A Pastoral message for Wesley Day, 24th May 2020
it’s my pleasure to send greetings to you across the Wales Synod, as we celebrate Wesley Day this weekend.
Wesley Day, or Aldersgate Sunday as we sometimes call it, commemorates that occasion in May 1738 when John Wesley, following the experience of his brother Charles a few days earlier, felt his heart ‘strangely warmed’ while attending a fellowship group in Aldersgate Street in London, where someone was reading Luther’s Preface to the Romans.
We remember it primarily for that ‘heart-warming’ experience in which Wesley was given an assurance of faith and felt his sins forgiven. But what was equally important is what happened afterwards, how John Wesley felt called to do what others like George Whitfield around him had started to do, namely himself to begin the practice of ‘field preaching’.
This aimed to take the Gospel message out to the thousands of people who had moved in response to the Industrial Revolution living in new communities far from any parish church, but who now heard John Wesley and other travelling preachers bringing the Gospel message to them, preaching in the highways and market places of the newly emerging Industrial society. It was this decision which was to lead to the Methodist societies, the travelling preachers and circuits, and eventually to the churches and Conference of our own Methodist Church today.
Now it may seem a little odd to be celebrating just when we’re in lock-down and unable to travel to worship together. But there was something in the experience of John Wesley about responding to changing times by doing things differently – and maybe amidst all our commemorations that’s where we still have something to learn, about responding to the gospel call in new ways and with different people.
I have a sense that this is something starting across churches in our own times, as we explore new forms of technology and learn to share fellowship in new ways – for example in the prayer initiative ‘If my people…’ taking place across Wales over these next two weekends. And maybe that’s not a bad way for us all to celebrate Wesley Day, not just this weekend, but looking into the future.
With every blessing.
Rev. Dr. Stephen Wigley,
Chair of the Wales Synod of the Methodist Church