From the Worldwide Faith News archives

At the Roots of Methodism: U.K. celebrates Wesley's 300th

From "NewsDesk" <NewsDesk@UMCOM.ORG>
Date Wed, 5 Feb 2003 14:48:18 -0600

Feb. 5, 2003   News media contact: Tim Tanton7(615)742-54707Nashville, Tenn. 

NOTE: This is a regular feature on Methodist history prepared especially for
distribution by United Methodist News Service. Photographs are available.

A UMNS Feature
By John Singleton*

The birthplace and boyhood home of John Wesley at Epworth, England, is
playing a prominent role in celebrations throughout this year to mark the
300th anniversary of his birth. 

Now known as the Old Rectory, the original building was destroyed by fire in
1709, a conflagration from which the 6-year-old John was dramatically
rescued. This event convinced his mother, Susannah, that John was a "brand
plucked from the burning" who had been saved for a special purpose.

Starting March 1 and continuing over an eight-month period, the local
celebrations at Epworth (in the Humberside region of England) will focus on
the Anglican church of St. Andrew's, where Wesley's father, Samuel, was
rector; the Wesley Memorial Church; and the Old Rectory itself. 

Alongside Methodist "pilgrims" from all over the world, Epworth townspeople
and traders are supporting the celebrations, which will include a Wesley
Pageant with parades, market stalls, entertainment, music and dance. A
"look-alike John Wesley" will even preach from the original market cross in
the town center, and an evening Songs of Praise Service is to be held around
Samuel Wesley's tomb, where John preached in 1742 after being excluded from
his father's former church.
The Old Rectory will host a number of important displays of Wesley
memorabilia this year. An exhibition of Wesley's life and writings is being
held throughout March, and a local artist will exhibit a collection of
watercolors and drawings called "John Wesley - A Pictorial Journey" April
13-May 21. A selection of letters written by John Wesley to Ann Tindall of
Scarborough will be exhibited on loan from the British Museum May 1-July 31. 

An international conference on "John Wesley: Life, Legend and Legacy" is
scheduled at the University of Manchester for June 15-18 to mark the birth of
the founder of the Methodist movement in 1703. The conference will aim to
bring together historians, theologians, art historians, literature
specialists and all others interested in any aspect of Wesley's life and
legacy. Papers are expected to address the following general themes: "Wesley
the Man," "Wesley in Context," "Wesley and Theology" and "The Wesleyan
Legacy." This major conference will be accompanied by an exhibit of visual,
archival and printed artefacts from the historic collection of Wesley
material housed at the John Rylands Library in Manchester, England.

On a wider European front, a major all-age Methodist Festival is expected to
attract hundreds of Methodists from many east and west European countries to
the Hermannswerder Peninsular in Potsdam, Germany, July 30-Aug. 3. Organized
by the European Methodist Council, the event is seen as an opportunity both
to share a common faith and heritage and to look to the future. The program -
called "Get in touch" - will include Bible studies, small Wesley groups for
sharing and growing together, creative art and other workshops, celebrations
and "serious looks at our past, our present state and future prospects for

The many tercentenary events throughout Britain will include a national
service of celebration to be televised by the BBC from London's Royal Albert
Hall (March 30); a Festival Week at Wesley's historic New Room, Bristol (May
19-25); an Aldersgate Memorial Service in London on Wesley Day (May 24); and
the opening of a major Social History Exhibition at London's historic
Wesley's Chapel (June 7).

Also, a national Service of Ecumenical Celebration at Lincoln Cathedral (June
17); a Walk of Witness from Lincoln to Llandudno, Wales, for the opening of
the British Methodist Annual Conference (June 17-28); the unveiling of a new
Wesley monument at Lincoln College, Oxford (June 21); an event at Hanham
Mount, Bristol, the famous scene of Wesley's open-air preaching (June 22); a
lecture by the Rev. Richard Heitzenrater for the Wesley Historical Society at
the British Methodist Annual Conference in Llandudno (June 30).  

More information on Wesley tercentenary events is available at online. 

U.S. events being planned will include the Fifth Historical Convocation,
"John Wesley: His Life and Legacy," Aug. 14-17 in Madison, N.J. (See UMNS
story #039.)

An adventurous British theater group is marking Wesley's 300th birthday by
bringing the story of the Wesley brothers across the Atlantic to tour a
number of United Methodist churches May 11-June 14. The author, the Rev.
David Hill of East London, is traveling with a professional cast to present
"Never Stand Still," a musical play based on the correspondence between John
and Charles Wesley. The performance tells the story of the beginnings of
Methodism without glossing over the sometimes tempestuous relationship
between the two brothers. Three actors perform the play, backed by a choir
from the host church or churches. So far, the tour is scheduled to visit
churches in New York, Detroit, Delaware and Virginia. Further dates are
# # #
*Singleton, a writer with the weekly Methodist Recorder in London, is
administrator for the Methodist churches and social projects in the Tower
Hamlets area of East London. He can be contacted by e-mail at: 

United Methodist News Service
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