In April’s Member Church Spotlight, Gillian Kingston, a current Methodist representative on the Irish Council of Churches Executive Committee, shares some insight into the Church and its life.
A brief history of the the Methodist Church in Ireland.
The Methodist movement in Ireland dates back to John Wesley’s first visit to Ireland in the late 1740’s. Having set up small societies of people to pray, read scripture and support each other in England, Wesley led the way for this to happen in Ireland. He insisted that these small Methodist groups continued to worship at their own church, usually Anglican. Right up to the end of his life, John Wesley visited Ireland —visiting 31 out of 32 counties. This was a long journey f across England and Wales and then by boat across the Irish Sea. John Wesley visited Ireland 22 times throughout his life.
What does a typical Worship (Liturgy) service look like?
Methodist worship is free form, however, it is not formless. There are three elements — approaching, hearing and responding to the Word of God. Worship begins with the singing of hymns and prayers of adoration and repentance. Through readings from the Old and New Testament and preaching, worshippers hear the Word of God. Finally, response to what has been heard comes through prayers of intercession, offering of money and the offering of self as you worshippers leave the service and go into another week of trying to live as a disciples of Jesus Christ.
There are also some special services each year such as the Covenant Service. This takes place on the first or second Sunday of the year where each congregation comes together to remember covenants throughout Scripture and to renew our own present day covenant with God.
The Watch Night Service is another important time in the Methodist calendar as it gives the opportunity for congregations to gather and pray in the New Year. This service takes place around 11pm on 31st December as people reflect on the previous year and look ahead to the New Year.
Throughout the week are there any other meetings for the congregation to attend?
This varies depending on the size of the congregation. There are usually mid week prayer and Bible study meetings. At times the Bible studies relate to different seasons of the year and incorporate resources such as the Women World Day of Prayer or from Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI).
Within the Methodist Church, Bible studies are seen as important opportunities to hear, study and pray the Word of God and engage with it fully in fellowship.
What is the structure of leadership across the Methodist Church in Ireland?
We are a 32 county Church. Every year we elect a President of the Methodist Church in Ireland, while every two years we elect a Lay Leader to work alongside the President. The role of lay people is important for Methodists; as Methodism started as a lay movement and so the involvement and leadership of lay people is a significant reminder of the ministry of the whole people of God.
We hold a General Conference every year to reflect on our work, make decisions and to plan for the coming year. There is also three meetings of the General Committee throughout the year to continue the work of the Conference. Other committees take time to work on specific issues such as social, theological, finance, mission, world development and relief. These committees have ministers and lay people working together on subjects they are passionate about and hope to bring understanding to as a Church.
A re–structuring of the districts of the Methodist Church in Ireland is underway The eight districts we have had are becoming three broader areas with a Superintendent placed in each to focus on the needs of churches in each particular district. We look forward to this restructuring and how it will impact out mission.
Outreach programmes organised by the Methodist Church.
With mission at the core of what we do, we have various outreach programmes throughout our congregations. As a Church we have a new resource, ‘God’s Mission, Our Mission’, which reminds us that Jesus called us to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” Matthew 28:19–20. This resource enables and equips people to speak the Gospel wherever they are by delving deep into our call to share the Good News; the authority we have received to do that from Christ himself. It also aims to remind us that, as representatives of Christ, we have his power within us guiding us in our words and actions.
What are the established connections between MCI and other Churches in Ireland?
The Methodist Church in Ireland is a founding member of the Irish Council of Churches (ICC) and of the Irish Inter–Church Committee (IICM). We are also members of the Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI) and the Conference of European Churches (CEC).
Working with other churches means more shared positive outcomes. For example, we work with the Presbyterian Church on the Mission Partnership Forum. We have a lot in common with the Presbyterian Church on the ground which has deemed fruitful in the past. Our relationship with the Church of Ireland stems from our founder, John Wesley, who was an Anglican priest. We enjoy having a Covenant with the Church of Ireland for the last 15 years based on this historic foundation. The Covenant relationship has enabled interchangeability of ministries and significant co–operation between circuits and parishes.
Are there any Church needs or plans that are being thought of at the minute within MCI?
We are always working on empowering people for mission. We are driven to enable people to know something more about their faith that they can communicate to others. Within MCI, we are also looking at how to disagree agreeably on polarising issues such as human sexuality. We see such issues as presenting the need for challenging conversations which can help us understand the views of others, while remembering we are one in Christ.
Find out more about the Methodist Church in Ireland here: https://www.irishmethodist.org