About Us

Background of the Wesleyan Church

The Wesleyan Church was founded in 1968 when the Wesleyan Methodist Church and the Pilgrim Holiness Church merged. The new denomination was shaped by the Wesleyan Methodists’ appreciation for structure combining with the Pilgrims’ entrepreneurial spirit.

Our earliest beginnings, however, were in 1843 when our leaders organized to address social issues through The Wesleyan Methodist Connection of America. Those issues included slavery, women’s rights and child labor atrocities. We were one of the first denominations in America to ordain women and were at the forefront of giving laity significant roles in church leadership.

John Wesley, a Church of England priest, was the inspiration and founder of the Methodist movement. Our name “Wesleyan” honors him. Wesley was an outstanding Oxford scholar, yet regarded himself as “a man of one book,” the Bible. It was while studying the Bible that Wesley received assurance of his salvation through faith. It was the Bible that motivated his vision for offering Christ to the common people of England and which eventually led to the nation’s greatest spiritual revival.

Biblical truth inspired Wesley to develop a school for orphans, job programs and medical assistance for the poor, efforts to reform inhumane prisons and arguments for the abolition of slavery. Confidence in the Bible as “the only and sufficient rule for Christian faith and practice” (to use Wesley’s own words) remains a hallmark of The Wesleyan Church today.

 

History of Asbury Church

Asbury Wesleyan Church has a rich history reaching back to the early 1940s.

World War II brought about the need for military vessels, greatly affecting our specific area of Newport News and those working at the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co. The shipyard was a hustling bustling, non-stop factory cranking out aircraft carriers, submarines, and battleships, and everything in between, ordered by the government.

Thousands of brave men and women fought with courage, zeal, and tenacity for our country. But there were also those not serving in uniform who were brave, courageous and tenacious not on the battlefields in neighboring countries, but on the battlefields right here at home, as a very different kind of war was taking place. A war that goes on still today…

A spiritual battle. The battle in which Paul described in Ephesians as that which is ”not against flesh and blood, but against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

And in 1945 a handful of those brave men worked to further the war efforts by building the equipment needed to fight the physical enemies throughout the world by day. But when that whistle blew at quitting time, they were just getting started…

Those men and women regularly met for prayer and Bible study after work at the Copeland Park Rental Office. Under the leadership of Rev. Ralph Smallwood they purchased a piece of property with a vision in mind. A vision of building a church to further the Kingdom.  “Building a church,” is a very literal expression here, in that they were actually building a church! After building ships all day, in the evenings they would gather together to build a physical church. Everything was crafted by hand – the pews, the pulpit, the altar… they worked expectantly and joyfully, singing hymns, praising God together until well after dark.

A group of five faithful families became the Charter members of what would in later years become Asbury Wesleyan Church. Mr. & Mrs. C.B. Webster, Mr. & Mrs. Dexter Hooper, Mr. J.A. Mabe, Mr. & Mrs. G.L. Frye, and Mr. & Mrs. Woodrow Sanders Sr. 

The church grew… and grew… and grew! And before too long, they knew they would have to find a larger place to worship. A larger place to accommodate even more people with the hopes of bringing them to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Rev. Melvin Howard led the search for the new property.

In 1969 Rev. Steven Watkins dedicated the new building located here at 605 Harpersville Rd, and the name Asbury Wesleyan Church was officially adopted by this church.

Throughout the next 50 years, Asbury would undergo many changes, both internally and externally. In 1971 they broke ground for a new fellowship hall and Sunday school classrooms. In 1984 Rev. Wayne Olson led the modifications to the building, closing the side entrance, which is now the Pastor’s office, and creating a main entrance with the covered area we still have today.

Under the leadership of Rev. Stanley Hunter, renovations and upgrades to the kitchen and bathrooms were carried out and completed by 1988. In 1995, with Rev. Stanley Hunter still at the helm, he shared his vision with the board and congregation to build a larger sanctuary, which would accommodate a larger congregation, with room to grow.

This would be the largest endeavor for Asbury to date. The Vision was cast. They began a campaign to raise money for a solid down payment for the work. With every $50 that was raised, a paper brick was put up on the wall in the hallway, giving a visual aid to the growing excitement and progress of the campaign. The “brick wall” soon covered the entire long hallway.

But, the Lord had other plans for Pastor Hunter. He would not see his vision come to fruition in this life. God called him home in July of 1998. That is when Dr. Hal Robbins took over as senior pastor, picking up the torch to lead Asbury to and through the building phase.

In 2000 Pastor Gary Rich joined the staff at Asbury, serving as the youth pastor, and assistant to Dr. Robbins. Together they led the charge to move forward with the vision, and in November 2001 they broke ground for our current building.

Moving forward in the building phase, a new campaign was created. The cost of the actual building continued to rise as modifications to the original plans had to be made. Problems arose, as they often do, during construction. The new campaign was, “Building to Fulfill the Vision,” and the congregation was challenged to consider the charge of, “Not Equal Giving, but Equal Sacrifice.”

On Aril 22, 2003 the steeple was carefully lifted and secured into place. This was a breathtaking event! It was just a few short months after that when the first service was held in the new sanctuary. However, it was not a Sunday morning church service, but a joyous occasion nonetheless. A wedding ceremony marked the first official use of the new building.

Asbury would see many internal changes in the years to come. Dr. Robbins retired from the ministry (again) in 2005, and Pastor Gary Rich took over as our Senior Pastor. Under his leadership the campaign of “Building to Fulfill the Vision” continued.

Pastor Gary moved to Kansas in 2010 and Pastor Jason Argo stepped in as the new Senior Pastor. In 2014 Pastor Jason unexpectedly announced his departure, creating a need for an interim pastor until a permanent one could be found. Dr. Barry Shaffer led Asbury for nearly six months, until Pastor Paul Gorsline joined us in July 2014.

In 2020, the pandemic hit every person, family, church, city, state and country hard. But God is faithful, and it was by His miracles we were able to continue to make our monthly payments. When we resumed in-person church services later that year, our attendance had drastically declined. But that same year God brought to us a wonderful addition to our ministry team, Pastor Dawn Shover.

In 2022 a new campaign was announced at Asbury. The final chapter in this vision. It was “Completing the Vision.” Over $80,000 was the mortgage balance at the beginning of the year. The goal set forth was to be “Debt Free in 2023.”

And on Dec. 23, 2023 Asbury officially announced what God had miraculously done. The goal set had been reached. The Vision was officially COMPLETE. Asbury Wesleyan Church was debt free in 2023!