A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Monday, June 08, 2015

American Methodism in the Days of Francis Asbury: No Pastors in Residence

from Lester Ruth, Christian History Institute:
In its organization, Methodism was also unique among American denominations. Early Methodists would not have known or expected a pastor in residence overseeing a single congregation. That was what other churches did.

No, instead of preaching in a parish church, watching over a local flock, Methodist ministers rode daily from one stop to the next, preaching their circuits, an itinerary that usually took four weeks. These itinerant preachers traveled the same route month after month, year in and year out, staying with members of their charge along the route.

One day they might preach in a barn, the next in a house, and the next at a crossroads. They could even use the same sermon until they looped back around to begin again. If you live in a section of the country where there seems to be an old Methodist church every 5 to 10 miles, you might be seeing the vestiges of one of these circuits. And think about it: a lazy preacher 200 years ago only needed about a dozen sermons a year, one for each month around the circuit. (But Methodist preachers typically were not lazy!)

Usually two itinerants, spaced two weeks apart, traveled around the circuit, preaching nearly every day for four weeks. That meant that Methodists in any one locale might have their preaching service, the mainstay of Methodist worship, once every other week on possibly any day of the week. The itinerants considered it critical to make it to these appointments to preach. To this day Methodist preachers are still "appointed" to a particular church or churches by their overseeing bishop.
The entire article can be read here.

1 comment:

Al DeFilippo said...

Thank you, Allan, for the post. Yes, the itinerancy is credited with not only spreading the movement but more importantly the use of traveling circuit preachers created disciples. This was due to the local leadership, i.e. lay pastors, class and band leaders, who were in charge of the local community of Methodist believers until a traveling preacher returned. A great system which ensured that local leadership needed to stay and create vibrant disciples. Especially when many of the lay pastors soon became itinerant preachers. Again, thank you for the post.

I've mentioned it to you before, if you interest in more about the early Methodist movement, especially in England and Ireland, please visit the website for the trilogy about the early years of Francs Asbury. The opening book, Black Country, for the first time since Asbury's passing in 1816, details his early circuits and ministry in England before leaving for the American colonies in 1771. The website for the book series is www.francisasburytriptych.com. Enjoy the numerous articles on the website.