Rev. Dr. Kip Laxson, Senior Pastor

Some people–like Kip Laxson–know early on what their life’s vocation will be. When he was 10, Kip was serving as an acolyte in his hometown church in Athens, Alabama when the minister pulled him aside one sunny, Sunday morning. “He patted me on the head and said he hoped I would consider being a preacher,” he says. “Right then and there I knew I wanted to be a United Methodist Minister.” Now, more than 30 years after preaching his first sermon, Kip says he couldn’t imagine doing anything else. “I find joy and fulfillment in this role each and every day.”

Kip obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree in Religion and Philosophy from Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville, Tennessee; he holds a Master of Divinity degree from The Divinity School at Vanderbilt University in Nashville; and he obtained a Doctor of Ministry degree from The Episcopal School of Theology at The University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee. He has been the senior pastor at Asbury United Methodist Church since 2010.

Kip has been married to his wife Tami for 32 years, and together, they have two children: Kaitlyn and Landon. In his free time, you’ll find Kip reading, bird hunting, going to the symphony or local theater with Tami, and cooking.

Email Kip at klaxson@asburyonline.org.


Rev. Kelsey Grissom, Associate Pastor

Kelsey Grissom has served as the Associate Pastor at Asbury United Methodist Church since 2014 but she’s known the people who worship there for much, much longer. In fact, she grew up at Asbury and began her career in ministry when she served as a lay person from 1999 to 2003.

Kelsey attended Birmingham-Southern College where she obtained a BA in Music and Religion. She holds a Master of Divinity from Candler School of Theology, Emory University and she’s currently obtaining a Doctor of Ministry from Candler.

In her role as Associate Pastor, Kelsey leads The Bridge, Asbury’s contemporary service and also attends to the pastoral needs of the church, including teaching, visiting the sick, officiating funerals and weddings, and leading special ministry initiatives. Why does she do what she does year after year? “The short answer is that I love people and I love God,” she says. “Ministry is the place where those two loves meet.”

Kelsey is married to her husband Lee, and together, they have three boys.

Email Kelsey at kgrissom@asburyonline.org.

Rev. Greg Foust, Pastor of Discipleship

The Lord called Greg Foust into ministry as a young boy but Greg says he was 25 before he truly “heard” God. “I tried to make a deal with Him about serving as a lay person, but God wanted me full time,” he says. “That decision made an eternal difference in my life.”

Greg was born and raised on the east side of Birmingham. He attended Birmingham-Southern College and obtained a Master of Arts in Christian Education and Music from Asbury Theological Seminary. He has served in the North Alabama Conference for 38 years and has served Asbury for 22 years. Presently, Greg coordinates intentional faith development at Asbury through adult education and pastoral care.

Greg has been married to his wife Cathy for 37 years. Together, they have three young adult daughters and two granddaughters. Greg loves baseball and Southeastern Conference sports, taking family trips, going to the movies, and taking walks.

Email Greg at gfoust@asburyonline.org.

Rev. Robert Mercer, Pastor of Family Formation

Robert Mercer is the Family Formation Pastor at Asbury. Robert works with the youth and children’s staff and leads the confirmation program. He began working in the church in college where he was also known as “Southpaw,” the Mascot of the University of South Alabama. Robert has over 25 of years experience working with students and families.

He experienced a call to ministry in high school where he was very active in his local congregation. He was ordained in The United Methodist Church as a Deacon and did his seminary work at Memphis Theological Seminary.

Robert’s favorite Bible verse throughout his ministry has been 1 Timothy 4:12: Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. He says helping people strive to be the person God has created them to be is one of the passions that keep him in ministry.

Robert is married to Dr. Tracey Mercer and they have two children, Drew and Hannah.

Email Robert at rmercer@asburyonline.org.

Nancy Beard, Director of Music Ministry

“Somehow I’ve been at Asbury for 21 years,” says Nancy Beard, Director of Music Ministries at Asbury UMC. Despite her experienced tenure, Nancy’s passion for music—and musical perfection—resonates every time she sings, plays the piano or organ, directs the choir, or teaches a vocal lesson.

“I truly can’t imagine doing anything else,” she says. “It’s such a blessing to be able to combine my passion for music and my love for God into a ministry that encourages others to sing and play instruments to the glory of God!”

A graduate of Birmingham-Southern College, Nancy obtained her Bachelor of Arts in Music (in organ studies) and then obtained her Master of Music in Vocal Performance from the University of Montevallo.

Nancy and her husband John have three children: Anna, Grant, and Jack as well as two dogs and a cat.

Email Nancy at nbeard@asburyonline.org.

Angie Gongwer, Director of Children’s Ministry

Angie Gongwer graduated from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. For 12 years, she dutifully worked in the healthcare industry. But things changed after she had two children. “I loved being a mom and God called me to children’s ministry,” she says. “I’m passionate about the faith development of our children. Laying a foundation for discipleship is imperative to creating a faith that lasts.”

At home, Angie is hard at work laying that foundation with 13-year-old Reid and 10-year-old Riley. Both of her children are active in Asbury’s youth and children’s ministries and they keep her on her toes. Reid plays basketball and baseball; Riley is in gymnastics and cheerleading. Angie is the cheerleading coach.

She hasn’t once looked back to her former nursing career. “It’s a privilege to do God’s work here at Asbury,” she says. “It’s more than a job; it’s family.”

Email Angie at agongwer@asburyonline.org.

Sharon Doggett, Executive Director

Above Sharon Doggett’s desk you’ll find a mural of crosses. Some are small, some are quite large, and all are a celebration of color. They’ve served her well in a long career of being a church administrator and Sharon comes to Asbury after serving at Brookwood Baptist and South Highland Presbyterian Churches.

A native of Birmingham, Sharon attended Auburn University and obtained a CCA from Candler School of Theology at Emory University. She and her husband John have two children and one grandson. Her professional and personal motto comes from Jeremiah 29:11-13: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

Email Sharon at sdoggett@asburyonline.org.

Leah Gardner, Director of Finance

Psalm 105:4 reads: Look to the Lord and his strength: seek his face always. That single verse brings Leah Gardner peace and contentment every day. “It reminds me that God didn’t create me to be self-sufficient, but to look to and rely on Him for everything,” she says.

Leah may be a relatively new face at Asbury, but she’s not new to the finance world or church work, having served in similar roles for more than 15 years. “I’ve been blessed to see the many different ways God uses the financial gifts given to spread the good news of His love,” she says.

Originally from Gadsden, Leah attended Auburn University and now resides in Birmingham with her husband Bob. Together, they have been married for 31 years and have two daughters. She enjoys cooking in her free time.

Email Leah at lgarnder@asburyonline.org.

Maggie Dunaway, Director of Congregational Care

When an Asbury church member walks into the office, the same question is usually asked: “Is Maggie here?” When she’s summoned, warm greetings ensue, hugs are given, and Maggie Dunaway has somehow made the office feel warmer.

After 17 years as a member at Asbury, Maggie knows almost every single parishioner. After becoming the Congregational Care Director (which means she provides and coordinates teams to offer physical, emotional and spiritual care to the Asbury community) 10 years ago, she now knows the parishioners’ children, their parents, worship-service preferences, and dinner requests.

“I’ve never had a job that was so fulfilling on so many different levels — whether it’s the people I’m honored to serve in the congregation, the staff I am so proud to call my teammates, or the spirit of community in Christ I am so thrilled to be a part of — it’s really joyful to work at Asbury,” she says. “It’s difficult to imagine a life without this work.”

Maggie has been married to her husband Jim for 20 twenty years. Together, they have two “precious kiddos,” Harper (17) and Carter (13) who are active in Asbury RESET and view the halls of Asbury as a second home.

Email Maggie at mdunaway@asburyonline.org.

Carolyn Ealy, Executive Director,
Children Are Special at Asbury (C.A.S.A.)

It’s Monday afternoon and the kids enrolled in C.A.S.A. are in line for carpool. Carolyn Ealy says in her practiced teacher voice, “Click on your listening ears!” and the kids promptly adjust their hearing. “Now catch the bubble!” she calls. And each student fills his or her mouth with a bubble of air (so there’s no room to talk.) The children have been attentive all day, yet here and now, Miss Carolyn has the floor.

Listening ears and bubbles have been part of Carolyn’s routine since she began at C.A.S.A. nine years ago and they never get old. “This is my happy place,” she says. “I love the teachers. I love the kids. I love walking down the halls and getting hugs.” It’s not easy when the children who she’s seen every day for the last five years “graduate,” but knowing those kids are ready for the great, big world ahead gives her peace.

Carolyn claims her job never feels like “work,” but when she’s not at Asbury, Carolyn cares for three “babies” of her own: Caitlin (20), Brian (20), and Alyssa (14). Email Carolyn at cealy@asburyonline.org.

C.A.S.A. is Asbury United Methodist Church’s Mother’s Day Out, Preschool, and Pre-K program designed for children ages two months to five years of age. Every weekday, nearly 200 children are loved and cared for by an experienced staff who puts God and His children first. To learn more about C.A.S.A., click here.