16 June 2003

National service of celebration to mark John Wesley's 300th anniversary

The President of the Methodist Church, the Rev Ian White, will lead prayers tomorrow at a national service of thanksgiving for the life and ministry of one of Britain's greatest Christians, John Wesley. The service will be held at Lincoln Cathedral on the date of 300th anniversary of the birth of the founder of Methodism.

The service is being broadcast live on the internet atwww.bbc.co.uk/lincolnshire

And the Order of Service is also available online at:www.wesley2003.org.uk/lincoln.htm

Many of the 6,100 Methodist churches across Britain are organising their own services, exhibitions and other festivities to mark the anniversary.

The birthplace of John Wesley - Epworth Old Rectory - is among historical churches and museums across Britain celebrating the 300th anniversary of John Wesley this week.

John Wesley recently featured in the BBC's Top 100 Great Britons, those people who have been most influential on the life of the British Isles. In his latest biography, Roy Hattersley describes how "Wesley's influence on the new industrial working class would play a major part in shaping society during the century of Britain's greatest power and influence leading to Methodism becoming a worldwide religion and the inspiration of 20th-century television evangelism".

Epworth Old Rectory is on the site of the former north Lincolnshire house where John Wesley was born in 1703 and spent his formative years. In 1709 Wesley narrowly escaped from a devastating fire that destroyed the original rectory. Wesley's father, Samuel - a Church of England clergyman himself - oversaw the building of the current house. The Old Rectory now houses a popular museum in one of the most tranquil parts of rural Britain.

John Wesley was born on 17 June 1703. He became a renowned preacher and spiritual leader of the 'Methodist revival'. He lived and died as a Church of England clergyman, keeping his vow to remain with the church of his birth. But the movement that he founded eventually became the largest Free Church in Britain. And with some 70 million followers, Methodism is today one of the world's largest Christian Churches.

A celebration for the Methodist Church and beyond

A series of special exhibitions and events for the 300th anniversary are expected to boost visitor numbers from Britain and beyond during summer 2003 to a number of locations associated with the life and travels of John Wesley. Some of the locations sure to be among many visitors' destinations include:

Epworth Old Rectory

From now until 31 October 2003, the Old Rectory is hosting an anniversary exhibition of John Wesley's life and writings. This includes a number of Wesley's personal letters (on show up to 31 July) and a collection of paintings and drawings by local artist John Hurst (up to 31 October). A life-size bronze statue of Wesley has been newly installed. Contact: The Warden, Mr Andrew Milson, The Old Rectory, 1 Rectory Street, Epworth, Doncaster, S Yorkshire DNB9 1HX. Tel: 01427 872268

Wesley's Chapel, London

Wesley's Chapel and house in City Road, London (Old Street or Moorgate tube), are regularly open to visitors. The Museum of Methodism there tells the story of the evolution of the Methodist movement, and the house also contains many items associated with John Wesley. Around City Road are many places also associated with Wesley, such as his mother's grave in the Bunhill Fields burial ground and the buildings of Charterhouse where he went to school. At Aldersgate Street is the 'Aldersgate Flame' memorial, commemorating the place where Wesley experienced his 'conversion' in May 1738. Contact: The Curator, Wesley's Chapel, 49 City Road, London EC1Y 1AU. Tel: 020 7253 2262.

The New Room, Bristol

The 'New Room' built by John Wesley in 1739 is the oldest Methodist building in the world. Restored in 1929, it retains much of the atmosphere of the 18th century. Above are the rooms where the travelling preachers met and lodged. Nearby is the house where Charles, the bother of John Wesley, and his family lived, now a heritage centre open to visitors and for scholarly research. Contact: The Warden, Mr Mark Topping, The New Room, 36 The Horsefair, Bristol BS1 3JE. Tel: 0117 926 4740.

Lincoln College, Oxford

Lincoln College can be said to be the cradle of Methodism. It was while a Fellow of Lincoln (1726-1751) that John Wesley established the Holy Club, which gave rise to the term 'Methodist'. Founded in 1427, Lincoln is one of Oxford's oldest and most perfectly preserved colleges. Attractions include the 15th Century Hall where Wesley ate with colleagues and students, the 17th Century Chapel and 18th Century All Saints Church where Wesley preached and worshipped. Contact: Lincoln College, Oxford OX1 3DR Tel: 01865 279800

Other Wesley anniversary events:

  • More than 400 participants are this week attending an international academic conference at Manchester University, 'John Wesley: Life, Legend and Legacy', on 15-18 June 2003.
  • The annual British Methodist Conference, being held in Llandudno, north Wales, between 28 June and 4 July, will host a variety of celebrations to mark the anniversary including a parade through the streets of Llandudno and a lecture by Roy Hattersley.
  • BBC 'Songs of Praise' has dedicated a special edition to Wesley. This programme, broadcast last Sunday, was filmed at the Royal Albert Hall on Sunday 30 March.

More information on the 300th anniversary of the birth of John Wesley 

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