Saturday, March 8, 2008

Cheers and hello from England. I am here in Bristol getting adjusted and seeing the different ministry opportunities. Friday I met Peter and Jane in downtown Bristol. They are Anglican Church missionaries who lived across the hall from me in Bethlehem. It was awesome to see them. It had only been a couple of months since I had seen them, but I had really missed them. They showed me around town and then went to "The New Room". This is the oldest Methodist Church in the world. We attended a lunch worship service and participated in a Lenten Holy Communion. Here's some info about Wesley and this church from a website with a comment or two of mine added. After studying Wesley for years, it was awesome to be here.

John Wesley first came to Bristol at the pleading of George Whitefield in 1739. Whitefield was leaving on a second visit to Georgia and, before he sailed, needed Wesley to sustain the work he had begun. Once the Bristol churches had been closed to him, Whitefield began to speak in the open air to the people of Kingswood, "proclaiming the glad news of salvation".

Wesley was unsure about the ecclesiastically irregular field preaching and came to Bristol somewhat reluctantly. At first he was taken aback by what was happening and wrote he "could scarce reconcile myself to his (Whitefield's) strange way of preaching in the fields". But a few days later, with the departure of Whitefield, he "submitted to become more vile" and in the brickyards preached to (he estimated) 3,000 people.[I love that, Wesley became "vile" and stepped out of the norm to share the good news of God's love, let's do the same] He continued preaching to the poor in the open air, gathering those who responded into religious societies which met in people's homes. Within weeks their numbers had increased so much that a new meeting place was needed. He bought a small patch of land and built what he called "our new room in the Horsefair".

It was used as a dispensary and schoolroom for the poor people of the area as well as for meetings and worship and for 18 Conferences. The Bristol Conference charged with the deepest significance was held in 1771 which took an open stand on the issue of "free and sovereign and universal grace", as opposed to Calvinism.

It was here, in a small room, that the Methodist class-meeting originated which became the basis for membership. The place is still known today by Methodists throughout the world as "the New Room" - the oldest purpose-built Methodist building in the world and the first-ever Methodist chapel, the only building which takes us straight back to the beginning of the Methodist story.

For those who are Methodists (and many others),our heritage is that of meeting people where there are, going to them, not waiting for them to come to us, stepping out of our norms, even to become vile in our own eyes, to share the good news of Jesus. Let's remember that and get out there. Jesus said to GO and make DISCIPLES, not to sit and wait for them to come! I'm preaching Sunday, prayers are appreciated. God love's ya, me too, Kel out!

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