Methodist Retreat, British & American

Apr 2, 2024 by

By Mark Tooley, Juicy Ecumenism.

The New Statesman, a progressive British magazine, posted a fascinating lament about the closure of a venerable British Methodist church where the author had been shaped spiritually, intellectually, politically and aesthetically by its Boy’s Brigade and Young People’s Fellowship. He wrote:

For the young, Methodism offered safe space and the prospect of each other. For the old, it offered exactly the same. For all its people, it offered a journey of hope. A form of religiosity without a priesthood, politics without politicians, anarchism without anarchists, when this sort of experience has finally gone, the people will have forgotten some of the arts of democracy while the politicians will have forgotten some of the arts of the people.

The author, noting that between 2021 and 2022 another 178 other Methodist churches in Britain closed, observes:

In 1906 there were about 800,000 British Methodists. In 1960 there were still about 700,000, plus a lot of “adherents”. So, right into the postwar period that academics were beginning to call “secular”, the movement was holding its own. Now the number is down to about 148,000 (less than in Fiji) and the Brigade is down from 100,000 to 40,000. 

Nostalgically, the author recalls:

The 2021 census reported that Christians are now a minority in England and Wales. Back in the day, everyone knew who the Methodists were or where to find them. At the very least, they could point to a chapel, and nobody was surprised to learn that Nelson Mandela was a Methodist (among other things). Or Rosa Parks. Or Nina Simone. Or Ella Fitzgerald. Or Hillary Clinton. Or Scout Finch, in the novel. Or Clark Kent, in the comics. At home, Keir Hardie was a Methodist, as were four of the Tolpuddle Martyrs. The labour movement enjoyed a long and enduring relationship with Methodism, Primitive Methodism in particular. Margaret Thatcher’s Wesleyan Methodism is another story, but just as strong-minded.

Read here.

Related Posts


Share This