Renewed for Service
(This note was originally written for the handbook of the church's Centenary Exhibition in 2006)
The Methodist Church exists throughout much of the world. It began in the 18th century in Britain, through the work of John Wesley and his hymn-writing brother Charles. The name originated in Oxford, where the Wesleys formed a group of rather organised, methodical Christian students, who were nicknamed Methodists. The brothers became, and remained, Church of England priests, but they believed they must go into the streets to preach the Christian gospel to ‘working people.’ This eventually meant he fell out with many Church of England colleagues, and (perhaps reluctantly - though it has to be said John was a bit of a maverick!) Methodism was founded from the groups who had responded to his horseback ministry.
Methodism itself went through some traumatic disagreements, and in the 19th century there were three groupings of Methodists – United, Wesleyan and Primitive. You can still see these names carved in stone on some Methodist buildings. This church in Barnes was Wesleyan. But in the 1930s, the three groups re-united, under the Methodist Conference, which is our governing body. The Conference elects the President (a minister) and Vice President (a deacon or lay person), who hold office for a year. We do not have bishops. Our Connexion (a quaint name, quaintly spelt) of churches is grouped into Circuits, normally of between 5 and 20 churches, and then into Districts. At District level, we have Chairs of District. Barnes belongs to the Richmond and Hounslow Circuit, which has 10 churches from Putney to Heston, and to the newly-constituted London District with 265 churches and over 22,000 members: it has 3 Chairs.
Within British Methodism, as in every other fairly large church, people hold different beliefs about some aspects of both Christian teaching and church organisation. Here in Barnes, this church is ready to welcome anyone who wants to explore with us the teaching of Jesus Christ, and to discover what his ministry means for our living here and now. We like to work as closely as possible with other Christians locally. We sang a hymn with the chorus ‘All are welcome in this place’ at the re-opening of our building in September 2005, and we definitely mean it!
The most familiar form of worship for Methodists has been, for a long time, what’s called the ‘hymn sandwich.’ It’s a blend of hymns, songs, prayers, readings from the Bible and a sermon. But we also have regular services of Holy Communion (which Roman Catholics and others refer to as ‘Mass’, and others call The Lord’s Supper or the Eucharist). The Methodist tradition is to invite all who want to serve Christ to receive Holy Communion: you don’t have to be a ‘member’ of the church. Here in Barnes we’re looking to explore a wide range of different worship possibilities.
(written by Rev. Roger Hutchings)
RENEWED FOR SERVICE