Methodists mark May 24 Aldersgate milestone

UPDATE: The Rev. H. Eddie Fox, the director of World Methodist Evangelism, wrote May 29 to update the journey of the pilgrims who are following in the steps of John Wesley. Fox provided images from the trip and noted that Bishop B. Michael Watson, the president of World Methodist Evangelism, focused on the central message of Wesley on "graceful love." Watson invited everyone to engage the world by spreading this message by word, deed and sign. The participants celebrated Holy Communion at the Lord's Table in the New Room, the oldest Methodist chapel in the world. They were led by Retired Bishop Robert Fannin of the United States and Bishop Sunday Onuoha of Nigeria. Together, the pilgrims stood at "the Pill" where Francis Asbury embarked for America in 1771 to lead the growth of the Methodist Movement.

People from around the world gathered in London this week for the 275th anniversary of Aldersgate, the experience on May 24, 1738, that shaped the life of Methodism co-founder John Wesley.

"...I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death," Wesley wrote in his diary. Wesley, then 34, had this transformative experience during an evening worship gathering on Aldersgate Street in London.

The Rev. H. Eddie Fox, the director of World Methodist Evangelism, said people were coming from every continent to "follow Jesus Christ in the steps of the Wesleys to Aldersgate." The people called Methodist will join in "Evensong" at St. Paul's Cathedral with a hymn by John Wesley's brother, Charles, and prayers of thanksgiving for the Wesleys - John, Charles and their mother, Susanna.

Participants will gather at the site of the prayer meeting on Aldersgate Street to remember and experience the presence of the Holy Spirit. The superintendent of Wesley Chapel and member of the House of Lords, Leslie Griffith, will highlight the entire account of the evening from Wesley's Journal.

Wesley hymns will be sung and prayers for the Holy Spirit to pour blessings on the World Methodist Movement will be offered. After a brief moment with prayers at the tomb of Susanna Wesley, the gathering will conclude in Wesley Chapel, where the cornerstone was laid by John Wesley in 1777.

World Methodist Evangelism has organized a tour that left May 22 and will continue until May 30. The journey will include the sites of key moments in the beginning of the Methodist Movement, including Hanham Mount, where Wesley preached for the first time in the open air. Wesley declared of this experience that he became willing to be more "vile and vulgar," preaching in the ordinary language of the people. The tour will visit the New Room in Bristol, the oldest Methodist building in the world.

United Methodist Bishop B. Michael Watson, the president of World Methodist Evangelism and leader of the North Georgia Area, will preach on Sunday morning, and worship will end with Communion.

At the Port of Pill, from where Francis Asbury sailed for America in 1771, prayers of gratitude will be expressed for those who embarked to distant shores to "offer Christ."

The pilgrimage includes visits to Epworth, the home of the Wesleys and the place where John Wesley dramatically stood on his father's tomb to preach the gospel. The journey will continue to Oxford and recall the Holy Club and Wesley's education and teaching as a fellow in Lincoln College.

Fox noted that this Methodist Movement continues today with 80 million in 155 countries who are "the people called Methodist." He pointed to the vision of World Methodist Evangelism: "To see the Methodist Movement live, vibrant, growing and yearning to spread the gospel, 'So that the world may know Jesus Christ.'"

News media contact: Maggie Hillery or Tim Tanton, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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