Sisters and Brothers,
It is May – Methodist Heritage Month.
What do we mean by this?
Heritage, of course, refers to those features that derive from the past and remain important in the present.
May 1738 was the watershed moment in the lives of John and Charles Wesley, a turning point in their spiritual experience. It was Whitsuntide, that is, Pentecost time. Charles, a priest, was home in bed recovering from illness when he described a life changing assurance of God’s presence in his life. He called that day, 21st May, his “spiritual birthday.” 3 days later, John, also a priest, was invited out by his German Moravian friend Peter Bohler whom he had met the previous year. The invitation was to a religious meeting to be held at a building on Aldersgate Street in London, England.
John recorded that he went “reluctantly” to this meeting. But does not this mysterious God of ours ever move in ways beyond our comprehension? John’s discussions with Peter Bohler and others had already influenced him; but it was on that night that Wesley recorded feeling his “heart strangely warm.” In the developments that followed the Aldersgate meeting, Methodism was born, even though the Wesley brothers had no intention of starting a new church.
How did this new church come to include us? Twenty-two years later, Nathaniel Gilbert and his African slave introduced Methodism to African slaves in Antigua. The movement grew as laymen and women moved from one island to the next and to mainland Central and South American territories in and around the Caribbean Sea.
So, it should come as no surprise that when the Caribbean missionary outpost of Methodism became an autonomous church, it met as such first in May- May 1967. And until the present, the Connexional Conference and Connexional Councils meet in the month of May.
So yes, in May, we focus on the rich heritage that is ours as a people called Methodist. We sing and celebrate the richness of Methodist hymnody starting with works of Charles the prolific hymn writer; but we also honour the giftedness of numerous Methodist songwriters since. We spend time rehearsing our history and the history of the church in general. We thankfully engage in fellowship events that give meaning to Charles’ poetry “if our fellowship below in Jesus be so sweet.”
But do we simply rehearse history that has gone before us? For if that is all we do, it would be a travesty to our profession that Methodism was raised to proclaim scriptural holiness for the transformation of society. Reflection on and celebration of Methodist heritage is meant to motivate us, to move forward in faith. Methodism started as a movement and Methodists must be ever on the move as God’s Spirit warms our hearts and urges us forward.
One of Methodism’s strong features is the practice of the Priesthood of All Believers. This motivates and encourages us all to play our part, and to offer our lives, and talents to God. In the relationship that follows, God’s Spirit transforms us individually and collectively for service and our lives give glory to God. And that’s only the beginning. It’s a movement that continues, for God who guides the movement, is ever faithful. As George Mulrain and George Roberts invite us to sing:
God is faithful guiding our mission
Through His mercy we are right on track
Carrying on the work of those before us
Never tempted to turn back.
Yours in God’s service
Joan Delsol Meade, Pastor.