Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Wesley tercentenary at Westminster

At 5pm yesterday I took part in a service of Evensong at Westminster Abbey to mark the tercentenary of the birth of Charles Wesley. It was the first time I had processed in an ecumenical gowned procession which was interesting and a little daunting. I was then seated with three Methodist clergy (Martin Wellings, President of the World Methodist Historical Society, Martin Turner, Superintendent Minister of Westminster Central Hall and Peter Sulston in his capacity as Methodist Church Ecumenical Officer) and 8 Anglican clergy in the Sacrarium in front of the High Altar.

These included the Dean of the Abbey, John Hall and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams (pictured here - I am the one in the middle!)

The congregation seemed to be made up of a mix of Methodists and Anglicans and all joined in the lusty singing of three Charles Wesley hymns. The introit and some of the other choir pieces were by Samuel Sebastian Wesley so it was a real Wesley celebration. The Archbishop of Canterbury preached wonderfully, helping us to think about Charles Wesly as his own person and not just one of the Wesley brothers. Indeed, he looked at some of the areas of conflict between the brothers as examples of how we can disagree and still be alongside one another. He praised Charles' hymns for their ability to encapsulate the gospel message.

I was privileged to be invited to stay afterwards for a "Spiritual Pilgrimage" of the Abbey where a number of people had tours of the Abbey conducted by Canons of Westminster. That was fascinating, seeing graves and monuments and learning more of the historical links of the Abbey - as well as the reminder of the tourists who are coming to follow up from Dan Brown's book and related film - The Da Vinci Code. A tour of the Abbey is well worth the £10 charge that is made.

I enjoyed this opportunity to represent the Methodist Church at this special ecumenical gathering. The tercentenary is certainly giving opportunities for people of all denominations to give thanks for the birth of Charles Wesley and to think about the Christian message that we share, as well as what I think Martyn would describe as our distinctive Methodist charisms. I hope that there will be opportunities for others to share with us the benefits of such gatherings across the country in the next few months as well as those which have already taken place.


Miles Clarke said...

Talking of the Wesley brothers conflicts and yet being along side each other reminds me of last Saterday's lecture by Christine Le Moignan at Gosport.
Two really strong arguments broke out during group discussions and we struggled to maintain decorum.
One was the value of having our own churches against house groups and hiring halls in ministry.
The other was whether 'repentence' was a better banner than 'the Grace of Christ'.
I passionately believe our churches are essential and that Christ's Grace is what our nation needs to know about.
Kind Regards,

Sally said...

sounds wonderful- we must learn how to allow our heritage to speak!

Anonymous said...

Its interesting that Rowan Williams spoke and not the President of Meth Conference -was that because it was on C of E territory or was it a case of true ecumenism? By the way you both looked incredibly pretty in those frocks -great stuff!