Off The Wall 27/5/15
This past Sunday, while missed by most mainstream media, was a significant day for the Christian community. Pentecost Sunday commemorates an event that marks the “birth” of the Church (Acts of the Apostles, Chapter 2). Pentecost Sunday is one of the most ancient feasts of the Church, celebrated early enough to be mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles (20:16) and St. Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians (16:8). For Christians, it supplants the Jewish feast of Pentecost, which took place 50 days after the Passover and celebrated the sealing of the Old Covenant on Mount Sinai.
Christ had promised His Apostles that He would sent His Holy Spirit, and, on Pentecost, they were granted the gifts of the Spirit. The Apostles began to preach the Gospel in all of the languages that the Jews who were gathered there spoke, and about 3,000 people were converted and baptized that day. That is why Pentecost is often called "the birthday of the Church."
The 24th of May is of special significance to the Methodist, Wesleyan and related Uniting and United Churches representing over 80.5 million people in 133 countries.
It marks the day of John Wesley’s profound spiritual experience and acceptance that Christ died for all of humanity, not just for a specific group. As a result Wesley realised that everyone, is entitled to God's grace. This major shift of belief in personal salvation: an instant change in human behaviour through intense faith; is commemorated as the spiritual birth of the Methodist movement.
John Wesley (June 17, 1703 - March 2, 1791) was an eighteenth - century Anglican Minister and Christian Theologian who was an early leader in the Methodist movement, the first widely successful evangelical movement in the United Kingdom.
Methodism holds many of the basic Protestant Christian beliefs. Wesley taught that Christians should strive to obtain holiness of life (called "perfect love") with the assistance of the Holy Spirit. He continually insisted on the general use of the means of Grace, (prayer, scripture, meditation, Holy Communion, fasting, etc) as the means by which God transformed the believer. Throughout his life, Wesley remained with the Church of England and insisted that his movement was well within the bounds of the Anglican Church. His maverick use of church policy put him at odds with many within the Church of England, though toward the end of his life he was widely respected.
He established a system of small group meetings that were designed to encourage and support fellow Christians in lives of faith.
Wesley's Methodist connections included societies throughout England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland before spreading to the other parts of the English speaking world and beyond.
Wesley travelled constantly, generally on horseback, preaching twice or thrice a day. He formed societies, opened chapels, examined and commissioned preachers, administered aid charities, prescribed for the sick, help to pioneer the use of electric shock for the treatment of illness, superintended schools and orphanages, received at least 20,000 pounds for his publications, but used little of it for himself. His charities were limited only by his means. He died poor. He rose at four in the morning, lived simply and methodically, and was never idle if he could help it.
Methodism as a Social Movement
Methodists committed to help the sick, poor, and oppressed; to visit prisons; and to work for justice. This emphasis is still apparent today. Under Wesley's direction, many Methodists became leaders in the major social justice issues of the day. Methodism has been linked to the formation of reformist groups and trade union movements. John Wesley's practice of encouraging working people to become lay-preachers, alongside their paid jobs, gave them valuable experience of public speaking. Later some of these went on to become trade union leaders and were instrumental in the formation of the Labour Party in the late nineteenth century.
Methodists have been prominent in many social movements, including temperance, prison reform, abolition, women's suffrage, and the civil rights movement.
John Wesley had a lot to say about personal morality. In his sermons he encouraged people to work hard and to save for the future, but also to give generously. He also warned against the dangers of gambling and drinking.
For practical as well as theological reasons, Methodists have given women larger leadership roles in the Church than some other denominations.
John Wesley was himself deeply influenced by his mother, Susanna Wesley. Her piety and her work leading classes in her home while her husband was away preaching made a mark on the young boy.
Because Methodism began not as a separate denomination but as an effort to re-invigorate Anglicanism, it could develop informal structures of leadership more open to women than in other institutions in Wesley's day. Wesley expected all Methodists to attend regular Anglican Church services and receive the sacraments there. He could therefore rely on non-ordained leaders to spread his movement. Because ordination was not an issue, more leadership roles were open to women.
Two of the most important facets of early Methodism that led to its success were the class and band meetings. These small groups (usually about twelve people) met regularly to encourage growth in fighting sin and increasing Christian perfection (especially the classes), and growth in personal piety (especially the bands).They were often led by lay people. Some of Wesley's earlier followers in London tried to exclude women from these groups, but Wesley let them know that he did "exceedingly disapprove" of women being excluded. In 1787, over the objections of some of his male preachers, Wesley authorized Sarah Mallet to preach.Sarah Crosby, Hannah Harrison, Eliza Bennis, Mary Bosanquet, and Jane Cooper also functioned sometimes as preachers.
Even the non-religious, can find something useful from a man who believed the faith was to be lived out practically in society. Wesley’s challenge is applicable to all who wish to leave the world a better place than they found it: