The local church
Do you not think that the secret of the extraordinary hold of Methodism upon the English poor lies in the strict and intimate communion which forms so essential a part of it? Methodism is eminently social…Dora Greenwell
Local Methodist churches are congregations based on the original Methodist 'societies' that met within the Church of England. These met initially in people's homes for worship, fellowship, prayer and instruction.
When they began to gather in larger buildings, Methodists continued the practice of meeting in small groups or 'classes' for Bible study, prayer and Christian conversation. These intimate support groups were very effective at building commitment and a sense of belonging
Methodist membership is still held in the 'society' in a certain place - it is locally based. All members belong to a 'class' (which may or may not meet). Many other people are associated with Methodist churches, through attending worship and participating in clubs and fellowship groups.
Local churches manage their own affairs (including church property) through lay volunteers called church stewards. But they are connected to others in the circuit, and more widely to the district and the Methodist Connexion.
In some places, Methodists have entered into a Local Ecumenical Partnership with one or more churches of another denomination.
Worship in the local church may be led by the minister who has pastoral charge of the church, but will frequently be conducted by a local preacher, who is a trained lay person.
Fresh expressions of church
There is considerable interest in developing new ways of gathering as Christians and 'being church' that are more appropriate and attractive in the contemporary world. Some Methodist churches are moving to a 'cell church' concept, which once more highlights the crucial importance of the dynamic and holistic small group in developing Christian discipleship.