The calling of the Methodist Church is to respond to the gospel of God's love in Christ and to live out its discipleship in worship and mission.
Worship in the Methodist Church is expressed in many ways. In worship the Church
- gives praise to God in Christ through the Spirit
- opens itself to God's transforming love
- receives and reflects on the gospel of God's ways in the world
- offers itself to share in God's costly action in the world.
Methodism endorses many dimensions and methods of Christian mission. In particular it affirms that mission includes:
- telling the good news of Jesus
- calling people to faith in Jesus Christ and to Christian discipleship
- caring for individual people and communities
- sharing the task of education and social and spiritual development
- struggling for a just world
- being alongside the poor
- becoming friends with people of different cultures and faiths
- caring for the earth
- building partnerships with other churches and other groups who share some of our mission aims.
The Methodist Story
You can find The Methodist Church all over the world today. There are around 6,100 Methodist Churches in Britain. These churches have a total membership of about 330,000 people. There are around one million people in Britain who in one way or another have a connection with the Methodist Church. There are 70 million such people across the world.
Where it all started
Methodism is the name given to the group of churches that arose out of the Christian revival of the 18th century, led by the Wesley brothers, John and Charles.
Dismayed by problems in the Church of England, the Wesley brothers led a movement of 'societies' within the Church of England, based on personal experience of Jesus Christ, Bible study, prayer and powerful preaching. John Wesley particularly wanted the church to reach out to ordinary people, and spent his life touring the country preaching. Many in the church saw him as a threat to the established order and banned him from using their church buildings, so he began to preach outside.
Working people in particular identified with the powerful, practical faith he preached. They formed groups, studied together and worked to improve the conditions of the people around them. Charles Wesley became a famous hymn writer, and wrote hundreds of hymns, many of which are still sung today in lots of different churches. By the time of John Wesley's death in 1791 the Methodists had all but broken away from the Church of England. This separation became more definite in the next century, and the Methodist movement became a separate church.
There were many divisions and off-shoots during the 19th century, but during the last 50 years the Methodists in Britain have become one church again.
The Methodist Church Today
Methodist churches are usually organised into 'Circuits', with a large 'mother' church and a number of smaller churches and chapels. These churches are looked after by one or more ordained Ministers and then non-ordained preachers and worship leaders.
Usually only ordained ministers perform the special services of Holy Communion, Marriage and Baptism. However, many other services are held, and ordinary members of the church who have had training in how to lead services, often lead these. Methodists like to be involved in their services, and there is often drama and lots of music, and above all singing! In some places Methodists take communion once or twice a month and in others once every two or three months.
There are no restrictions on who can take communion. You do not have to be a confirmed member of the church, there are no age restrictions, and visitors of any denomination or none are welcome to join in this very special sacrament. The only restriction is that an ordained Minister must lead the service.
Any family who would like to have their child baptized can arrange for them to take part in this special sacrament. This is because Jesus said, "You must let little children come to me, and you must never stop them. The kingdom of heaven belongs to little children like these!" (Matthew chapter 19 verse 14). During the service the child's parents, friends and the church congregation promise to nurture the child and bring them up in a Christian environment. The Minister then names them, and makes the sign of the cross on their head with holy water. This signifies the baptism that Jesus received from John the Baptist.
Methodists have always believed in practical faith and outreach, and this has meant many Methodists are deeply involved in their communities, as volunteers, councillors, trade unionists and missionaries, in the U.K., and the wider world.
The major Methodist charity is the National Children's Home, now known as NCH Action for Children.
In summary -
- The Methodist church is an independent Protestant church
- Methodists believe strongly in putting their Christian faith into practical action
- Many Methodist preachers and worship leaders are non-ordained lay people
- People become members after deciding for themselves that they want to dedicate their life to Jesus
- Methodist services can be very varied
- Everybody is welcome to share in communion
For more details on Methodism please visit the Methodist Church in Britain website which is packed with information and history.
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