The Methodist Church in Britain has launched a new Methodist Heritage Handbook, saying that retelling the denomination’s story will strengthen the mission of the Church.
It will serve as a guide book to sites of historical interest in the Methodist tradition, helping to promote a better understanding of Methodism and its spiritual, social and political significance.
Methodists are keen to emphasise that this is not an exercise in looking backwards. Jo Hibbard, the Methodist Church’s Heritage Officer, said “Through promoting Methodist Heritage, we are refocusing on the story of the Methodist Church in the past to support the mission of the Church in the future".
She added, “This is not only the story of the growth of a worldwide Christian movement; it also illustrates the relationship and relevance of faith to spiritual, social and economic development over the past 300 years, today and for the future”.
Amongst the 100 sites featured in the book are the Old Rectory at Epworth in Lincolnshire, which was the childhood home of John and Charles Wesley, the founders of Methodism.
It also features the first ever Methodist building at the New Room in Bristol. The New Room was built by John Wesley as a place for preaching and education, a dispensary and also as a lodging for himself and his itinerant preachers.
The book will be launched at the Best of Britain and Ireland travel show later this week. It has been backed by Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch, well known as presenter of the recent BBC series, The History of Christianity .
"Methodism has been at the heart of Protestant Christianity worldwide since the eighteenth century - far beyond the churches which call themselves Methodist,” said MacCulloch.
He suggested that, “Without the new departures in Christian life inspired by John Wesley, the movements which encompass Pentecostalism, the Salvation Army and the many independent churches of Africa and Asia would not exist in anything like their present form. It is a task of global importance to preserve the places and experiences in Britain which triggered this extraordinary variety of Christianities.”
John Wesley travelled around 250,000 miles on his nationwide preaching tours. Many of the sites included in the booklet are linked to this journey and to the development of Methodism in the 19th Century.
“All our sites are linked by one story and by a shared history and inspiration,” said Hibbard, “Every Methodist Heritage place, artefact or archive has a unique part of the story of Methodism to tell”.