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Travelogue: John Wesley “Pilgrimage”

Epworth Old Rectory

The Old Rectory in Epworth

This year (2014) marks 230 years since John Wesley ordained Thomas Coke and appointed him and Francis Asbury as superintendents for the Methodist Episcopal Church in the newly formed United States.  This isn’t of tremendous significance for most who will read this post but does give me at least a modicum of a segue to introduce another travelogue, this one being my John Wesley “Pilgrimage” which I dragged my family on in 2009 after my deployment to Iraq. To be fair, we did visit other sites of more interest to the family but this travelogue will only be about the John Wesley sites.

John Wesley was born June 17, 1703 in Epworth Lincoln where his father, Samuel Wesley was rector of St. Andrews Church. Most have heard the story of the fire in the rectory which nearly claimed Wesley’s life and of which he refers to himself as the “brand plucked out of the fire.” Samuel ministered in Epworth for about 39 years so Epworth is a good place to begin this travelogue.

St. Andrews Church in Epworth

St. Andrews Church in Epworth

Saint Andrews Church, or at least the building, has seen better days.  It appears that worship services are still held there, but the structure itself is in need of repair.  At any rate, it is a beautiful church building with much history.  There are several memorials and graves which bear dates from many centuries ago but the most prominent on my pilgrimage is that of Samuel Wesley who died April 25, 1735.

Samuel Wesley's grave

The grave of Samuel Wesley

“Here Lieth all that was Mortal of Samuel Wesley, AM. He was Rector of Epworth 39 Years and departed this Life 25 of April 1735, Aged 72. + As he liv’d so he died in the true Catholic Faith of the Holy trinity in unity and that Jesus Christ is God incarnate and the only Saviour of mankind. Acts 4-12. + Blessed are the dead which are in the Lord yea saith the Spirit that they may rest from their labours and their works do follow them.  Rev 14-13”

St. Andrews Church Baptism Font

Baptismal font from which John & Charles Wesley were baptized

The inside of St. Andrews is your basic church building from the period, though of interest to this travelogue is the baptismal font from which John and Charles Wesley likely received their infant baptism, at least that is what the sign says, they and other members of the Wesley family.  There is no reason to doubt it, all the evidence seems to point to its authenticity.

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Epworth Market Square

Foundation of cross in Epworth’s Market Square where John Wesley preached from on several occasions

In the Market Square of Epworth is the foundation of the cross where John Wesley preached beside later in life. The cross, however, no longer remains. The plaque on the base reads:  “John Wesley (1703-1791) Preached from these steps on many occasions.” In the background, the white building on the right is The Red Lion which has a footnote in the life of the Wesley’s, though at this writing I can’t recall what it is (!).

Wesley Chapel

Wesley Chapel in City Road, London

Going on to London, there is much to see relating to the Wesley’s. The Wesley Chapel (as it later became known) in City Road, was established by John and Charles after they grew out of the Foundry Chapel. It opened on November 1, 1778 as the first Methodist chapel built in London. The chapel is still in use today and there have been many renovations, but the main structure, beams, galleries communion rails and table are all from Wesley’s time.

John Wesley's House

John Wesley’s House by Wesley Chapel

Beside the chapel is John Wesley’s home which is restored to how it was in Wesley’s time and houses much of his furniture and library. If you could walk around to the right of this picture you would notice that the windows have no windows but are bricked up.  It was explained to us that taxes on new construction were paid based on the number of windows, so they just didn’t install most of them to save money!

John Wesley's Grave

Behind Wesley Chapel is buried John Wesley, Adam Clarke and other Methodist ministers

Behind Wesley Chapel (which you’ll notice the city is encroaching on) is buried John, his sister, several Methodist ministers and Adam Clarke, Methodist minister and theologian. It looks like Adam Clarke’s gravestone had a lot to say about him, but it is all wore down and unreadable now. Clarke’s grave is flat on the ground to the right of the large marker which memorializes John Wesley, his sister Martha Hall and the Methodist ministers Duncan Wright, John Richardson, John Murlin, Walter Griffith (President of the Conference, 1813) and Thomas Olivers (“Corrector of the press of Mr. Wesley, Author of the hymn “The God of Abraham Praise” and the tune called “Helmsley.”

Inside Wesley Chapel and Wesley’s House there was much to see, below are a few pictures which need little explanation.  Click on them for a larger view:

Wesley's Library

What remains (or what has been recovered) of John Wesley’s library

Wesley's preaching tabs

Charles Wesley’s Clerical Collar

John Wesley's Death Mask

John Wesley’s Death Mask

 

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Foundry Pulpit

John & Charles Wesley’s pulpit from the Foundry Chapel

John Wesley's Desk

John Wesley’s Desk

 

Coke's Ordination Certificate

Thomas Coke’s Ordination Certificate signed by John Wesley

 

Finally, a painting by Alfred Hunt in the Wesley Chapel museum of John Wesley preaching from his father’s tomb.  I’m not sure if he actually stood on his father’s grave to preach or not, but from the painting you can see what the scene was like compared to the picture of the grave today.

Wesley preaching from father's tomb

“John Wesley Preaching From His Father’s Tomb” by Alfred Hunt (1830-1896)

Samuel Wesley's Grave

Samuel Wesley’s Grave at St. Andrews Church, Epworth

A post of this size certainly couldn’t cover all of the details or include many of the pictures of a trip like this, but I hope you’ve enjoyed these few views and the spotty information about our John Wesley “pilgrimage.” It’s a trip that I would highly recommend for any who are theological descendants of Wesley or who have been impacted by the world-wide holiness revivals he and his followers have been a part of spreading.   .

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4 comments on “Travelogue: John Wesley “Pilgrimage”

  1. I like your page. I’m a Methodist evangelist and church reformer in Texas, and big fan of John Wesley. Thanks for staying faithful!

  2. It has been a while since you have posted a blog. Hope to be able to read more in the near future.

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