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Irish Council of Churches Irish Inter-Church Meeting

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The Methodist Church in Ireland

Origins

The Methodist Church is a worldwide communion of over 70 million people which originated from the time of the Wesley brothers, John and Charles, in the mid–eighteenth century.  John was ordained by the Church of England and he and his hymn writer brother Charles, were members of a group of young men who met daily to pray and study the Bible whilst at Oxford University. Nicknamed “the Holy Club”, they were so methodical in their lifestyle that they were called Methodists, a name which eventually became that of the religious movement which followed.   

Over the years the Methodist movement became a Christian denomination, but Methodists seek to have close relationships with other Christian churches.

Basis of Belief

The Constitution of the Methodist Church in Ireland sets out the basis of belief as follows:

“The Methodist Church claims and cherishes its place in the Holy Catholic Church, which is the Body of Christ.  It rejoices in the inheritance of the Apostolic faith, and loyally accepts the fundamental principles of the historic creeds and of the Protestant Reformation. It ever remembers that, in the Providence of God, Methodism was raised up to spread scriptural holiness through the land by the proclamation of the evangelical faith, and declares its unfaltering resolve to be true to its divinely appointed mission.

“The doctrines of the evangelical faith, which Methodism has held from the beginning, and still holds, are based upon the divine revelation recorded in the Holy Scriptures.  The Methodist Church acknowledges this revelation as the supreme rule of faith and practice.  These evangelical doctrines to which the preachers of the Methodist Church, ministerial and lay, are pledged are contained in Wesley’s Notes on the New Testament and the first four volumes of his sermons.

“The Notes on the New Testament and the forty–four Sermons are not intended to impose a system of formal or speculative theology on Methodist preachers, but to set up standards of preaching and belief which should secure loyalty to the fundamental truths of the Gospel of Redemption and ensure the continued witness of the Church to the realities of the Christian experience of salvation.”

The Ethos of Methodism

The Methodist Church seeks to be a Christian community which is open and welcoming to all. At its heart is the conviction that everyone can know and experience the love of God for herself or himself. God’s love changes us to be more Christ–like. It is also to be shared with the whole community, in particular with the most vulnerable. Thus City Missions are an important part of Methodism. Methodists stress that God’s love affects the whole person, body and mind as well as spirit. Thus education and wholeness are high values for the church. 

Membership

The Methodist Church in Ireland has 212 churches or ‘societies’ with a total community membership of around 50,000. There are more Methodist Churches and people in Northern Ireland than in the Republic of Ireland, but in each jurisdiction the Methodist people seek to play a full part in national and community life.

Governance and Organisation

The Methodist Church in Ireland extends throughout the island, and refers to itself as ‘the Connexion’, to remind individual members and local churches of their interconnected and interdependent nature. Methodism’s structures are shaped by its origins.

The small group (or ‘class’) has always been the lifeblood of Methodism… They have different names now, whether a Home group, prayer triplet, Bible study, or whatever: but the aim is the same – to encourage one another in the Faith.

A group of classes in a locality form a society or congregation, administered by a Church Council. A large society or a group of societies form a circuit, which may have one or more ministers, and is in the care of a Superintendent minister and administered by a Circuit Executive.

A group of circuits forms a District, overseen by a District Superintendent and administered by a District Synod.

Currently, there are eight Districts:

Dublin, Midlands and Southern, Lakelands, North West, North East, Belfast, Down, Portadown.

The supreme court of the church is the Conference, which is the final authority in the Church in all matters of doctrine, worship, discipline and order. Each year the Church elects a President, who serves for that year. The Church also elects a Lay Leader, who has a three year term of office.

Lay and ordained people, both men and women are involved in decision making at all levels. The Methodist Church in Ireland has ordained women since 1978, and women may serve in all positions in the Church. A system of committees deals with a variety of issues within the Church:

What to expect on a Sunday morning

Worship services vary depending on the local community but there are common features:

  • You’ll be welcomed at the door.
  • Children stay with their parents for the first part of the service during which there will be a message especially for them. The younger children then leave to go to another room where they enjoy Sunday School. Very young children can be looked after in the creche but you are welcome to bring them to worship.  
  • There are readings from the Bible, from the Old and New Testaments and occasionally with responsive readings from the Psalms.
  • Methodism is said to be ‘born in song’, so singing is a vital part of worship.  Charles Wesley wrote thousands of hymns for use in worship and also to help teach the predominately illiterate people of the time the basis of Christian faith and theology. Contemporary songs and traditional hymns may be sung.
  • The minister or a local preacher will give a sermon which will be based on a reflection of the readings from the Bible, the Word of God. 
  • The minister or a member of the congregation will lead prayer in their own words as the occasion demands. 
  • Holy Communion or the Lord’s Supper is usually celebrated on the first Sunday of the month but this varies.  Participation is open to all who know and love the Lord Jesus but it is not mandatory. 
  • An offering of money is collected during the service to help support the work of the church.
  • There may be refreshments served either at the end or the beginning of the service and which you will be welcomed to join in.

What our Church does during the week

Sunday may be the day when Methodist people gather together for worship, but the church is a busy place of witness and service throughout the week. There are a wide variety of activities for young people, sometimes through a youth club, sometimes through uniformed organizations such as the Scout and Guide movements, or the Boys or Girls Brigades. There may be special interest groups for women or men. A number of churches have Lunch Clubs, Parent and Toddler groups, music groups and other activities. Bible Study and Prayer groups can take place on the Church premises or in the homes of members. In addition many churches are exploring ways in which they can support their local communities, for example through advice centres or befriending programmes.

How to find out more

The website of the Methodist Church in Ireland is 

www.irishmethodist.org

You can contact the church through our information officer: 

info@irishmethodist.org

Or make contact with the Secretary of Conference 

secretary@irishmethodist.org