Expansion will allow Asbury to hold services of 1,100-plus

NORTH SHELBY – Construction is under way on an addition to Asbury United Methodist Church that will allow the church to hold the largest traditional Protestant worship services in the area.

The church has outgrown its current sanctuary, which seats about 600 worshippers, and is building a new sanctuary that will hold more than 1,100, church Administrator Mike Gibbs said.

The new facility, which is scheduled to be completed in March 2018, will include about 25,000 square feet of education space on the bottom level and about 25,000 square feet for a sanctuary and foyer on the second level, Gibbs said.

The addition will attach to the existing church, which is located at 6690 Cahaba Valley Road.

Asbury is growing at the same time as it is preparing to celebrate in May the 30th anniversary of its charter.

The church has averaged 4-5 percent growth in attendance and membership each year for the past several years, and now has more than 2,000 members, making it one of the top 100 largest United Methodist churches in the country.

Frank O’Neil was a charter member of Asbury and has seen the church grow from the time it began meeting in the Key-Royal Building in Meadowbrook.

“Now we’re embarking on a momentous expansion for us,” O’Neil said, crediting the leadership from the pulpit and the church’s lay members. “It will allow us to take the church further into the community and welcome more members of the community into the church family.”

After outgrowing three facilities, Asbury purchased its current 31-acre tract of land.

Phase 1 of the current facility, including the sanctuary and education space, was completed in June 1994, while Phase 2, including the Christian Life Center and additional education space, was completed in August 2000.

The current construction began on Dec. 8, 2016, and the project is estimated to cost about $14 million.

Design of the new sanctuary will include wood and natural light, creating a warm space, according to Victor Bey, who is chairman of the church’s Building Committee Design Group.

“Some of our Design Group didn’t think our sanctuary was as warm as maybe we would like,” Bey said.

The new sanctuary will be only about four rows of pews deeper than the current sanctuary but will be considerably wider—an arrangement chosen so that worshippers do not feel too far removed from the pulpit.

New pews will have padded backs, which will be considered a seating upgrade, Gibbs said.

“That was a big thing for our folks,” Gibbs said.

The steeple above the new sanctuary should be visible from the intersection of U.S. 280 and Alabama 119.

“It should give us a lot more visibility,” Bey said.

A “blessing of the beam” ceremony was held Jan. 29, and members have been invited to sign the beam that will be installed near the front entrance of the new facility.

Asbury hosts traditional services at 8:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. on Sundays, and a contemporary service at 11 a.m. on Sundays in the church’s Christian Life Center that began as overflow for the traditional service.

The contemporary service has taken root and is also growing, though the church’s most pressing need is to be able to accommodate more people at the 11 a.m. traditional service, which fills the current sanctuary.

After the primary services are moved to the new sanctuary, the old sanctuary will house the contemporary service but also can be used as a more intimate setting for events including weddings and funerals.

Seating in the old sanctuary will be folding chairs instead of pews to allow for more versatility.

The bottom floor of the new facility will be split into larger classrooms, seating 60 or more people.

Though there are design decisions that still must be made, the desire is for the church’s choir suite to be moved to the new facility so that it will be close to the new sanctuary.

The current sanctuary will be refurbished to make it more conducive to contemporary services, and the back walls will be brought in some, which will create more room for office space and existing classrooms.

For more information about Asbury, visit AsburyOnline.org.