Tuesday, 1 May 2007

Strangely warmed

I've been reading a biography of John Wesley. I've always been fond of the Methodists, so I thought I should find out more about how it all started. Recently there's been a lot of talk of the Methodists coming back into the Church of England -- the two denominations signed a covenant in 2003. I've often heard it talked of gloomily, but actually everyone knows how much John Wesley, and even more so his brother Charles, would have been pleased by this idea.

What's surprising me in reading this biography is what the exact things were which caused the separation in the first place. These seem to be that the Methodists wanted a) lay preachers b) regular communion c) extempore prayers. At the time the Church of England was still very much a respectable profession, rather than a calling, and it was rather de trop to have any strong feelings about God. (These days it's a rather unrespectable calling, which frankly I rejoice at.) Today lay preachers are very frequently found -- anyone might be preaching at my parents' church, and even I have been asked to preach in chapel here, though I declined on the grounds that I didn't have anything to say. In terms of regular communion the Church of England has rather overtaken the Protestant churches -- weekly communion is the norm, and our chapel provides daily communion during term-time. And if you tried to suggest to the Church of England that they should only use prayers which were read aloud exactly from a printed book I doubt you'd get very far.

So it's rather pleasant than otherwise to think of the Methodists becoming part of the Church of England again. They've always been a sensible and hearty bunch.


  1. With my Methodist roots, I'd concur of course with sensible and hearty, but the one drawback of Methodism of course is the enforced teetotalism......no gin and tonics, or even sherry, for the Wesleys! (And even the tombola was banned from the fete at my childhood church, for being a form of gambling....)

  2. The Wesleys themselves were far from teetotal... I think it's something that entered Methodism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. My grandpa never drank his whole life. I admire the persistence, though I'm not about to emulate it.

    I wonder sometimes if the modern equilvalent of the evil of drink is the evil of debt, and that perhaps we should all be cutting up our credit cards and signing another sort of pledge.