Methodists have always enjoyed celebrating anniversaries. Whereas Catholic and Anglicans mostly commemorate their saints on the dates of their death or other significant events in their lives, Methodists have tended to celebrate anniversaries in a different way, remembering when a chapel was opened or when the Sunday School started. The Chapel and Sunday School anniversaries were opportunities to dress up, have a special meal together (the legendary chapel teas!) and perhaps special sermons preached at two or three services on the designated Sunday (to boost the chapel funds and keep the Circuit Treasurer happy!).
We have a particular place for remembering the birthday or wedding anniversaries of present family members. But also the dates of those who have died, giving thanks for all they have meant to us. Methodism today recognises this in its Worship Book where there are collects, special prayers for a particular day or date or a designated Sunday with a theme (eg. Bible Sunday which can be held on the Sunday in October nearest 31st October – the commemoration of the start of the Reformation in 1517). Only one such collect relates to particular people, John and Charles Wesley who are remembered on a Sunday close to the 21st and 24th May, the dates of their conversions in 1738. But the only saint`s day they themselves kept in the calendar was All Saints 1st November, giving thanks for the lives of all the faithful down the ages.
Many will not remember the dates of births or deaths of the Wesley brothers (even though Charles wrote hymns to celebrate his birthdays!). I wonder if you can? Answers are at the end of this article.
And how about those of our founders Hugh Bourne and William Clowes? You`ll probably know where John and Charles were born, but where were they buried? And what of Hugh and William?
In 2022, God willing, we shall commemorate the 250th anniversary of the birth of Hugh Bourne. We are starting to think of ways in which we can celebrate this in the life of Englesea Brook, in our exhibitions and programmes, and in our physical environment (including a restoration of the memorial in the graveyard).
160 years ago the Primitive Methodist Connexion was thinking of ways to celebrate the Jubilee 50th anniversary of the movement. Many of the chapels built or remodelled in 1860-1861 were called Jubilee as a mark of this. Maybe a good lockdown exercise might be to go through all the chapels listed in the My Primitive Methodist website and trace all these chapels then and now! The PM Magazine of those years list the activities planned for the Jubilee. One way they chose was to write “an authentic history of the denomination” and to designate a Sunday (11th March) as a day of thanksgiving “for past and present denominational mercies and for united prayer for a richer outpouring ” of the Holy Spirit”. Of course an appeal for funds ended the report of the Jubilee Committee meeting at Hull in January 1860! The report in April highlighted four areas as particular foci:
- Money for the General Missionary Fund, to assist overseas missions in Africa and Asia, as well as the Americas and Australasia.
- The General Chapel Fund to reduce the debt on new chapels (as most were unable to raise all the funds needed before opening)
- The establishment of a school for Preachers` Children (rather like Kingswood and Woodhouse Grove existed for the Wesleyans)
- To promote the Education of candidates for the ministry and probationers
So anniversaries were there to serve the needs of the church, in mission and evangelism and ministry. May we find ways in which Englesea Brook can, though its history and heritage, serve the wider interests of the Church today in sharing in God`s Mission and engaging in the education of the whole people of God.
Answers to the questions above:
John Wesley was born 28th June (17th June OS) 1703 at Epworth, died 2nd March 1791 and buried in Wesley`s Chapel City Road London
Charles Wesley born 18th December 1707 OS at Epworth, died 29th March 1788 and buried in the churchyard of St. Marylebone Parish Church
Hugh Bourne, born 3rd April 1772 at Ford Heys , died 11th October 1852 at Bemersley
William Clowes born 12th March at Burslem , died 2nd March 1851 at Hull