12 March 2010

Vibrant past and a bright future for the Methodist Church in Britain

Re-telling the Methodist story will strengthen the mission of the Church, says Heritage Officer Jo Hibbard.

The Church is launching the Methodist Heritage Handbook at the Best of Britain & Ireland travel show at London Olympia, 17-20 March.

"All our sites are linked by one story and by a shared history and inspiration. This is not only the story of the growth of a worldwide Christian movement; it also illustrates the relationship and relevance of faith to spiritual, social and economic development over the past 300 years, today and for the future," said Jo. "Through promoting Methodist Heritage, we are refocusing on the story of the Methodist Church in the past to support the mission of the Church in the future."

Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch, presenter of the BBC's highly successful The History of Christianity, endorsed the new guide, saying, "Methodism has been at the heart of Protestant Christianity worldwide since the eighteenth century - far beyond the churches which call themselves Methodist. Without the new departures in Christian life inspired by John Wesley, the movements which encompass Pentecostalism, the Salvation Army and the many independent Churches of Africa and Asia would not exist in anything like their present form. It is a task of global importance to preserve the places and experiences in Britain which triggered this extraordinary variety of Christianities."

The free full-colour Handbook offers readers a guide to visiting 100 historic sites, including the Old Rectory at Epworth in Lincolnshire, which was the childhood home of John and Charles Wesley, and the first ever Methodist building at the New Room in Bristol. The New Room was built by John Wesley as a place for preaching and education, a dispensary and also as a lodging for himself and his itinerant preachers. John Wesley travelled around 250,000 miles on his nationwide preaching tours. Many of the sites included in the booklet are linked to this journey and to the development of Methodism in the 19th Century.

Jo said: "Our Methodist Heritage sites have never had much central support or promotion, and yet they represent a huge asset to the Church's mission. Now we have a Committee to give oversight and encourage collaboration and an Officer to access advice and support fundraising. Every Methodist Heritage place, artefact or archive has a unique part of the story of Methodism to tell, and we have over 100 historic gems for visitors to discover."

Details of how to order your free copy of the Heritage Handbook, visit www.methodist.org.uk/heritage.

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