To celebrate Wesley Day and Aldersgate Sunday, we are delighted to share this video from Anna Herriman . Anna visited the New Room this year to capture the story of John Wesley and the oldest Methodist Building in the world.
The service has been specifically created for the UK deaf community as part of @BSL Church Worship and is delivered in British Sign Language, BSL. There is no audio, Here is the transcript:
BSL Church Worship
Sunday 21st May 2023
Hello and welcome to BSL Church Worship this Sunday 21st May 2023. My name is Anna Herriman. I am involved in the Methodist Church. You know have different churches – Church of England, Baptist, Roman Catholic, myself Methodist. Today, I am here at one of the most famous places for the Methodist Church. I am at the New Room in the centre of Bristol which is the first and the oldest Methodist building in the world! Wow!
Who is John Wesley?
<slide – new room Broadmead entrance>
John Wesley who? Here’s a photo….. his father was a vicar in the Church of England. Himself was also an Anglican vicar and felt that not all could access God so decided to start a new Christian group – the Methodist movement because he felt God’s love and grace should be available to all. Who you are and where you come from and your background, it doesn’t matter. God’s love and grace open to you and to all.
<slide – John Wesley on horseback>
He travelled around UK. How? On horseback like this one here. He travelled around UK spreading Good News of Jesus and showing Christian living to those who no access to churches. They were able to hear him and took in his preachings. He’s a map of the UK showing places John Wesley travelled. Wow! Some important places include Epworth Rectory – born there and escaped a bad fire – phew. There is Wesley Chapel in London, New Room in Bristol, also today we celebrate his conversion (will explain more later) but there is a flame to represent that spot in London. It’s a good map. I think I bought it from Museum of Methodism at Wesley Chapel in London.
Remember the map showing places where John Wesley preached around the UK? He had group of other people preaching with him travelling around UK too.
I have this thing (see photo) like coloured glass showing John Wesley preaching outside. Did you spot the horse? He did good works – preach everywhere yes, but also served the poor. He provided food, medicine, education and Christian teaching.
<Slide – Charles Wesley statue>
John Wesley had a brother called Charles Wesley? Did you know the name? He was famous for writing lots of famous hymns.
<Slide Flame marking John Wesley’s conversion spot at Aldersgate>
Why am I talking about John Wesley today? Today, it’s Aldersgate Sunday. Why is this so important? It celebrates John Wesleys’s Conversion – he finally felt God inside him and found his faith in God on the 24th May 1738. This Sunday we celebrate his experience.
<Slide Inside New Room>
Today I been filming here one of John Wesley’s chapels in Bristol at the New Room. The New Room is an important meeting place.
<Slide View of pulpit>
I have permission from the New Room to film here. Thank you.
<Slide Plaque marking First Chapel and dwelling house>
It was built in 1739, then it was built again 1748. It needed to become bigger to include a living area and a sleeping area for John Wesley and his travelling preachers.
Bible readings (NRSV version)
Luke 10:1-12, 17-20
The Mission of the Seventy-Two
10 After this the Lord appointed seventy-two[a] others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. 2 He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. 3 Go on your way; I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. 4 Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals, and greet no one on the road. 5 Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ 6 And if a person of peace is there, your peace will rest on that person, but if not, it will return to you. 7 Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. 8 Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; 9 cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’[b] 10 But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.’[c] 12 I tell you, on that day it will be more tolerable for Sodom than for that town.
17 The seventy-two[a] returned with joy, saying, “Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!” 18 He said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. 19 Indeed, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will hurt you. 20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
So, what was the special event that happened to John Wesley on 24th May 1738? This was the day on which John Wesley’s heart was “strangely warmed” (heart felt different – warmed Holy Spirit in feel good excited peace). It meant, that although he had been doing Christian work, he hadn’t yet found his Christian faith or been filled with the Holy Spirit. It happened during an evening meeting in a house in Aldersgate Street hence the name Aldersgate Sunday. There is a huge metal flame to show where this happened (BSL – huge metal flame have show where <point>). Have some of you seen it? It is outside the Museum of London in the Barbican Centre (see photo). This is important for us!
It’s about a spiritual experience. Perhaps you can think of a time where you felt God’s love, where He has touched you, made a spiritual connection (BSL – spirit in feel connect)? I am sure we have all experienced this in various ways, on the journey of our Christian faith (journey up).
My experience was that I have always known about God and believed in Him all my life. Two people in my life told me about God. My grandfather and my headmistress at primary school. I remember when leaving Primary School, I was given a New Testament Bible (here it is!). My grandad used to read to me and I was fascinated by the stories, I hadn’t yet had the Christian spiritual experience.
Charles and John Wesley grew up in a strict Anglican family. The Rectory had a fire when John Wesley was a child. He escaped, he was saved from the fire. As a grown up, he looked back to this, he felt saved! He identified himself as a “brand plucked from the burning” (“brand” fingerspell like a piece of wood snatched fire burning point) like being saved from Hell’s fire – to be used for God’s purpose. As adults, John and Charles helped the poor. They travelled to Georgia (in the USA) after a frightening stormy crossing where they were to preach the Good News. Both knew they were saved and were doing the good deeds and preaching but couldn’t really get the spiritual experience of God. After two years, they returned to England, John felt he was like a failure, questioning his Christian faith and vocation.
In your life, has there been things that you expected to happen but didn’t? Your plan got diverted because something else was meant to happen. I didn’t get into the University of my first choice, I was gutted. I went to Liverpool instead of Bristol. Where was my faith in God? But, it was on a freezing cold dark November night, in my first term of University, when I had my first spiritual experience. I was at a church service and, out of the blue I felt warmth coming from my feet and up through my body. I realised I had made that spiritual connection with God and I have never forgotten the joy I felt, I felt like having a celebration.
The spiritual conversion of John was also unexpected! On 24th May 1738 at 5am in the morning, John prayed to God about his questioning of his Christian faith. That afternoon John walked over to evensong at St Paul’s cathedral, where he heard the anthem: “Out of the depths have I cried unto thee.” (from deep inside, been call to God) (Psalm 130). What followed must be told in his own words from his Journal:
“In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society (meeting) in Aldersgate Street, (BSL – set up scene where was the speaker, where was JW and where other people sitting) where one was reading (presenting referrent) Luther’s Epistle (letter) to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he (the person preaching point) was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, (JW point) I felt my heart strangely warmed (heart felt different – warmed Holy Spirit in feel good excited peace). I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation: and an assurance (BSL – confirmation) was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.”
He was so happy, that he rushed to Charles his brother, who was ill in bed and told him about his experience. Charles had his own conversion 3 days before!
Through faith, they were saved by the grace of God and have eternal life through Jesus Christ. What such joy there is in this! Through faith, we can trust in God and live for Him and fulfil His promises for us. It’s a journey, we have no idea where we are going, but to know that God walks alongside us whereever we go gives us hope and helps us reach out to others so that they may be saved too. From the complete assurance John and Charles felt in God’s love and forgiveness, their faith was lived out in lives that went on to influence millions. Charles wrote over 6000 hymns whilst John recruited preachers and the Methodist Church spread around the world.
I am going to link the story with the reading from Luke. We are also part of the seventy-two servants who are called to serve through prayer and action. John Wesley’s life was marked by extensive commitment to prayer and also to mission. He was equipped with God’s power and had a clear vision of what God called him to do. Perhaps we need to look at what we do within the church, community and world? Do we do enough? Do we need to do more? Do we need to share our faith more? Little did I know from that cold November night and from the Bible stories read to me as a child that I would become a Methodist Local Preacher! Through all the journey good and bad, easy or hard, God is there, even when you don’t realise it. And this journey continues…who knows where God will lead us? We just have to trust in God that He will provide all we need to serve His purpose in whatever we are called to do.
Luke tells us about the value of simplicity (BSL – “simplicity” fingerspell = simple life – complex nothing). Verse 4 quotes Jesus “Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road”. Today, with so much technology & social media, we can be easily tempted to go for more. The more we have, the more we have to deal with and the more complex things become. We should consider how this affects our Christian behaviours. Let us not focus on false values. We should be able to enjoy ourselves but also be able to live within our Christian actions and attitudes.
Luke gives us an example of what John Wesley called “prevenient grace”. “Prevenient” is not a word we use every day. Let us remember the word “grace” come from the Greek for “a gift”. Prevenient has layers of meaning. A basic meaning means comes before one is ready. So “prevenient grace” – God prepares us before we realise He is drawing us to Him! It isn’t where we decide what we do but where God has already gone ahead of us and is at work in people’s lives through the Holy Spirit to prepare them for the good news of his love. My grandfather and headmistress are examples!
Finally, blessing people is our priority in our missions. Verse 9 tells us curing (heal) the sick of those who are there. (BSL – Enumeration) 1 Physical, 2 Emotional and 3 spiritual healing too. We can bless people in our work places, streets where we live, the people we mix with in society. As Christians, we hope to give positivity and hope; people who are not yet Christian may start to think and open their minds and hearts to God’s grace (gift).
May we be strengthened to share the love and grace of God outside our church buildings out into the world. Amen
Slides showing “Do all the good you can…”
then Slide showing the Methodist traditional summary teaching “All can be saved.
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
The love of God,
The fellowship of the Holy Spirit
Be with us all,
Additional information re the New Room
The New Room has been closed and then reopened again in 2017. There has been some additions to the New Room which include useful information about how the Methodist Church connect to the world and bring people in so that they can learn about the Methodist Church. Upstairs in the New Room there is a museum which talks about the history of Methodism including what John and Charles Wesley have done. Down here in this area, there is a café which means people can come and relax and have a cup of tea, look around and take in information around them. Here, we have a shop, perhaps you might be interested in buying a book maybe about the history – here is your opportunity. I think that’s it! Thank you! Bye!