Bristol’s role in developing Methodist class leaders

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The importance of the groups soon superseded their original design.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.

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Images of John Wesley

Images of John Wesley provided by Wikimedia Commons.

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New Room: Historic Methodist Center

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.

The New Room

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Photos of the New Room, Bristol, UK

The New Room in Bristol is the oldest Methodist Chapel in the world and the cradle of the early Methodist movement. It was built and used by John Wesley and the early Methodists as a meeting and preaching place and the center for helping and educating the needy members of the community. You can find photos of the New Room on the JohnWesleyBlog flickr page.
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Rev. David Weeks at the New Room, Bristol, UK

John and Charles Wesley had strong connections to Bristol, UK. They established the New Room as the first Methodist meeting space. Charles made Bristol his home. Rev. David Weeks serves as chaplain of the New Room today. He talks about the Wesleys and the building on the Horsefair.

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Seedbed blogger visits New Room, Bristol, UK

Seedbed blogger Brian LePort visited the New Room, Bristol, UK and wrote about his experience. The Asbury Theological Seminary team that puts out Seedbed has organized a New Room Conference in Franklin, TN for Sept 17-19.

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Local Landmark Designation for NC Methodist meeting site

A structure near Sophia in Randolph County, North Carolina is designated the John Wesley Stand. The structure is an example of an open-air tabernacle or brush arbor. Started in 1903 by the Rev. J.F. Burkhead of Asheboro, worship was first held under a brush arbor after which a small frame church building was erected in 1906. The tabernacle was built in 1921. The quartz rock pillars of the tabernacle are an echo of the popular Bungalow style of that time.

John Wesley’s Stand – Randolph County Historic Landmark Preservation Commission

John Wesley’s Stand – Designation Report, Randolph County Historic Landmark Preservation Commission

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Is there a Wesley connection to NC Hymnal?

Former East Carolina University Associate Professor Nara Newcomer examines the story of a hymnal passed down through North Carolina families and its connection to John Wesley in her article Where’s Wesley?

A short History – First United Methodist Church, Washington NC

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UM: Charles Wesley’s Lover of My Soul

The United Methodist General Board of Discipleship shares History of Hymns, Charles Wesley’s Jesus, Lover of My Soul.

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Wesley Memorial Methodist Church on John Wesley and Oxford

In the sanctuary of Wesley Memorial Methodist Church in Oxford, I found a number of flyers. One was entitled John Wesley and Oxford.

John Wesley entered Christ Church as an undergraduate at the university in June 1720.

He graduated in 1724 and on September 19, 1725 was ordained deacon by Bishop Potter. He delivered his first sermon shortly after at Fleet-Marston, a small village east of Oxford.

In 1726, Wesley became a fellow at Lincoln College where he received free board and lodging with a small stipend which was increased when he became Greek lecturer and class moderator.

Wesley was ordained a priest in 1728 and he went home to Epworth to assist his father.

Lincoln College recalled Wesley in 1729. He found that his brother Charles, William Morgan and Robert Kirkham had joined in study of the Greek Testament and attending the Sacrament on Sundays. This was the beginning of the Holy Club and what Wesley called the first rise of Methodism.

Morgan introduced the group to social work. He went with the brothers to the Castle Prison where they met debtors and criminals.

The group became know for religious observances. They took the Sacrament as often as possible, fasted twice a week and recited a collect at the hours of 9, 12 and 3. They were called a number of names including Methodists.

Wesley preaches at the university in 1738, 1741 and 1744. His last sermon was critical of the university for its sluggishness and spiritual apathy. Later he preached in private homes in Oxford to Methodist societies.

When he was married in 1751, he was required to resign his fellowship at Lincoln College.

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