Friday, 24 May 2013

Aldersgate experiences.


Statue of John Wesley, Melbourne, Australia.

Today is Aldersgate Day.  Eh?? Why commemorate a Tube Station?  Try a conversion experience: 
"Aldersgate Day is a holiday celebrated by Methodists on 24 May to commemorate the day in 1738 when John Wesley 'experienced confirmation of his salvation by the grace of God.' in a meeting room in Aldersgate Street, London.
According to his journal, Wesley found that his enthusiastic gospel message had been rejected by his Anglican brothers. Heavy-hearted, he went to an evening society meeting on Aldersgate Street "very unwillingly." It was there, while someone was reading from Martin Luther's Preface to the Epistle to the Romans, that he felt that his heart was "strangely warmed." He describes it as: 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.
 In the United Kingdom, Wesley's Aldersgate experience is celebrated on the Sunday preceding 24 May if that day is not a Sunday and the occasion is referred to as Aldersgate Sunday."  Thanks Wikipedia for reminding me.
Wesley's "conversion", his experience of "sola gratia" was to be of deep significance for the mission of the Church, both in the UK and abroad.  Sadly, Wesley's dynamic revivalism could not be contained within the Anglican Ecclessiolgy of the day.  Ages ago (well, the 1920-30's) Bishop Henson of durham lamented that  the Methodists could have been contained within the C of E in the same way the Jesuits had been held within the Roman Catholic fold.  Today they might have earned themselves a Personal Ordinariate!  Luckily, Anglicanism has learned from its errors and failings and has managed to contain both Charismatic Renewal and the Alpha Course within its ranks in the last half century.

Methodism has made and continues to make significant contributions to the life of the World wide Church.  I was lucky enough to be taught at University by 2 very fine Methodist scholars - the evangelical New Testament scholar Howard Marshall (known irreverently as "Sooty" on account of his diminutive stature behind a lectern but one of the best lecturers I ever had.) and the rather more sacramentalist Peter Stephens who actually managed to interest us in his pet subject of Zwingli.  The Anglican Church hasn't always been good to Methodists - witness the failure of the unity Scheme in the 1970's in England which so infuriated Archbishop Michael Ramsey.

Remembering their contribution and being thankful for it moves me contemplate their Covenant Prayer:

I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
thou art mine, and I am thine.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven.

Yes indeed. Thanks be to God.

No comments:

Post a Comment