New £1.4m Museum of Methodism to open in London

A museum telling the story of Methodism's immense influence onBritain and the world is opening in central London on Saturday 25thMay.

Situated in the crypt of the "Cathedral of Methodism", Wesley'sChapel, the Museum of Methodism promises to take visitors on ajourney of spiritual discovery. 

It is a project that has brought together of some of the UK'sfinest craftsmen and storytellers.

The architects, John McAslan & Partners, and the designers,Barker Langham, came straight from transforming King's Crossstation and the Royal Opera House.

BBC presenter, Huw Edwards, narrates the museum's seven-minuteaudio-visual presentation, and the latest technology, includingtablet computers, provides interactive access to major archivaldocuments, such as John Wesley's sermons and Charles Wesley'shymns. 

The museum is pioneering the use of heritage to further theChurch's mission. In the telling of Methodism's dynamic responsesto poverty and social ills, it hopes to fire faith in our time.

Three permanent exhibitions will be ready for the officialopening.

"The Warmed Heart" tells the story of John Wesley's conversion.His Field Bible is one of the objects on display in a contemplativespace. 

"Mr Wesley's New Chapel" traces the history of Wesley's Chapelusing a series of maps of Finsbury and Islington, the earliest ofwhich dates to 1746.

"Connecting the Connexion" illustrates John's Wesley's visionaryorganisational system of societies, classes and bands. Exhibitsinclude a range of membership tickets and a print of Francis Asburywhose enthronement as a bishop in the United States sealedMethodism's separation from the Church of England.

Three more exhibitions will open in the autumn at the end of thesecond and final phase of the museum's development. 

"Speaking of God and Faith" will demonstrate how John Wesleyexploited advances in printing and a much improved road network toshare the gospel. 

"World Parish" will illustrate the spread of Methodism aroundthe world, while  "Compassionate Mission" will highlight thesocial and charitable work done by Methodists over the years. A database of all known missionaries is in progress.

In addition to the exhibitions, there is an examination of thehagiography that grew up around John Wesley and a kitsch CeramicsCollection made up of hundreds of mugs, plates and John Wesleyfigurines.

The minister in charge of Wesley's Chapel and the Museum ofMethodism is the Revd Leslie Griffiths, a Labour peer andbroadcaster. Lord Griffiths said the museum had been completelyrenewed: "Wesley's Chapel is to the 70 million Methodists spreadaround the world what Canterbury Cathedral is to Anglicans and theVatican to Roman Catholics," he said. "Our new museum will releasea compelling story from its chronological and denominational wrapsand allow something of the genius and power which brought it tobirth to touch and inspire our contemporary world. And that's whywe've turned to world-renowned experts to advise, co-ordinate,design and build this amazingly beautiful facility."

Bishop Sundo Kim, the founder Kwanglim Methodist Church in SouthKorea, will offer prayers during the special service to mark theopening next week. His congregation of 85,000 has donated £630,000to the project. "Methodism didn't arrive in Korea until 1885 - thelatest wave of a spiritual tide that began its rise in London overa hundred years before that," he said. "There's a simple reason whywe've invested seriously in this new museum. The story it tells ofthe power and the grace of God released through the ministry ofJohn and Charles Wesley is our story too. It's what shaped ouridentity and challenges us to go on doing God's work in our ownday." 

The BBC's Huw Edwards said: "This is a great project and I'mdelighted to be associated with it."

The museum's full-time curator, Christian Dettlaff, is assistedday-to-day by a team of 50 volunteer stewards. He said the museumdid not presume that visitors would be Methodist or Christian: "Itsclean lines, its surprising space, the 'object-led' nature of itsdisplays, the economy and style of its presentation - all thesefeatures will, in the fullness of time, generate their ownnarrative.  It's a thoroughly modern museum."

Carole Merriman, a steward in the museum, summed up theexcitement: "I am really looking forward to seeing how the story ofCity Road and early Methodism is going to be told in a new,inspiring and more accessible way."


1. For more information contact Tracey Smith or theRev Jennifer Potter by email administration@wesleyschapel.org.uk or phone 020 7253 2262.  

2. Opening hours are 10:00-16:00 Monday toFriday, then after the Sunday service until13:45.

3.  The money has come from thefollowing sources:

- Kwanglim Methodist Church, £630,000

- Methodist Church in Britain, £123,500

- Wesley's Chapel and Leysian Mission funds, £100,000.

- The Laing Family Trust, £60,000

- Joseph Rank Trust, £50,000

- London Methodist District, £50,000

- Garfield Western Foundation, £25,000

- Jerusalem Trust, £20,000

- Allchurches Trust, £10,000

- Other, £10,000

Phase Two of the work will cost approximately£400,000.