• Asbury Community Garden Update


    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

    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.

  • Preparations for Our Return


    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,

  • Habitat for Humanity Live-Stream Event


    Published: March 3, 2021

    Saturday, March 13, 1 pm, Click here for the Facebook Live link

    On Saturday, March 13 at 1 pm, Flower City Habitat will be dedicating the home at 395 Campbell Street in a live streaming event which will include a house tour by the homebuyer, Patrese Thomas. This is the eight home completed in the JOSANA neighborhood by Asbury First, in conjunction with the Harvest Home coalition of churches.

    Click here to read more about Patrese's moving story. We hope you'll join us in celebrating this joyous move for the Thomas family.

    Notes about Facebook Live: 

    • You do not need a Facebook account to watch live. Facebook may ask you to sign in, but you don't have to.
    • It looks a little different on each device and browser, but you can just ignore or X out the suggestion to sign in.
    • For those that are signed in, you can chat and send comments during the live event!
    • For most internet browsers, entering full screen will allow you to see and participate in the chat. If you are on a phone or tablet, you may have to go full screen, and then tap the video again to see the chat.
  • New — Chancel Chats


    Published: March 3, 2021

    Sunday, March 7, After the postlude, Live Stream

    Stay tuned after the postlude for a new feature: Join us for new conversations with ministers, staff, musicians, and more, as they give a behind-the-scenes look at the workings of the church. The new series will start off with a discussion from our amazing musicians and their thoughts and reflections on singing the moving spirituals during Black History Month. To accommodate the new feature, the Fellowship 1/2 Hour will be delayed until 12:30 pm. We hope you stay tuned and enjoy a different perspective on the background work continuing Asbury First’s mission.

  • Community Conversation — COVID-19 Vaccine


    Published: Feb. 12, 2021

    Tuesday, March 2, 6:30–8 pm, Zoom,

    Join us for a Community Conversation about the COVID-19 vaccine led by the Rochester Regional Health Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Office. Key speakers include Devorah Stamps, EdD, RR, Nananamidia Duffy, MD, and Ebony Caldwell, EdD. This is a joint conversation to help inform the public about the vaccine and the importance of getting vaccinated. Asbury First will be hosting along with Memorial AME Zion Church. 

    or Call: 1-786-635-1003
    Webinar ID: 934 3750 3481

    ASL interpreter services will be available.

  • WXXI-TV Series "The Black Church"


    Published: Feb. 10, 2021

    In honor of Black History Month, take some time to check out the new PBS documentary series The Black Church: This is Our Story, This is Our Song, premiering February 16 and 17 at 9 pm on WXXI-TV (DT 21.1/cable 1221). Produced and hosted by Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the two-part series traces the 400-year-old story of the Black church in America. For the full description and trailer click here

    Also, this Thursday, February 11 at 7 pm Dr. Gates is hosting a national virtual event on Zoom to talk about the series. He will be joined by Rev. Dr. Yolanda Pierce, Professor and Dean of Howard University Divinity School and Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III, Senior Pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ. The event is free but reservation are required. To register, visit:

  • Ash Wednesday — Special Pan-Methodist Service


    Published: Feb. 10, 2021

    Join us as we begin the holy season of Lent together 
with our pan-Methodist siblings from around Rochester. Preaching: REV. James Simmons – Baber AME. Live streamed at

    Churches involved: Baber African Methodist Episcopal Church, Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, New Bethel Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, Asbury First United Methodist Church

  • Sacred Space: A Virtual Tour of Our Sanctuary


    Published: Jan. 27, 2021

    Sundays, 9:45-10:45 am, Zoom,

    It has been too long since most of us have stepped into our sanctuary. And maybe we are having a hard time remembering it: Which window did I usually sit by? What color were the hymnals? Does “my” spot still have just the right amount of cushion?
    To help us get ready for our eventual return, we are going to spend the next three weeks touring our sanctuary space. The first week, we will focus on the windows, and talk about why stained glass is such a quintessential stereotype of churches. The second week, we will delve into the symbology and discover just how much imagery you never knew was all around you. The final week, we will consider the colors of the space—and why the colors change throughout the year. 
    All are invited to join us—even if you never have and never will actually step foot in our sanctuary. Much of what we cover, you will be able to find present in most every church you enter in. Whether in person, or online, all are welcome in this space. 

  • Better Together — Bring It Home Campaign


    Published: Jan. 25, 2021

    Help us Bring It Home!

    This Sunday, we set a new goal to raise the remaining funds for the new Outreach Center at 1010 East Ave this winter so that we can break ground in the fall. Through your faithfulness and generosity, we have already raised $3.5M toward our goal and have $1M to go. We believe half of the remaining amount will be raised through additional foundation gifts and a special campaign with the University of Rochester. The other half is up to us!

    Help us raise $500k by this winter and bring our outreach ministries home! Every gift matters…to the whole community!
    To learn more about the campaign or to make a pledge or a gift, please visit our website:

  • Prayers for Our Country Inauguration Day Event


    Published: Jan. 19, 2021

    Asbury First is joining with other faith communities from around Rochester on Wednesday morning at 9am to pray for a peaceful inauguration day. This interfaith zoom will be an opportunity for us to pray for our country, our leaders, and the road ahead.

    Also, check out the Facebook event for more information by clicking here.

    As you are able, please consider joining us using the zoom link below:

    Peter Stein is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

    Topic: Prayers for our Country Inauguration Day Event

    Time: Jan 20, 2021 09:00 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

    Join Zoom Meeting

    Meeting ID: 847 7601 0159

    Passcode: 415246

  • MLK Day — Racial Justice Progress Report


    Published: Jan. 15, 2021

    Dear Asbury First Community,
    Martin Luther King Jr. Day provides us with an opportunity to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. King, while reflecting on his commitment to racial equality, and considering the work that still needs to be done. As we honor Dr. King today, let us also revisit our own commitment to racial justice, the progress made, and the work that lies ahead. And let us do so, while echoing his sentiment, that “we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”
    2020 was an interesting year, to say the least. In addition to the ways we have been personally and communally affected by the pandemic, we have also been forced to confront the realities of a race epidemic that has bruised our nation and our country. Over the last several months, we have had to confront the fact that issues of racism are not simply reminders of our distant past, but are sinful realities that stare us in the face, today.
    On June 15, the Pastoral Staff of Asbury First wrote to you, first acknowledging the moment, but also taking the lead in lamenting the losses of life, livelihood and liberty; repenting of our own racism and silence; and committing to speak truth to power and work for a better world. We invited you to join us in our commitment and we promised to take tangible steps towards humbly engaging in the fight for racial justice. While we wish there was no longer a race epidemic to fight, we are happy to share that over the last six months, we have made some progress towards what we know will be a longer journey towards justice.
    As a staff, we have continued to engage one another in conversations about racism and inequality, read together White Fragility, participated alongside many of you in the 21-Day Racial Equity Challenge coordinated by United Way of Rochester, and continue to read and educate ourselves individually.
    As a church, we have successfully developed a Racial Justice Advocacy Group, which seeks to understand the racial justice work already happening within our community and provide direction to the church on where to best focus our efforts. This group meets monthly as a larger group, and several times a month in smaller work-groups to help direct our efforts. Our work-groups on Housing, Education, Policing & Criminal Justice Reform, Public Health & Healthcare, and Voting & Elections, are comprised of members of our congregation, who have volunteered their time to dig a little deeper into these subject areas, establish relationships with organizations throughout Rochester, and begin to help us as a congregation identify initiatives and advocacy work with which we can connect. While the last six months have been devoted to planning and initial conversations, we are happy to report that we are working and hope to have some initiatives for you to join in the first part of 2021.
    In addition to the work of the staff and our racial justice advocacy group, we continue to update our website with different resources, guides, films, and more that can assist you on the journey toward racial justice. We have also created a specially designated fund called the Racial Justice Advocacy Fund to which any may contribute, as we look to distribute funds to local organizations, and to the racial justice group at Asbury First.
    As we all continue to deepen our understanding of and willingness to confront racism, bias, and social inequity; we hope to continue to offer trainings, opportunities for group and individual reading, and other educational tools that might support us on this journey. If you are still interested in joining the Racial Justice Advocacy Group, we invite you to do so. We also invite you to continue to do what you can from where you are to confront the realities of racism, and help Asbury First become an anti-racist church.
    With love,
    —The Asbury First Staff

  • Annual Church Conference 2021


    Published: Jan. 14, 2021

    January 24 — After 11 am Service

    This Sunday we will hold our Annual Church Conference at Asbury First during which time we will vote on candidates for ministry, our Annual Operating Plan (the 2021 budget), and the new slate of nominations. As we approved our new Governance model in December, we have put together a slate of nominees for the new Governing Board, the six committees of the Board, as well as well as many of the teams. Please stay on the live stream at beginning shortly after 12 pm. 

    The pertinent documents for our Annual Church Conference are to download by clicking the links below, including:

    Voting and Meeting Instructions

    The Church Conference meeting will continue to be broadcast through the normal Asbury First live stream. Whether you watch it on your computer or on your television or listen on your phone, you should plan to attend the meeting in the same way. (Click here to download a quick guide on how to use Slido.)

    In order to vote, members are asked to:

    1. Visit on your computer, tablet, or mobile device. 
      NOTE: If you have more than one voting member in your household, it is best to use separate devices or browsers.
    2. Enter the code: #VoteAsbury (capitalization not necessary). 
      NOTE: The poll will not be live until the actual meeting. If you’d like to get a feel for it now, you can enter the code #AsburyTrial and try it today.
    3. Select your choice.
    4. Click “Send”.

    When you have cast your vote, you may want to keep your browser window open as the results will show up there and a new “Q&A” feature will be enabled during the “State of the Church” Update following the meeting.

  • A Prayer for Peace


    Published: Jan. 6, 2021

    Like so many of you, I have spent the afternoon watching in horror the footage from our nation’s capital. As a people who proclaim the Prince of Peace, we condemn these acts of violence. This is not Christian. This is not patriotic. This is not normal.
    On this day of Epiphany, the twelfth day of Christmas, we look again for the arrival of the light that shines in the darkness. Only we won’t find it in the manger any longer. Now, we must look in our mirrors. We are the body of Christ now.
    Every Christmas, I close each service with a prayer from Howard Thurman called The Work of Christmas. It speaks about what Christmas asks of us as believers. More than ever before, two lines stand out: 
    to rebuild the nations, 
    to bring peace among neighbors.

    Wherever you are, whenever you read this, I ask that you pause and pray. If you don’t have words, try asking God for peace. If that doesn’t work, the full text of The Work of Christmas is below:
    When the song of the angels is stilled,
    when the star in the sky is gone,
    when the kings and princes are home,
    when the shepherds are back with their flocks,
    the work of Christmas begins:
    to find the lost,
    to heal the broken,
    to feed the hungry,
    to release the prisoner,
    to rebuild the nations,
    to bring peace among neighbors*,
    to make music in the heart.

    May it be so.

    Grace and Peace,
    *the original poem said “brothers”

  • New Year, New You! Class — January 2021


    Published: Dec. 30, 2020

    Sundays in January, 9:45-10:45 am, Zoom,

    New Year, New You! — Couldn't we all use a Spiritual Reboot?

    What does 2021 hold for you? How can we continue to grow in our faith — even with the challenges that meet us each and every day?  How can we KEEP MOVING in the new year?

    All are welcome to join us via Zoom on Sunday mornings in January from 9:45-10:45 am as we read Maggie Smith's new book Keep Moving — Notes on Loss, Creativity and Change. Come experience a four week journey of fellowship and self-discovery as we grow with God and each other. You are encouraged to get a copy of Keep Moving prior to our first meeting January 3. This book can be purchased locally, or through Amazon by clicking here. If you need help getting a copy of the book, please contact Mike Mullin at and we can have one sent to you. For questions or more information about this class, contact Emily Cady at

  • Dynamic Disciple Challenge 2021


    Published: Dec. 23, 2020

    We had over 200 participants join us in our 2020 Bicentennial Bible Challenge where we challenged individuals to read through the whole Bible. Many are now asking, what's next?

    Well, it's one thing to read the Bible as a literary exercise, but it takes on new meaning when reading it dynamically as a disciple. In 2021, we are inviting everyone to join us in signing up for a Disciple class so that we can delve deeper into our faith and strive to become dynamic disciples. The Disciple Bible Study is a 34-week study with 17 weeks focused on the Old Testament and 17 weeks focused on the New Testament. There are Bible readings assigned each week, but they are much less intense than the reading schedule of the Bicentennial Bible Challenge—and you can take the summer off :).

    Whether you have read the Bible or not, this is a great way to engage our scriptures in a community seeking to deepen their discipleship. If this sounds like something you might like to look forward to in 2021, we encourage you to click here to sign-up!