As you may remember from a few weeks ago, Jade and I attended a moving service at Wesley’s Chapel on our first Sunday in London. So, needless to say, I woke up this morning with a feeling of excitement to return to this beautiful place! After some less-than-pleasant experiences in attempting to narrow down a research topic, I had an inkling that my experience today at Wesley’s Chapel would be a success – and I am happy to say to that I was correct! Though I got a little lost at first (the Old Street Tube Station is quite confusing!), I soon found my way back to the Chapel. Since London is a surprisingly late riser (hardly anything opens before 10 am), it was quiet and peaceful in the courtyard of the Chapel.
After enjoying those few peaceful moments, I wandered into the Chapel and downstairs into the Museum of Methodism.
On my first visit to the Chapel, we briefly walked through the Museum, so it was nice to take my time walking through the displays and seeing the various documents, facsimiles, pamphlets, magazines, hymn books, and ephemera related to the history of Methodism – from John Wesley‘s time to the present. Wesley, who along with his brother Charles, are considered the co-founders of Methodism, built the Chapel in 1777, and moved into his house next-door in 1779. After his death in 1791, John Wesley was buried in the Chapel graveyard. The Chapel itself has sustained fire damage, survived World War II, and has undergone multiple renovations. In 1898, John Wesley’s House became a museum, and the Museum of Methodism opened in the crypt of the Chapel in 1984. The buildings have such a rich history, and are central to not only John Wesley’s life, but also of Methodism itself…
I also had a chance to speak with Christian Dettlaff, the Curator of the Museum; he was so friendly and was happy to answer some of my questions about the Museum. Since 1977, the University of Manchester has served as the official archive of the Methodist Church of Great Britain, but prior to this date, the archives were actually kept at Wesley’s Chapel and John Wesley’s House. Now that the bulk of Wesley’s papers are located in Manchester, the Museum today focuses mainly on acquiring
documents and items related to the history of the Chapel and the House. Wesley’s House is packed with items belonging to the late theologian, including his furniture and personal library (consisting of 474 books); these books are used by researchers even today, and many of the books bear his signature on the inner cover.
All in all, it was a very productive morning for me at the Chapel, Museum, and House. The staff and volunteers made this born and raised United Methodist feel right at home, and it was rewarding to learn more about Wesley’s life as well as the history of Methodism itself, both for my personal and academic interests. The gift shop in the Museum was full of helpful materials for my research paper, including a complete catalogue of the collection of letters written by Wesley that are held at the Museum.
Though the formatting and structure of this research paper is unlike any paper I’ve ever previously written, I appreciate the fact that Dr. Welsh and Dr. Griffis are pushing us outside of our comfort zone – after all, isn’t that what traveling is all about?!