An inclusive, Christ-centered community making a difference.

News

Storehouse, Grocery Bag Ministry, and UR Well Clinic Update

As we continue to assess our ability to gradually reopening our campus, we are happy to share that the Storehouse and Grocery Bag Ministries continue to respond to emergency needs as they arise, which has been an incredible blessing to the community. In addition, the UR Well Clinic reopens this Thursday, August 13 by appointment only, offering work physicals to those in need (check out the specifics here). For more information, contact Rev. Jackie Nelson atThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Dining & Caring Center Update

Closed August 9 through August 24
Asbury First is committed to our outreach ministries, and to helping those in need as best we can. Due to health concerns, the Dining and Caring Center has moved to boxed meals only and has been continuing to serve with a skeleton crew of two or three intrepid volunteers. We will be closed August 9 through August 24, reopening August 25. This will allow our staff of volunteers some time to rest and regroup. For more information, or to help out, contact Michele Cooley at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

VirtualTownHallSunday, August 2 (following the 11 am service)

So much has changed over the last few months—from the global pandemic to the movement for racial justice, to the ongoing denominational challenges—and we are sure that you have questions. Please join us for a special “State of the Church” Virtual Town Hall following the 11 am service on Sunday, August 2. We will share updated information on many of the main challenges facing our congregation and attempt to answer your questions. If you have questions that you would like to submit beforehand, please send them to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. In addition to the live stream, we will also host this Town Hall on our toll-free number 1-833-829-1050. We hope to see you there.


Camp1820 Sq1Staycation Bible School 2020

August 3–7

Calling all families young and old!

In celebration of our church’s 200th anniversary, we are having Camp 1820 the first week in August. This will be an at-home family experience where we travel back to the 19th century. There will be period games, music, and crafts. The big challenge for all is to see if your family can live like it’s the year 1820 for 18 hours and 20 minutes! On Sunday, August 9 at 10 am on Zoom we will come together virtually to share our collective experiences from the week. We hope you will join in the fun! 

Check back here on Sunday, August 2 for Camp 1820 to go live!


As we continue to worship with one another from a distance, we remain committed to being “open to all.” While in-person worship is not currently an option, we are so grateful for the live stream and the opportunities that it provides. We also recognize that not everyone has access to the Internet and wanted to update you on two new non-web options for accessing our services:

RADIO

Thank you for your patience over the last couple of weeks as we have had to switch from our previous radio broadcast partner. We are pleased to announce that as of this weekend, we will be broadcasting live at 11 am Sunday on the nonprofit WRFZ 106.3 Rochester Free Radio. While their range is limited to the city of Rochester and its immediate suburbs, we believe that it will make the service available to many more people. You can also log on to http://www.rochesterfreeradio.com/.

PHONE

Last Sunday we began to broadcast our live stream via a new toll-free number: 1-833-829-1050. With this number, anyone around the country can call in and listen to our live service. Additionally, if you miss the service, you can call during the week and hear a full recording of the most recent service.

Finally, we need your help to get this message out to those without email or internet access. Please download this printable PDF to share it with anyone who might benefit from these additional ways to connect.

As always, we are grateful for your love and support.

Grace and Peace,

Stephen


VirtualTalentShow 450pxWe hope you enjoyed the very first Virtual Talent Show! It was wonderful to see and hear some of our talented friends and neighbors in action. We had 200 devices tuned in to the show, which means about 420 people were all watching at the same time. We even had people tune in from Austria, Finland, and Germany! At intermission, about 34 devices logged on to Zoom where people met new friends, caught up with others, and had a brief social time before finishing the show. Thank you to all the amazing participants, to Jeff Dugan for putting the video together, and to all the viewers for making this such a success. It is still hard to be apart, but we are truly blessed to be able to come together in a such meaningful way. If you missed the excitement, click here for a link to view the show.


An Update on Re-opening

Sometimes I wonder if the Hebrew people knew it would take forty years when they began the journey to the Promised Land.

As New York State has slowly begun to re-open over the last few weeks, many have naturally asked when we can expect to return to in-person worship. While the short answer remains, “We do not know,” the longer answer is more complicated. As stated in a previous missive, returning to in-person worship will come as one of the final stages of our re-opening as it is in the fourth phase of the NY State guidelines. To that end, the Asbury First Re-opening Team has put together a basic outline of the Stages of Re-openingthat we plan to follow. As always, the safety of our entire community remains our primary concern.

Many have heard that the governor recently began to allow houses of worship to operate at 25% capacity for religious services. While this was particularly important for those churches who have been unable to transition to an online model, it presents some challenges for us. The first value we hold up as a congregation is that we are “Open to All.” In order to allow only 25% capacity into our sanctuary, we would have to restrict access—either choosing who should be allowed in advance or turning people away. We do not believe this to be conducive to the call of Christ. Second, due to the added restrictions on singing, communal responses, mask-wearing, and social distancing guidelines, beginning in-person worship now (inside or outside) would fundamentally change the nature of our service, both for those in-person and those who continued to watch online.

Although all of us would love to be back together in person, the truth is that our worship has not stopped. It is not ideal and I personally miss seeing you all. However, until we can return in such a way that welcomes all, that ensures the safety of our entire community, and that maintains the sanctity of the worship experience, we will persevere as we are. With that in mind, we do not expect to worship in-person again until the fall at the earliest.

I also want to update you on two important events:

  1. Vacation Bible School: For safety reasons and because we believe turning children away to be untenable, we have decided to shift our summer Vacation Bible School to a “Staycation” Bible School. While it will not be in-person, we will maintain the “Camp 1820” theme with activities for children and families to do at home. Please look for more information soon.
  2. Bicentennial Gala: With a heavy heart and for the safety of all, we have decided to postpone the Bicentennial Gala that was scheduled for September 19. I am grateful to everyone who has worked so hard on the planning and am confident that we will find a way to mark this auspicious occasion, even if we do it sometime down the road. Who says we can’t celebrate our 201st anniversary?

Finally, I want to say thank you. This has been a hard moment for everyone, but over and over again—through your prayers, your care for one other, and your support—you have reminded me that the true Christian community is not limited by distance.

I don’t know if the Hebrew people understood how long the journey would be as they made their way through the wilderness, but I do know that God did not leave their side. I don’t know how much longer this journey will last for us, but I know that God is with us, too. 

Grace and Peace,

Stephen


STAGE 1: Completed June 2020

  • Contractors return to campus to resume building projects with safety protocols in place.
  • Dining and Caring Center remains open with a safety plan and protocols in place (no in-person dining and modified offerings, including “to-go” meals and limited capacity).

STAGE 2:

  • Outreach ministries (in addition to the Dining and Caring Center) may begin to re-open at a limited level with approved safety plan and protocols in place for each ministry, with special consideration given to the mission and service provided by each.
  • Church office to re-open to staff only at <50% capacity and with safety plan and protocols in place.
  • Occupants (Asbury Day Care Center, Epilepsy Pralid, District Office, Rochester Oratorio Society Office) may return at limited capacity with approved safety plan and protocols in place.

STAGE 3:

  • Limited small groups may return to campus with safety plan and protocols in place.

STAGE 4:

  • Return to modified in-person worship with safety plan and protocols in place and without communion.
  • “Outside” group meetings may return to campus with safety plan and protocols in place.

STAGE 5:

  • Resume regular worship.

NOTE: Safety protocols may include, but are not limited to: mandatory mask-wearing, social distancing, restricted capacities, limited movement and/or access within our buildings, and defined entrances and exits. All approvals will be made by the Re-opening Team using appropriate civic and ecclesial guidelines.


The events of the last few weeks have highlighted the scourge of racism in our country. We have glimpsed with horror the arbitrary brutality too often perpetrated against people of color and join our voices in denouncing sinful acts of racial violence. Black lives matter. As Christians, we have a special obligation to speak truth to power and work for a world in which we all finally and fully live as Christ commanded—in which we love God and love our neighbor as ourselves. With that vision in mind and as pastoral leaders in a congregation which longs to do more good:
 
We LAMENT the loss of life, livelihood, and liberty of too many of our black siblings and grieve for the system that has allowed such gross disparities to grow between white people and people of color.
 
We REPENT of our own racism and recognize that silence in the face of injustice is its own kind of violence. We ask forgiveness for our part in these systems of oppression.
 
We COMMIT to taking the following steps to ensure that we do not let the cries of this moment go unheeded:
 
AS INDIVIDUALS, we will listen, learn, read, and seek understanding of racism, and encourage the entire congregation and staff to do the same. We will invest personally in cross-racial friendships and do the hard and daily work of becoming anti-racist.
 
AS A CHURCH, we will:
  • Form a Racial Justice Advocacy Team (click here for more info) that will dedicate its work to helping Asbury First better address issues of racial equity inside and outside the church. This team would seek to understand the racial justice work already happening within our community and provide direction to the church on where to best focus our efforts.
  • Implement training for those in leadership and volunteer roles that address racism directly.
  • Keep racial equity as a priority in our hiring practices, funding decisions, and liturgical planning.
  • Continue to create educational and fellowship opportunities that highlight and address racism.
 
WITHIN THE COMMUNITY, we will partner with organizations and advocacy groups dedicated to racial equity to provide volunteers, resources, and space. Further, we will look for ways that we can advocate for changes to public policy that demonstrate our conviction that black lives matter.

As in all things, we strive to undertake this work with humility, trusting in God's perfect love to overcome our imperfections.
 
Rev. Dr. Stephen Cady
Rev. Mike Mullin
Rev. Jackie Nelson
Rev. Kathy Thiel

RacialJusticeAdvocacyGroup 500pxAsbury First is forming a Racial Justice Advocacy Team that will dedicate its work to helping us better address issues of racial equity inside and outside the church. This team 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 team will be co-convened by Brennon Thompson and the Rev. Jackie Nelson. Those interested in participating should contact the Rev. Jackie Nelson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Devotional JusticeandPeace1Creator God,
We thank you for looking at everything you have created and declaring it ALL as good.
Thank you for the reminder that we are all made in the image of God,
And for loving us as we are.

Gracious God,
We know that we live in a world where many have forgotten or have chosen to ignore the beauty in all creation.
We pray with heavy hearts for those who look at another life and declare it as anything but good;
And we pray for those who have never been told that their life matters.

As we lift up every Black and Brown life that has been stolen, misused, taken advantage of, and abused; we pray for justice.

We pray that you would protect those on the front lines in the fight against injustice, 
And for peace for those who mourn the loss of loved ones in this ongoing fight.

We pray for those yearning to do their part;
And for those seeking resources and guidance on how to improve.

We pray for acts of solidarity that go beyond mere symbolism;
And we pray for a change in the systems and structures that have historically done more harm than good.

As we each do our part, we pray that we will not grow weary in well-doing.
As we turn our attention to the global and national issues of this time, we also ask for your love to reach into each of our hearts and meet us where we are.

Grant us the grace to persevere, and the courage to show up when it matters most.

God of Justice, Mercy, and Hope:

Hear our Prayer, and grant us thy peace. 

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

—Rev. Jacqueline Nelson, Minister for Outreach