June in Saddleworth is going be very full. At the start of the month is the Come and See Arts Trail. Works of art will be on display in Saddleworth churches. Details can be found in most churches. Churches will be open from 1-4pm for people to visit during the week beginning 6th June. Another event that will be occurring over the weekend (including June 6th.) is a flower festival at St Chad’s to mark 800 years of Christianity in Saddleworth. Members of Uppermill Methodist Church are contributing a display on themes surrounding John Wesley.
Each year on May 24th the Methodist Church marks John Wesley’s ‘warming of his heart’ (conversion), the day when Wesley knew for himself that Jesus had forgiven him. This experience gave Wesley the assurance to share the good news about Jesus throughout the British Isles.
What then are the qualities that Methodists celebrate in John Wesley’s life? Firstly, through his conversion experience in 1738 he discovered that we are saved through God’s grace (unearned love) and that this is not our own doing but God’s free gift. This message he took all round England, preaching to many different sorts of people, travelling in the process a distance equivalent to twice round the world, mostly on horseback.
Secondly, he was a good organiser – using the gifts of ordinary people in leading and running the Methodist groups. The nickname Methodist came from the very organised way in which John Wesley and his friends in Oxford practised their faith. Many of the people who became his house-group leaders and lay preachers were ordinary people whom the church of that time chose to ignore. We still have much to learn in the way we value every member of our church communities and encourage them to use their differing gifts for God’s work. Wesley expected much of these people, in particular requiring preachers to do extensive reading for their training and preparation.
Thirdly, John Wesley was somebody who had his eye on some of the great issues of that time. He was one of the earliest campaigners for the abolition of the slave trade. Amongst all these things he found time to write not only his sermons, many of which have been collected, but also a detailed daily journal, a book on the New Testament and a book called the Primitive Physick.
Wesley was a remarkable person in many ways but unlike his brother Charles, the hymn writer, he never had a happy home life. It was also a great sadness to him, as he got older, that the then Church of England would not ordain any of his preachers. This led him to ordain some of his preachers himself, which prepared the way for the Methodist movement to become an independent church after he died; something John Wesley had never set out to do. I believe that this Methodist witness is a rich inheritance and has much still to offer present-day Christians.
With best wishes