upper New York, as well as on the Oneonta District as a New Ministry Cultivator, and carries a high level of connectional and community participation. Rachel earned her M. Div from Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York in 2010.
Published: March 18, 2021
“Open to All—We believe we are all equal in God’s eyes and all are one in Christ. We extend hospitality and encourage full participation for all regardless of any perceived defining characteristic.”
— From the Asbury First Values, as described in our Dreamscape
During this season of COVID-19, we are faced with many challenges as we live out our mission, vision, and values as a congregation. As we carefully begin welcoming people back to campus, we will:
In order to help us honor our commitment to remain Open to All, we are asking everyone that comes to our campus to commit to the following:
Similarly, we ask that you love your neighbor by refraining from coming to campus if:
If you are willing to join us in this covenant each time you visit Asbury First United Methodist Church, please sign the form by clicking here.
Each adult must digitally sign a form — one adult per form; children who will be on campus may be added to their parent's/guardian's form using the "Add Another Name" link. Additional adults must sign a separate form.
Published: March 16, 2021
As we look back at the past year of the pandemic, we stop to evaluate its effects and ask: How has worship and fellowship changed at our church? We hope you take some time and go through the newest edition of the Visitor @ Home to learn more about how we have adapted to the challenges the pandemic presented.
Scroll through our Q&As with the different ministries and work areas to learn more about the church's behind-the-scenes work. Take a look at the technological updates implemented to enhance our virtual worship with our live-stream worship timeline (download a printable PDF here), and check out the amazing statistics and connections we've established with our virtual reach.
Even though the world changed almost over night, our ministers, staff, volunteers, and congregation have proven that through God's grace we can be together even while apart. And, that we are always Better Together!
Published: March 6, 2021
Submit your images by March 10, Click here for Kudboard link
We are coming up on the one-year anniversary of the pandemic shutdown. Not only has it disrupted "normal" life, but the pandemic has exacted a toll with the lives lost to the virus as well as their family and friends. Not one of us has gone completely unaffected by this world-wide pandemic.
However, there have been some creative and inspirational ways that we have pulled together to get through these difficult times. One of those ways, is the connection we have each week as a nation- and world-wide congregation. Asbury First is proving more and more that we are greater than the building.
So, as we approach this anniversary, we'd love for you to tell us "What has the live stream meant to you this year?"
Share your answer on our Kudoboard by clicking here. Also, we'd love for you to share a picture of you and your loved ones with a sign saying where you're tuning in from.
Published: March 4, 2021
Asbury’s Community Garden Team recently received some great news that will allow our garden to become a reality this spring: The Rochester Preservation Board approved our plan to create a community garden of raised beds on the Asbury First campus. The garden will be on the west side of the church, between the playground and 1010 East Ave. Produce raised in this new vegetable garden will supply meals and take-home snacks at the Dining & Caring Center. It’s our sincere hope that volunteers to run the garden will come from church members, Dining Center guests and other members of the community.
We’re starting out with 10 raised beds, which have already been constructed and delivered to campus. (A Monroe County Soil and Conservation District grant got us started.) The beds still have to be set up and filled, however, and that’s where volunteers are first needed. In the spring, we’ll be putting out a work call to find people to set up the beds and fill them with soil. If you want to be kept informed, please contact DIana Carter at (585) 732-7224, or DianaLouiseCarter@gmail.com.
Besides set-up, small groups of volunteers—young and old—may participate in one-time projects such as growing seedlings that will be transplanted to the garden. Longer-term commitments are also welcome. Some recurring jobs include taking responsibility for a single bed; providing regular watering, weeding, and harvesting; serving on the team that manages the garden. Though these jobs need to be done regularly, they can be done on whatever schedule is convenient for the volunteer—mornings, afternoons, evenings, weekdays or weekends. Because of COVID restrictions, many dining center volunteers are now idle and families are stuck indoors. The Asbury Community Garden might provide a welcome outlet for both groups. Contact Diana if your green thumb is itching to get involved.
Published: March 3, 2021
As we approach the anniversary of our physical distance from one another (something we will honor during the worship service on March 14), I thought it might be helpful to update you on our preparations for return.
We continue to monitor the COVID-19 infection rates and are heartened to see that they are trending in the right direction. While we have not set a firm date for re-opening, we hope to gradually begin worshipping together in person sometime this spring. As it stands, our plan is to use a phased approach to returning that maintains, for a time, our 11am worship as a virtual-only service and adds an earlier in-person service. In the beginning, the in-person service will have to be different than ones we have experienced in the past. For the safety of the community, we will have limitations on hymn singing, pre- and post-service fellowship, and where we can sit. Nevertheless, I am so looking forward to the day when we can see each other face to face (even if it is with a mask). I’d ask for your prayers as the COVID-19 Task Force works through the details of our return.
Regardless of when we return, we recognize that this year has changed the way that we worship, maybe forever. While many of us plan to worship in person (as soon as it is safe to do so), our worshipping congregation has grown during this time. By God’s grace, Asbury First is no longer confined to the walls of our buildings nor to the Rochester region. We now have regular worshippers, givers, and active members of our community who live outside of this area, many of whom have never been to our sanctuary. In addition, we have been joined by many who are in Rochester, but unable to leave their residence, regardless of the pandemic. We are grateful for all who have found a home here.
As a people of faith, one of our most important jobs upon our return will be to continue to extend Christian hospitality to those who are not physically present with us. Like never before, this last year has highlighted—day by day, week by week, month by month—that the church is more than a building. Still, there are things we can do in our building to remind us all that there are more who are a part of this congregation than the people who sit in our pews each week. As I shared during a town hall meeting last fall, we believe it is time to add a means of formal participation for those not physically present for worship on Sunday morning. To that end, using other prominent cathedral churches around the country as a model (St. Patrick’s Cathedral in NY, the National Cathedral in Washington DC, and First UMC of San Diego, among others) the Trustees developed—and in December approved—a thoughtful and tasteful plan to add unobtrusive monitors to the sanctuary.
To be clear, there will be no drop-down screen covering the rose window—these will be low-profile television monitors hung on the stucco on the aisle pillars (not into the stone). They will only be used for special moments in our services and will not remain on all the time. In fact, our hope is that most of the time we will not even notice them. In the end, this is simply a means of remaining open to all (our first value as a congregation) and a way to “see” our virtual members from time to time through scripture reading, candle lighting, and other liturgical participation. This will remind all of us—inside and outside the sanctuary—that we are more than the people we see on Sunday morning.
Some will know that I have argued against this idea in years past. Indeed, my doctoral dissertation made a forceful argument as to why adding screens was not necessary for congregations to attract new members. I still believe that. However, the circumstances have now changed and so must I. The reason for adding screens is now different and much more compelling to me than my previous apprehensions. I pray others with similar apprehensions will join me in setting aside our personal preferences for the sake of the gospel.
Technology is best when it is used to facilitate connection, as we have learned over this last year. I am grateful to all of those on our tech team who have made it possible for us to worship together during this strange time and to share the promise of life made known in Jesus Christ with the world.
I look forward to the ways that we will continue to do more good in the years to come.
Grace and Peace,