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.
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)