The Superintendent’s Letter

Dear friends,

One of the special Sundays in the Methodist Calendar is known as Aldersgate Sunday and marks the anniversary of John Wesley’s conversion. It is usually celebrated on the nearest Sunday to 24th May, which is the actual anniversary, or on the preceding Sunday. John Wesley was the founder of the Methodist movement in the 18th Century and together with his brother Charles, studied at Oxford to become a Church of England Priest. They formed a little Christian society at Oxford which was known for being very rigorous and methodical in the way they went about their faith. It was here that they first got the nickname ‘Methodist’. After ordination, the brothers travelled to the colonies in America where they undertook mission work and became quite disillusioned in their faith. When they returned home, John remained in this state of disenchantment, until one evening … but we must let John himself tell us the story from his journal entry of24th May 1738.

“In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading [Martin] Luther's preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, 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.”

The words themselves are not much to look at, but they changed the Church for ever. John’s ministry was transformed from this point on. This incident has always been known as John Wesley’s conversion, but I’m not sure it was a conversion in the truest sense. John was already committed to the truth of the gospel and tried desperately to live it. What I think he describes in his journal is an encounter with God’s Spirit, where he received the gift of faith, became convinced of God’s love and was empowered to do

God’s work. To put it simply, in these moments his head knowledge became heart knowledge.

‘Well, so what?’ You may ask. He may well be the founder of Methodism, but what has one man’s spiritual journey nearly 300 years ago got to do with us? The point is that today we still worship the same God. This is the God who still gives the gift of his Spirit and who still transforms the human heart. There may be times when like Wesley we struggle with our faith, or when failure, conflict or the hard circumstances of life threaten to overwhelm us, but God is still the same God. Our experience may not be exactly the

same as John Wesley’s, but God is still quite capable of warming our hearts and implanting within us the assurance of his love and the gift of faith. He may even encourage us towards important life changes, or towards new forms of Christian mission and service. We may become influential in encouraging others and enabling them to have similar encounters with God too. The important lesson to take from Aldersgate

Sunday is that God is still active in his world, and he comes to those who seek him, often when they least expect it.

yours in Christ,

Revd. David Godfrey.

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