An introduction to the Methodist Church
and answers to some common questions
What are people asking about the Methodist Church?
Would the Methodist Church welcome me whoever I am?Young or old, female or male, single, married or divorced, people of every race and language - everyone can feel at home in the Methodist Church. Newcomers do not need to bring a fully found faith in God. Indeed the doubts and questions of people feeling their way towards faith are welcomed.
Church is just an escape from real life, isn't it? Not at all. Jesus was concerned about people - and how people lived with their families and their neighbours. And he challenged people to make an impact on their communities and on wider society.There are those who say that the Church should keep out of politics. This is not the Methodist way. John Wesley refused to separate faith from life. Most of the Tolpuddle Martyrs were Methodists, as have been many leaders of the Trade Union movement, as well as a significant number of Methodist MPs in all the main parties.Every local church looks for some way to express Christian love in action. Some organise lunch clubs for people who are lonely, employment and training schemes to give hope to people who are out of work, playgroups, youth clubs and a variety of community service programmes. At a national level, Methodist officers working on behalf of the Church, are able to lobby Government on issues as diverse as human rights, third world debt, education policy and pornography.
Methodists don't drink alcohol, do they? Towards the end of the 19th century, the Methodist Church embraced the temperance movement to set a good example against widespread drinking problems in the society of the day. Ministers at one time had to take a pledge not to drink, which encouraged their congregations to do likewise.Today, alcohol is still not allowed in Methodist Church buildings, but most Methodists consider responsible drinking to be a matter of personal morality.
Can I get married or have my child baptised in a Methodist Church?The Methodist Church welcomes everyone, whether a member or not, who enquires about getting married in any of its places of worship. The Church believes that it is God's intention that a marriage should be a life-long union in body, mind and spirit of one man and one woman. However, divorce does not of itself prevent a person being married in any Methodist place of worship. If you have questions, please ask a local Methodist minister.The sacrament of Baptism in the Methodist Church is normally given to young children after their parents or guardians have had instruction at a local church. The baptism normally is conducted by a minister during a service.
Who are the Methodists?Methodists try to reflect in their lives the love that God wishes to share with all people. In worship Methodists give thanks to God who loves us and has set us in this world of possibilities. They give thanks for one another. They pray that God will continue to sustain and enable everyone to live fulfilled lives. Methodist worship is characterised by a lively tradition of hymn singing and a passionate regard for preaching the love and justice of the gospel of Jesus.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.
So how did Methodism come about?Methodism has at its roots one person whose vision, determination and faith inspired fellow seekers to re-assess their lives and renew their relationship with God. John Wesley (1703-1791) challenged the religious assumptions of his day, urging those to whom he preached to 'trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation' for the assurance that we are all forgiven through Christ.When John Wesley was at Oxford University, he was part of a small group of students who held regular meetings for Bible study, prayer and Communion. This earned them the nickname 'The Holy Club' or 'Methodists'.Wesley became a priest in the Church of England, but in 1738 had a spiritual experience that he described as God working in his heart through faith in Christ. He launched a hugely influential preaching ministry and had a flair for organising people into small groups. These he named classes, with locally appointed preachers and leaders, which studied the gospels and prayed together. Wesley's new movement became a separate Church which grew rapidly throughout the 18th century and afterwards.
How does Methodism fit into the rest of the Christian Church?The Methodist Church is the fourth largest Christian Church in Britain after the Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches and the Church of Scotland. It has close spiritual links with these and the United Reformed Church and other free churches.All the Christian Churches share in common a belief that God is the creator and sustainer of all life and that the death on a cross of God's son Jesus Christ was an act of total love which through his resurrection offers a new start beyond our wildest dreams. We share this belief because of the presence of God the Holy Spirit, who continues to move and inspire in the world today.Methodism encourages links between its churches, recognising the significant benefits in being part of a national movement. This, in Methodism, is called the Connexion. The Church is governed by the Methodist Conference - a democratically elected body that meets annually.Local churches are grouped in circuits, which organise worship for congregations. Pastoral care is also provided. Two thirds of all Methodist services are conducted by a local (lay) preacher. Stewards and a number of other members of the church council are elected by the General Church Meeting. At every level up to the Methodist Conference itself, lay people share in making decisions alongside ordained ministers and deacons. Every individual can play a part in influencing church policy.
Methodists invite you to take a journey of faithYou may be asking all sorts of questions about where life is taking you.You are not the only one.You may still have doubts or concerns about Christianity and the Church. Don't let that put you off. Do think about coming along to a Methodist church - perhaps for Sunday worship. You will be most welcome.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. Methodists encourage you to discover what it is that makes the Church both special and challenging.
How to find out more
If, after visiting this website, you would like to find out more about the Methodist Church, you can: Visit Forest Hill Methodist Church and Centre, Normanton Street, Forest Hill, London SE23 2DS.
You may also find the telephone number of a Methodist minister in your local directory. Service times are usually displayed outside the church.