Discipleship Ministries Honors Asbury UMC, Allen, Maryland
By Barbara Dunlap-Berg
Making a difference and serving cooperatively are essential to One Matters Award recipient.
“The community heard about the good things going on at the little church in the village of Allen, Maryland, and decided they want to be a part of it,” said the Rev. Betsy Jones, pastor of Asbury United Methodist Church.
This year Asbury UMC was one of several congregations receiving a One Matters Award from Discipleship Ministries. The United Methodist agency partners with annual conferences in selecting recipients. One Matters recognizes one congregation from each conference that has increased numbers of professions of faith and baptisms from zero to at least one, with a renewed focus on discipleship. Honored churches get a commemorative plaque and a $1,000 check.
“Asbury UMC is making a difference,” said Rev. Jacqueline Davis Ford, director of connectional ministries for the Peninsula-Delaware Annual Conference. “The church is forming partnerships and collaborations to identify and support the needs of the community and beyond. Asbury UMC was recognized because it had its first baptism after more than five years.”
Tucked into Maryland’s northwest corner, Allen has a population of 420. About one-fourth of those residents attend Asbury UMC. Most members of the rural congregation are retirees and older adults. In 2021, the church celebrated two professions of faith, four baptisms, and four confirmations.
"Asbury UMC is making a difference. The church is forming partnerships and collaborations to identify and support the needs of the community and beyond."
Sunday morning worship draws 25 to 40 people. Six to ten youth attend Sunday school, and a Wednesday evening small-group study boasts seven members.
But outreach happens 24/7. The congregation gathers cold-weather gear to share with the community. The confirmation class sponsors a church-wide collection to benefit pets at the local animal shelter. Every year, Asbury UMC adopts a family with school-age children for Christmas. Members donate to three area nursing homes.
Community outreach positively affects membership numbers and worship attendance, Jones asserted.
“The Lions Club and the fire department are very active in the area,” she said. Church members assist the agencies with meals, donations, and volunteers. “They, in turn, support us,” Jones added.
Members extend their giving far beyond their village, supporting UMCOR’s efforts in Ukraine, as well as hurricane relief on Smith Island in the Chesapeake Bay. The congregation forwarded the One Matters Award of $1,000 to the United Methodist Committee on Relief to use for “the greatest need.”
Recognizing the amazing things that happen when churches serve together, Asbury works with two neighboring congregations – Friendship UMC in Allen (Pastor Sheneatta Whittington) and St. John’s UMC, Fruitland, Maryland (Pastor Karen Sadvari).
“Most recently, we provided goods for a month for the ‘blessing box’ at Asbury UMC. We have plans to participate together in a hymn sing in December,” Jones recalled. “The Asbury congregation is very warm and welcoming to whomever comes through our doors. We make it a point to follow up with visitors.”
To apply for the One Matters Award, a conference nominates a church, collects required information and documentation, applies online, and acknowledges and celebrates the honored congregation, often during annual conference sessions.