Saturday, April 12, 2008

Francis Asbury

Francis Asbury--itinerant preacher and leader of
the Methodist Episcopal Church in America

In 1771, an itinerant Methodist preacher from Staffordshire, England, named Francis Asbury set foot in the United States and began preaching in this new frontier. Despite the outbreak of the American Revolution with Great Britain, Asbury stayed in the American colonies and was the only Methodist minister to do so. In 1784, John Wesley appointed Asbury and fellow Methodist preacher Thomas Coke as co-superintendents for the Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States.

For more than 30 years, Asbury was the primary leader of Methodists in this country. Until his death in 1816, Asbury traveled an average of 6,000 miles a year--the equivalent of traveling roundtrip from coast to coast--preaching and establishing congregations up and down the eastern U.S. During his tenure, the Methodist church in America grew from 1,200 members to 214,000 with 700 ordained ministers in their midst. In 1921, a statue by sculptor Henry Augustus Lukeman was erected in Francis Asbury's honor in a triangular spit of land at 16th Street and Columbia Roads NW on the edge of the Mount Pleasant and Columbia Heights neighborhoods.

Three churches and a Masonic temple
intersect at the top of 16th Street and Columbia Road:
Unitarian, Baptists, Unification, and Scottish Rite Freemasons

If you stand in front of Asbury's humble monument and look south, you can see three of the churches that have been featured here in the last couple of weeks: All Souls Church, Unitarian; National Baptist Memorial Church; and the Unification Church-Peace King Center. (Tucked behind the latter is the Scottish Rite Temple.)

Photo copyright: D.C. Confidential, 2/08

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