Wesley’s Chapel – The Mother Church of Methodism.

Almost directly across the road from Bunhill Fields Cemetery  which I wrote about last week is Wesley’s Chapel which can be considered as the mother church of Methodism and so I thought I would take a look.

I’m not a Methodist but I have an interest in most religions and notable people and there are few people more notable or worthy than John Wesley.

Methodism began as a renewal movement within the Church of England. It’s beginnings are associated with the work of John and Charles Wesley, both of them Anglican clergymen who were so diligent and methodical in their religious life whilst students at Oxford University, that people called them mockingly ‘Methodists’.

Both men were converted in May 1738 and soon they established themselves in the Foundery, a ruined ordnance factory on the edge of the City of London. John Wesley, at the instigation of his friend George Whitfield, had begun speaking in the open air. This brother was soon putting Methodist theology and spirituality into the form of hymns. Methodism was in the process of being born.

The simple and accessible way in which the Wesleys and their followers preached and exemplified the Christian life attracted thousands of followers. The doctrine which was preached from the pulpit and sung lustily by those early congregations centred upon the universality of God’s grace and the need for all believers to grow in love towards that perfection which is God’s goal for all people. This teaching was accompanied by practical action too – healthcare, micro finance, a ragged school, prison visiting, and literacy.

When the Foundery lease ran out, the building we now know as Wesley’s Chapel was constructed and opened in 1778. By then, there were Methodist meeting houses across the whole of the United Kingdom.

Charles Wesley died in 1788, his brother John three years later.

I visited on a sunny but freezing afternoon two weeks before Christmas and as you can see in the final photo, the sun was already going down just before 3pm.

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A statue of John Wesley

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Inside the Chapel, I always like the style of Methodist churches.

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The beautiful columns were installed a century after the death of John Wesley, replacing old oak beams that King George III had donated from various old Royal Navy ships.

As well as the chapel you can visit the house of John Wesley and associated museum.  Sadly I was running low on time but will have to return soon as I would like to create a new Methodist Walking Tour.

Nevertheless, I made my way to the rear of the chapel to the graveyard.  Like the chapel itself, it is quite small and simple as I think is largely the Methodist way.

There are a number of notable tombs here but of course the first amongst equals here is that of John Wesley himself.

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If you have an interest in visiting old and sometimes ruined churches in London then you might want to come on my tour My new tour – Sacred, Secret, Gardens of London with Ye Olde England Tours.

About Stephen Liddell

I am a writer and traveller with a penchant for history and getting off the beaten track. With several books to my name including a #1 seller, I also write environmental, travel and history articles for magazines as well as freelance work. Recently I've appeared on BBC Radio and Bloomberg TV and am waiting on the filming of a ghost story on British TV. I run my own private UK tours company (Ye Olde England Tours) with small, private and totally customisable guided tours run by myself!
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5 Responses to Wesley’s Chapel – The Mother Church of Methodism.

  1. Marilyn says:

    Very interesting! I was a former Episcopalian but left because they have become way too liberal! We joined the Methodist church about 12 years ago. That denomination is going through a process of possibly becoming more liberal, too! So far, they haven’t, and I pray when they have their General Convention this year that they won’t adopt new liberal policies! If they do, many will leave that denomination, too! We are living in sad times not only in our country but everywhere!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Boyer Writes says:

    In other comments to you, Stephen, I have mentioned that my husband is an Episcopal priest in Florida, USA. Before becoming a priest, he retired from the Methodist Church with over 40 years of service and was endorsed by the Methodists when he served as a United States Navy Chaplain. We loved our years of service with the Methodists, but love even more our years now with the Episcopalians and Anglicans. The worshipfulness, reverence and quiet services as well as the reading of the Word of God from the Prayer Book with weekly communion services, when we remember the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus, is especially meaningful.
    When we were in England, we went to this church and also was allowed to visit the tiny prayer room that John Wesley spent many hours in as he prepared his sermons. We were told that people still go there and ask to sit for a while in the same room to think of this man of God and be where he also prayed. Thank you for sharing this part of religious history. Nancy of Boyer Writes

    Liked by 1 person

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  4. Pingback: The Buttermarket of Barnard Castle | Stephen Liddell

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