From Swedenborgian to Methodist

Woodlands Methodist Church is located in the west district of Glasgow, on leafy Woodlands Drive. But this church has not always been Methodist, it was originally built for a Swedenborgian community.

In the Woodlands area, the church is a significant local landmark with its beautiful Gothic architecture, yellow sandstone walls and stained-glass windows. Used by the Methodist Church since 1977, it was originally built for Swedenborgians in 1909. Swedenborgianism is a Christian denomination that came from Sweden in the early nineteenth century that appealed to Glasgow's working poor. But, by the 1960s, the Woodlands congregation had dramatically declined and it was absorbed into the Methodist Church.

Woodland Methodist Church

Emanuel Swedenborg was a Swedish eighteenth-century inventor, philosopher and theologian. In 1744, he had a spiritual awakening that led him to extensively write about theology. “Swedenborg was very big on angels, insisting that he had received revelations made to him by then,” explains Revd Laurent Vernet, Minister at East Kilbride and East Glasgow. “His writings, letters and books are all about what the angels said to him.” 

Swedenborg and John Wesley knew each other and often corresponded about their beliefs, sometimes leading to intense theological debate – though none seems to have been about Swedenborg’s obsession with angels! These debates can be read in Wesley’s notes and letters.

Several years after his death, Swedenborg’s ideas inspired Christians to create the religious movement the New Church, or Swedenborgianism, in 1787. Exported all over the world, his followers built Swedenborgian churches. 

Woodlands Methodist Church has kept most of its original features with a sanctuary on the first floor to be closer to God and his angels. Offices, meeting rooms and a library are on the ground floor. The wood panels in the library are carved with religious quotes on the door lintels and bookcases in Latin, Greek and Arabic. The carved panels above the stone fireplace depict the oak and salmon of Glasgow as well as the Swedish flag.

The sanctuary is a large room with stone walls, a few large stained-glass windows by Guthrie & Wells and George Benson and a war memorial window from St John Methodist Church on Sauchiehall Street. There is also an image of Jesus with his foot on a beast or dragon. The organ is older than the church, built by Forster & Andrews in 1876 for the Cathedral Street Swedenborgian Church and augmented with pipes from the Willis organ at St John’s.

Proud of its history, Woodlands Methodist Church is active in the local community, helping people on their recovery journey.  It is also a twenty-first-century church with screens installed in the sanctuary for people with hearing difficulties or dementia. “The screens give the information related to the service and help people to understand what is happening. We also have a lift to help people come to the first floor. We want to be as inclusive as possible,” adds Laurent.