Alan Beasley celebrates eight years of investing in the congregation at First United Methodist in Jasper.
Words by Nick Norris | Images by Blakeney Clouse
A historic church, built of Georgia marble and Alabama faith, stands at the corner of 3rdAvenue and 18thStreet West.
The exterior’s gleaming white stone is still just as pearly as the day it was placed, and the sanctuary’s stained glass dome still features those same angels who have been dancing through the myriad of colors for nearly a century now. Ionic columns provide support to the structure while a powerful organ fills it with music.
Though it is easy to get lost in all the beauty First United Methodist Church has to offer, Pastor Alan Beasley often reminds his congregation that none of it would exist without a solid faith foundation. In Alan’s eyes, the roots of a tree are just as appreciated as its fruit-bearing branches. The church’s nine-year pastor believes the same is true for his flock.
“Tradition is an important part of our identity,” Alan says. “I think people are attracted to the basic fundamentals of our faith and our expression of that. The church itself has been around since the 1830s, in this location since 1921, and we have a connection to its historical roots that can be seen in our traditional service. Our choir plays a large role in that.”
Led by Dr. John Stallsmith, the choir is certainly one of the most iconic staples of the morning services. Alan believes John to be one of the most talented organists in the Southeast, perhaps even the nation, and a key piece of bringing the worship experience to life. “We have one of the only traditional-style services in the area,” Alan says. “The service includes the traditional anthem, hymns, creeds, and the Lord’s prayer. The fact that the service continues to spark some interest is a testament to the choir.”
Alan’s great appreciation for the past does not hinder him from building toward the future, though. Celebrating where the church came from helps determine where it’s going. Since being appointed the senior pastor in 2011, Alan has introduced new programs, launched effective partnerships, and led moving sermons in both the traditional and contemporary Sunday services offered weekly.
“The contemporary Celebration Service was begun many years ago to address the needs of people who desired to worship in a different style without changing the message,” Alan says. “The service is strong and attracts many new people and people who might not attend our Traditional Service. Its earlier time and contemporary music offer space for people who may not otherwise attend. The Celebration Service is an integral part of our outreach to the community.”
In recent years, First United Methodist has become deeply involved in the local school system, sports programs, and general community. Alan even helped the church reach a partnership with Capstone Rural Health Center to provide health care to local individuals in need.
“One of the hallmarks of First United Methodist is that we strive to do works in the community without expectation of acknowledgement or praise,” Alan says with a sincere smile. “We’re typically not a church body who craves accolades. We just want to help.”
After serving as pastor for nearly a decade, Alan has poured his life into this place. No longer is it simply a church; it’s a home. No longer is he just a pastor to a congregation; he’s a member of a larger family. “This is the place where my wife and I are engaged in people’s lives, where we can continue to grow our own relationship with Christ,” Alan explains. “I don’t just pastor a church. She’s not just my wife. We’re all in this spiritual journey together. I never wanted this to be the kind of church where I just tell you what instructions to follow. This is a place where I hope everyone feels as though I’m right there learning and growing along with them. This church is a meaningful place.”
As for the future, First United Methodist has plans to celebrate its 100thanniversary in just two years, and hopes to continue growing its congregation both larger in number and deeper in faith.
The next time you find yourself at the corner of 3rdAvenue South and 18thStreet West admiring the brilliant architecture of the white marble church, take a step through those heavy wooden doors. You will find the atmosphere inside to be every bit as lovely. 78