Asbury Chapel, now Asbury United Methodist Church, was organized in 1836 when a group led by Eli Nugent left Foundry Methodist Episcopal Church to form its own congregation. The first church was a small, white frame structure. Since its genesis, Asbury, formerly Asbury Methodist Episcopal Church, has occupied the same site, built on the corner of 11th and K Streets, N.W. in Washington, D.C. It was placed on the District of Columbia Register of Historic Places. In 2003, the National Park Service approved the listing of Asbury on the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom.
Asbury’s leadership remained in the hands of white church leadership until 1864 when the Washington Annual Conference was founded. Asbury’s role and leadership as a black congregation were firmly established with the appointment of its first black pastor, Reverend James Peck. Since its founding, Asbury’s growth has been intricately woven with that of African-American history. It experienced its greatest growth during the Reconstruction Era when its membership grew rapidly. By the 1880′s new organizations and programs had augmented the church growth, and the Asbury Sunday School and Senior Choir received frequent mention in the press. Growth was accompanied by both missionary efforts and doctrinal disputes, which led to the direct formation of other congregations out of Asbury: John Wesley African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in 1847, Simpson Methodist Episcopal Church in 1875, and Peoples Congregational Church in 1891.
Under dynamic leadership of Reverends John Wesley Edward Bowen, Sr., Isaac L. Thomas, Matthew Wesley Clair, Sr. and others, Asbury added new programs, expanded it services, and built a new edifice. The church membership was over 1,000 by 1915. The second structure built on the site in 1866, could no longer service its members. Under the leadership of Reverend Matthew Wesley Clair, Sr., the present two-story structure of Gothic design and stained-glass windows replaced the old building. The Asbury Education Center was completed in 1973.
Throughout the years, the heritage, traditions and ministries of Asbury have continued to inspire its members and leaders. From the soup kitchens of the 1930′s to its Neighbor-to-Neighbor breakfast and Food Pantry of today, Asbury has always had programs to feed the hungry. Through its 147-unit apartment, Asbury Dwellings, Asbury provides shelter for the aged and handicapped. The Asbury Federal Credit Union has been operation since the 1950s. During the 150th anniversary in 1965, an endowment was created to support programs in education, outreach ministry, history, and heritage. Today, Asbury’s long-established commitment to its mission of discipleship and service is reflected in its diversity and its continued history as a church in downtown Washington, D.C.
We invite you to learn more about us as we cherish our history, embrace the present, and move into the future!