Methodists in Britain remember 'an American Saint'

By agency reporter
April 13, 2016

Hundreds of people attended a day of special events at the Black County Living Museum, Dudley, on 9 April 2016 to celebrate the 200th Anniversary of the death of Francis Asbury, a local man who helped shape modern America.

A day of costumed choirs, special services and talks were held at the musy hundreds of Methodists from across the UK, in addition to the museum's regular visitors.

Also present were special guests from the United Methodist Church in America, where Asbury is revered as one of those who helped define the nation.

A humble metal worker from the Black Country who became an itinerant Methodist minister, Asbury answered a request by John Wesley, one of the founders of the Methodist Church, for preachers to serve in America.

Asbury's passion and determination meant that Methodism survived the American War of Independence and become an important part of the founding of the young country. From fewer than 1,200 members, the Church grew to more than 210,000 thanks to Asbury's efforts.

A variety of celebrations were held in Asbury's honour at the Black Country Museum, including:

  • - Special services held in the Museum's former Methodist New Connexion Providence Chapel, led by the Rev Steve Wild, President of the Methodist Conference and Dr Jill Barber, Vice-President. 
  • - A flash-mob choir of around 30 singers from two local choirs, all wearing period costumes, singing rousing hymns.
  • - Guest talks from Methodist minister, the Rev Ward Jones, a member of the Methodist Heritage Committee, and representatives from the United Methodist Church in the USA,  Bishop Mary Ann Swenson; the Rev Fred Day, General Secretary of the UMC - - General Commission on Archives and History, and Mr John Strawbridge, Vice-President and Development Chair of the United Methodist Historical Society.
  • - Exhibition of portraits and personal memorabilia of Asbury from Methodist Heritage sites in the UK and USA.
  • - Heritage buses, which took visitors from the museum to nearby Newton, Great Barr, and the small eighteenth-century cottage where Asbury spent his childhood.

The Rev Fred Day commented: "This has been a wonderful and exciting day for us. Asbury is not as well-known as he should be given how important he is to US history. He travelled around 270,000 miles on horseback, telling people about faith, and was even a friend to George Washington."

Jo Hibbard, the Methodist Church in Britain's Director of Engagement, added: "The day was a great mixture of fun and history, with a lot of us discovering how one man from the Black Country influenced, what went on to become, one of most powerful nations on earth."

* Methodist Church in Britain http://www.methodist.org.uk/

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