British Methodism: Staying Relevant in Wesley’s Homeland

Bermondsey Central Hall Methodist Church serves a diverse congregation of about 320 and houses the South London Mission, which has been supporting the community since 1889. The modern London Shard skyscraper rises behind the church. Photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS.
Bermondsey Central Hall Methodist Church serves a diverse congregation of about 320 and houses the South London Mission, which has been supporting the community since 1889. The modern London Shard skyscraper rises behind the church. Photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS.

How to stay relevant in a secular society? That's the challenge for the Methodist Church in Britain as its membership dips below 200,000.

Small churches in particular are facing hard decisions about their futures. But opportunities for mission exist and some congregations have been successful in strengthening ties to their communities, opening their doors to new possibilities.

For evangelistic programs like "Fresh Expressions," making disciples also means moving outside the church building, to be the embodiment of Jesus in unexpected ways and places.

Read the UMNS special report on the Methodist Church in Britain.
 

The Rev. Jennifer Potter holds Abigail Bedu Addo during her baptism at Wesley's Chapel in London. The congregation, with roots in the 18th century, draws Methodists from around the world. Photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS. Wesley’s Chapel makes history relevant today
 Far from stuck in time, London’s Methodist tourist mecca 
 has a vital congregation and mission.
 

 

The Rev. Neil Stubbens is ecumenical officer for the Methodist Church in Britain. Photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS. Related story: Methodist-Anglican connection remains strong
 British Methodism’s close ties to Church of England prompt
 consideration of new covenant agreement.
 

 

A group of African women affectionately known as  A century-plus commitment to South London
 The Methodist congregation at Bermondsey offers practical 
 assistance and the spirit of Jesus to a diverse community.
 

 

Rachel Lampard leads the Joint Public Issues Team, a London-based ecumenical group that promotes equality and justice. Photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS. Related story: Methodists and social justice
 Controversial new system for public assistance has major impact
 on Methodist-run South London Mission and its clients.
 

 

Harriet Appiah-Anderson (left) sings with the choir at Wesley's Chapel in London. She is chair of the church's Ghanaian fellowship. Photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS. Diversity leads to growth for London churches
 An influx of Methodists from Africa, Asia and elsewhere means
 growing congregations for some of London’s historic churches.
 

 

The Rev. Martyn Atkins is superintendent minister of Methodist Central Hall, Westminster, in London. Photo by Mike Du Bose, UMNS. Related story: Close a church, open a ministry?
 Grappling with a membership decline, The Methodist Church in
 Britain looks beyond its buildings to “fresh” ways of doing mission.
 

 

The Rev. Katy Thomas (rear) presides over a  Ministering to 3 churches brings challenges, joys
 A British Methodist minister tends to three very different both
 congregations in Cheshire, including one at a chapel owned by
 the National Trust.

 

Community members, staff and volunteers wish Craig Kirwin (seated, right) a happy birthday during the twice-weekly community café at Wharton and Cleggs Lane Church and Community Centre in Little Hulton, England. Photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS.

 British church stays alive through service
 In northern England, a dying church starts a men’s health group
 and joins forces with another small congregation to become a real
 presence in the   community.

 

Bob Bartindale, a British Methodist lay minister, used Cleggs Lane as a case study in a dissertation for his master’s degree in practical theology. Photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS. Related story: Cleggs Lane as a case study
 How can the church positively engage with the community on mental 
 health issues?


 

Nwarebea Baffoe (left) and Rebecca Henry, both age 6, stop by after school to visit with the Rev. Janet Corlett at Bermondsey Central Hall Methodist Church in London. Photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS. British Methodists open doors to stay relevant
 Like their U.S. counterparts, British Methodist churches face both
 challenges and opportunities in an increasingly secular society.
 

 

Wesley’s Chapel in London was built in 1778 by John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. The church serves a membership of hundreds of people drawn from every continent of the globe. Photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS.

Wesley’s Chapel in London was built in 1778 by John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. The church serves a membership of hundreds of people drawn from every continent of the globe. Photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS.

 

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