Columbus, Ohio USA
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New Chapter for New Life United Methodist Church
Recently appointed pastor continues female leadership
By Margaret Marten
November/December 2016 Issue
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Newly appointed pastor of New Life United Methodist Church,
Rev. Amy Aspey PHOTO © Darren Carlson
A new chapter has begun in the history of New Life United Methodist Church.
Located less than a block off High Street at 25 W. Fifth Avenue, the towering brick structure built in 1915 is a daily visible reminder of faith and service. The homeless and indigent are often seen along the busy street out front or down the alley beside the church. For over a hundred years, New Life has been ministering to the poor and homeless in the Short North neighborhood, providing meals, clothing, and medical attention. It has steadfastly served as a place of faith where both the fortunate and unfortunate gather.
A year ago, the first female pastor of the church, Rev. Jennifer Casto, ended her tenure at New Life after serving the congregation and community for two decades. Rev. Alyce Hardin-Cook was called out of retirement to lead the congregation as the interim pastor until a successor was selected. The newly appointed Rev. Amy Barlak Aspey stepped in on October 1, 2016, to continue the role of female leadership and service.
Rev. Aspey arrived at New Life after working in ministry at the West Ohio Conference of the United Methodist Church as their Director of Clergy Professional Development and their Annual Conference secretary for four years. Prior to that she spent eight years as the Associate Minister of Small Groups and Missions at Trinity United Methodist Church in Upper Arlington. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Ohio Northern University and a master’s of divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary.
The 37-year-old grew up in Massillon, Ohio, where she and her sister were raised in a Methodist household by a father who taught at a local college and a mother who worked as a medical transcriptionist. Aspey said she felt called to the ministry while in high school but initially wanted to be a doctor. “I was very serious,” she said. “I was either going to be a geriatric specialist because I love older people or work with children.”
During high school, a physician in her church allowed Aspey to “shadow” him for a day, and it was during that exercise, while talking to one of his patients, that she had an epiphany about her vocation. The doctor was attending to an elderly woman who had recently lost her husband. The woman reminded Aspey of her grandmother, so she made a comforting remark to her.
“She looked at me and said, ‘you’re going to be an amazing doctor,’” recalled Aspey. At that moment, she understood that healing hearts and spirits was her true talent. “In that conversation, it was like ‘Oh, so that’s a different kind of healing I feel called to.’”
Aspey noted that of the two tracks to ordination, elder and deacon, she chose to be a deacon, someone assigned to build bridges between the church and the world. Partnering with other churches, community groups, and individuals is intrinsic to the Methodist teaching, and Aspey observes that she is really “living it out” at New Life. Trinity UMC is one of New Life’s partner churches, and Aspey was introduced to New Life and Rev. Casto while working there. “So I came to this experience already with a deep love of the people and respect for the ministry that is done here.”
Getting to know a community takes time, particularly a vibrant urban area like the Short North where the demographics continue to change and grow rapidly. In a further effort to partner with the people of this place, she and her husband, Ryan, sold their Worthington home and moved into the neighborhood. Aspey says she has spent her first few weeks engaged in “listening conversations.”
“I’ve been meeting with as many people as I can,” she explained, “asking the same kind of questions to each person, because I think that God speaks to us through people.” Of ongoing concern is “how do we work as a whole community to meet needs in a way that really empowers people, and in ways that we all treat one another with respect?” Just accepting people as they are can be profoundly transformative, she added. “Many people come to the community never really having been able to be their full self in a church before.”
Aspey is excited to bring her talents to New Life but plans to take things slowly. “I think there’s always time for change,” she said. “I think it’s a matter of listening in to where God is leading.”
For more information about New Life United Methodist Church and its programs, visit www.newlifeunitedmethodist.org or call (614) 294-0134
Pulling Yourself Up By Your
bootstraps will do nothing
but leave you where you are,
knocked on your ass
wondering what to do
next: exactly what it did
in the 19th century
when it was common
as a figure of speech,
a form of hyperbole
describing the impossible.
Which explains why
those on top keep
telling everyone else
that’s how they did it.
© Steve Abbott
Fool moon, full of pride,
Beams all night, so sure his light
Has its source inside.
© Rick Klaus Theis
© 2016 Short North Gazette, Columbus, Ohio. All rights reserved
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