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Church looks back over 150 years

By Staff | Nov 24, 2017

Chronicle photo by Vanessa McGuigan The Sankofa project kickoff team is shown.

Asbury United Methodist Church has been a pillar in the Shepherdstown community for decades. The church kicked off their 150-year anniversary with a special project celebrating the past, present and future, with history from its original location in town to the current location at 4257 Kearneysville Pike.

The largest part of the anniversary project, Sankofa, gets its name from an African word in Ghana which means, “looking back to move forward.” The Sankofa team is comprised of youth and adults who will be going to workshops to learn how to do history and genealogy research. They will then be collecting information via interviews, photographs and historical investigation to eventually be put into an Asbury history book and CD.

“We’ve already been collecting pictures and stories,” said Linda Beach, one of the people who is heading up the project. “What’s been interesting to me is that so many people are willing to help – the county court, the libraries, historical societies. People are willing to help and it’s great.”

History to be included in the commemorative book includes how the church began and the original building on Church and High streets; Asbury after the Civil War; chronology of pastors; anti-slavery and pro-slavery split and reunion; as well as land and deed purchases and expansion over the years.

“The church used to be a Trinity Episcopal Church – that’s where it was originally,” said Charlotte Frasch, another of the project leaders. “They were getting ready to move into a new building and a number of freed slaves were very interested in getting a hold of a place for their own church. One of the members of what was then called the African Episcopal Methodist Church had been a sexton at the Trinity Episcopal Church. They got to talking and it was arranged that they could get (a separate building) with the help of the congregants.”

According to Beach, all of this change took place during a tumultuous time in history.

“What’s so interesting about this church is that it started during the Civil War,” Beach said. “They were given land for their church and the owners of the land wanted them to give it back so they could build a jail. (The church founders) told them ‘no.’ They were in slavery at the time and they stood up for themselves and ended up getting the other building. There’s so much incredible history here. That’s what I try to tell the kids and that’s why we want them involved in this (project) so it can help them take ownership. Learning these things is thrilling to me. It’s like being back there.”

Another aspect of the project is the commemorative engraved brick display. For a $150 tax-deductible contribution, anyone can purchase a brick to be placed in front of the church. The bricks can memorialize a deceased loved one, honor veterans, recognize births, marriages or other events. Family, friends and businesses may also purchase bricks.

The whole project will culminate in September 2018 with the brick project display and the completion of the history book.

For more information or to find out how to participate, contact Barbara Burger at 304-283-2124, or the Asbury church office at 304-876-3112.