Visit the markers in London that honor John Wesley and take a look inside the Methodist Museum and Wesley’s Chapel at JohnWesleyBlog flickr.
Wesley’s Chapel, City Road Chapel in London, is the mother church of Methodism. John Wesley had the church built, preached there and lived on the property. It still serves as a church as well as a place of pilgrimage. Jennifer Potter is an assistant pastor at Wesley’s Chapel.
The New Room in Bristol, UK will hold a special event August 31 to mark the 275th anniversary of Charles Wesley’s first field preaching. As New Room Chaplain David Weeks explains in this video, early Methodist leaders were often excluded from preaching in Anglican Churches. They followed George Whitefield’s example and joined in preaching to large groups in the open air, or field preaching.
Events in Bristol sparked an important change in the growing Methodist movement in the 1740s. At the time, societies led by Oxford Methodists and others were aligning their loyalties: some with the Wesleys, and others with the Moravians or George Whitefield’s Presbyterian teachings. John had just taken on the debt for the New Room in Bristol and the Foundery in London. In his book Wesley and the People Called Methodists, Richard Heitzenrater explains lay leadership developed.
In February 1742, John Wesley met with several leading persons from the society in Bristol to consider ways of paying the debt on the New Room. Captain Foy proposed that everyone in the society contribute a penny a week, a common method of subscription used in the religious societies and already implemented in the Foundery society to assist the poor. But someone protested that many of the members of the society were very poor and could not afford to give that much. Foy’s innovative solution was simple: divide the society into groups of twelve, each with a leader who would be responsible for turning in twelve pence a week, making up themselves whatever they could not collect. He also volunteered to take as his group the eleven poorest of the lot. His offer was accepted; others fell in line; it was done.
The importance of the groups soon superseded their original design. As the leaders began their weekly rounds, contacting every member of the society, they soon discovered problems: domestic disputes, drunkenness, and other sorts of behavior not indicative of the pursuit of holiness. Wesley saw the pastoral opportunity presented by the practical structure of the class: the leaders of the classes became the spiritual overseers of their group. This method helped Wesley overcome the difficulty of coming to know each person in the rapidly increasing societies and extended the personal touch of his pastoral oversight.
Early Methodism in Bristol – Writing of Rev. John Smith Simon. More on this article on p 17 of the acrobat file, or page 64 of the text.
From the New Room publication The Tablets at the The New Room comes this description:
Bristol was a memorable city for the Wesleys, linked to Methodism. Between 1739 and 1790, more particularly in the first 30 years of Methodism, John Wesley spent more time here than anywhere else in the kingdom. Charles Wesley was often here, and made it his home from 1749-1771. London, Bristol and Newcastle upon Tyne were the three early centers of the 18th century Revival.
This room was Wesley’s first Methodist Preaching-place, and had school, society room, and apartment sfor the preachers under the same roof. His first conference met in the Foundery, London in 1744, and the second was held in 1745 in this his first Conference Chapel. His last Conference was also held here in 1790. It is the only building, therefore, in the world that spans the whole of his evangelical ministry. It really consists of two buildings. The north end towards the Horsefair, was erected in June 1739; the south, towards Broadmead, in 1748.
It is thus the oldest shrine in World-wide Methodism, and the earliest monument of the evangelical revival still in existence.
This is Tablet 1 of the historical tablets placed in the New Room in 1930 and the text were made available in 1984 for the church’s Bicentennial Celebration.
Susanna Annesley was born January 20, 1669 in London. She was the daughter of Samuel Annesley, a prominent dissenting pastor nominated by Oliver Cromwell to serve as lecturer at St. Paul’s. He lost favor after the Restoration and passage of the Act of Uniformity in 1662. She was the 25th of 25 children in her family.
At the age of 13, Susanna left her father’s church for the Anglican Church. It was around this time that she first met Samuel Wesley. Six years later, they married as Samuel completed college and was named rector at Epworth.
They had 19 children, 10 that survived to adulthood. They were poor. Samuel was twice jailed for debts. They did not always agree. He left their home for months in protest of one of their disagreements. They had difficult times with two fires at their home, the second completely destroying everything they owned. The children were farmed out to family and friends for months as a new home was built.
Susannah was known as an educator, teaching her three sons and seven daughters. The Epworth Old Rectory has a booklet Educating the Family extracted from a letter Susannah had written her son John.
In order to form the minds of children, the first thing to be done is to conquer their will, and bring them to an obedient temper. To inform the understanding is a work of time, and must with children proceed by slow degrees, as they are able to bear it; but the subjecting the will is a thing that must be done at once – and the sooner, the better.
The way of teaching was this. The day before a child began to learn, the house was set in order, everyone’s work appointed them and a charge given that none could come into the room from 9 til 12, or from 2 til 5; which you know, were the school hours. One day was allowed the child to learn its letters, and each of them did in that time know all its letters, great and small, except Molly and Nancy, who were a day and a half before they knew them perfectly.
When Samuel died, the family moved from the Epworth Rectory and the building’s contents were sold to cover debts. Susanna left to live with her children, eventually moving to London to live with John at the Foundery and eventually his home at Wesley Chapel. She died July 23, 1742 and was buried at Bunhill Fields across the street from Wesley Chapel.
Samuel Wesley was born December 17, 1662. He was the son of the dissenting pastor John Wesley, rector of Winterborne Whitechurch, Dorset. His mother was the daughter of John White, rector of Trinity Church, Dorchester.
John Wesley was imprisoned for not using the Church of England’s Book of Common Prayer, imprisoned again and ejected in 1662. He died at the age of 42. Samuel was being educated as a dissenter. But he had a change of view and enrolled as an Anglican at Exeter College in Oxford. He served wealthy students to pay his way through school. In 1688, he completed his degree at Exeter and married Susanna Annesley. They moved to Epworth when he was named as rector there in 1697.
He was a supporter of royalty, an unpopular stand in Epworth. The marshy area had been ordered drained years earlier by the king. A portion of the newly created lands went to the king, another portion to the men who drained the land and finally a portion to those who lived there. This change in land ownership angered the locals and they did not look kindly on supporters of the king. This led to fires being set to the rectory and damage to its fields and livestock. Wesley stayed in debt especially after fire destroyed the rectory and he built a new home in its place.
The Foundery Press book on Samuel Wesley describes his imprisonment
All for the sake of a third pounds debt. His creditor seemed set on punishing Wesley and would not give Samuel 24 hours to find the money. The unsuspecting Samuel came out of church after christening a baby and was arrested in his own churchyard. News filtered through Epworth. Far from taking pity on Susanna, the villagers proceeded in the rector’s absence to wreak havoc on his farming endeavors. Samuel remained imprisoned for five months.
The Wesleys had three sons and seven daughters who lived into adulthood. The sons all graduated from universities at Oxford.
Samuel held his parish and family to strict standards. His public condemnation of church members contributed to the ill treatment of the family. He was at odds with his wife and left Epworth in protest for months. When his daughter Hetty ran away and returned home unmarried and pregnant, he was unforgiving. When John preached sermons in Epworth on the subject of mercy, Samuel did not mend his relationship with Hetty and took issue with the criticism.
Samuel was an author. He published articles that helped him pay his way through university. His life’s work was a study of the Book of Job written in Latin. His son John completed and published the work after Samuel’s death on April 5, 1735 He was buried at St. Andrews Anglican Church in Epworth.
Samuel Wesley was rector of St. Andrews Anglican Church in Epworth, UK. When in Oxford, we made the short drive from the Old Rectory down the street to the parking area near the church. We took a number of photos as we walked around the 15th century Perpendicular-style Anglican parish church.You can find the photos on the JohnWesleyBlog flickr page.
The church website makes clear it continues to serve the community with regular worship services for its congregation while welcoming those interested in its history. Most notable is that Samuel Wesley is buried at the church and his grave was used as a site for his son’s preaching in Epworth when he was denied the church’s pulpit.
The church has many notable architectural features and interesting items of furniture, including a chair left by Susanna Wesley on her departure from Epworth. The font was used to baptize all the Wesley children, and the chalice, originally Samuel Wesley’s, was used by John for his first Holy Communion, when aged 9.