John and Charles Wesley were born into an impoverished Rectors family, but received a first class education and Oxford degrees. They became Anglican Priests, went to America but returned disillusioned. They had already started to visit prisons and lead a disciplined religious life which got them the nickname “Methodists”, but none of this was enough, they had tried and felt they had failed. But their conversion experiences of May 1738 taught them to trust in Christ for their salvation, which they did, and for the next 50 years preached, travelled, founded churches up and down the country, as well as schools, class meetings, the lay preaching movement, founded Sunday Schools and foodbanks and other social services. Charles wrote thousands of hymns and many are still sung today, John defined who Methodists are and what we believe and do.
They believed all could be saved, against the other viewpoint of Calvinism, which was that only some would be saved, and God had already chosen them! They utterly rejected this, and instead proclaimed free grace for all, which was aimed at the outcasts and marginalised, including prisoners, those without faith and those who the Church of England ignored. The industrial revolution had changed Britain for ever, the Parish system could not cope, and the Wesley brothers walked directly into this void. The doctrine which was preached from pulpits and in the open air, and was sung enthusiastically by those early congregations, centred upon the universality of God’s grace and the need for all believers to grow in love.
The simple and readily accessible way in which the Wesley brothers preached and exemplified devotional life, attracted thousands of followers. They were seen as a threat by local clergy who increasingly banned them from their churches. But hundreds of Chapels were built, thousands came to faith and had their lives changed, found hope rather than despair; a future and a purpose for living. By mutually supporting each other, peoples lived improved, as did their health, education, prospect and role in society.
Within a century, the movement had grown, but it had also split into many strands. It was however making a major contribution to national and international life, being central to the founding of the Labour movement, Trades Unions, as well as welfare and other reforms. In 1932 the various strands came together in Union.
In 1787 John Wesley visited the Channel Islands. Methodism had already reached here in French from America via the cod fishermen, but his visit began a process of building chapels and creating Methodist Societies, finding French speaking preachers, and the Methodist Church becoming the dominant expression of Christianity for the next 150 years.
The Methodist Church now has 80 million followers around the world and is growing rapidly.
In the British Methodist Church, our Calling summarises our priorities:
The Church exists to increase awareness of God's presence and to celebrate God's love
LEARNING & CARING
The Church exists to help people to grow and learn as Christians, through mutual support and care
The Church exists to be a good neighbour to people in need and to challenge injustice
The Church exists to make more followers of Jesus Christ
In Jersey we continue to worship, learn, care, serve and reach out in Christ’s name. We work with other churches and faith communities, we stand alongside minorities and speak out for those who are marginalised or needy. We also comment on injustice, inequality and our other matters relating to Island life and how we in turn relate to others.
In Georgetown this has meant that in 1999 the Church was redeveloped and made multi-purpose, is used heavily by the Church and local people and has a paid lay staff who provide a consistent and high quality service to families and all in need, as well as having many volunteers and a generous congregation without whom none of this would be possible. The combinations of worship and service, being and doing, faith and works, are at the heart of what we are, and we will respond to whoever and whatever comes, and speak out for those without a voice. However, much is done in privacy, confidentially and without fuss, supporting individuals and their families at their point of need.