The Methodist Church in Cumbria

The Methodist Church in Cumbria

Methodism has at its roots one person whose vision, determination and faith inspired fellow seekers to re-assess their lives and renew their relationship with God. John Wesley (June 28, 1703 – March 2, 1791) challenged the religious assumptions of his day, urging those to whom he preached to ‘trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation’ for the assurance that we are all forgiven through Christ.

Methodist chapel in Cautley
Methodist chapel in Cautley (SD 689942). Photo by Matthew Emmott.

Wesley became a priest in the Church of England, but in 1738 had a spiritual experience that he described as God working in his heart through faith in Christ. He launched a hugely influential preaching ministry and had a flair for organising people into small groups. These he named classes, with locally appointed preachers and leaders, which studied the gospels and prayed together. Wesley’s new movement became a separate Church which grew rapidly throughout the 18th century and afterwards.
The early Methodists, in Furness, Dentdale, Gosforth and Hawkshead, and many other places were greatly helped by another religious group – the Quakers. The new and assertive preachers and evangelists were under the leadership of John Wesley, who followed in the footsteps of < href="../quakers">George Fox.
Wesley insisted that he and his preachers should go not to those that needed them, but to those that needed them most. Wesley visited Cumbria 26 times, and was often at Whitehaven. He went through most of the towns and villages, and his tours have been fully recorded.
John Wesley must have been remarkable, not only for his spiritual leadership and preaching, but also for his physical stamina. In 1764, for example, he travelled 1800 miles on horseback, and preached at 122 towns and villages. His last visit to Kendal was in 1788, when he was 85.
He and his followers created a web of Societies and circuits, embracing Cumbria, first based in Whitehaven, and then Carlisle, where the Methodists established chapels, and attracted hearers and members second only to the Church of England.
Disagreements among the Wesleyans of the 19th century created Primitive Methodists, Bible Christians, and Wesleyan Methodists, all organised differently, yet able to re-unite in 1932 to form the present Methodist church, because their basic doctrine and beliefs were so similar.
Kendal - Primitive Methodist Mission
Primitive Methodist chapel in Kendal (SD 513927). Photo by Matthew Emmott.

The Cumbria District comprises fifteen circuits – Alston Moor, Ambleside and Windermere, Brampton, Carlisle, Kendal, Keswick and Cockermouth, Kirkby Stephen, Appleby and Tebay, Kirkoswald, Penrith, Sedbergh, Solway, South West Cumbria, Ulverston, Whitehaven and Wigton. See the official websites below for more information about these.
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