You can be sure of a warm welcome in a Methodist Church, whoever you are and however life has treated you. And don’t worry if you have a lot of doubts and questions about God and Christianity. You’ll find that all people who go to church have a mixture of joy and pain, struggles and achievements in their life.
Christians find in church a place where we can be honest with God and with ourselves, and get support from others as we face the demands of everyday life.
We are all on a journey of faith – none of us is perfect. But there is hope.
I’m not sure what I believe, will the church still welcome me?
It takes courage to explore what life might really be about. Lots of people are searching for a spiritual meaning that seems missing today. You won’t be alone. For some, life is frantically busy, juggling responsibilities that seem overwhelming and leave little space for quiet reflection. For others, there is loneliness and a lack of purpose.
We do not have to wait for all the answers before we start coming to church. Rather as Methodists, we find in our church community a place where our own deepest questions about life can be explored.
What is the Methodist Church?
In the 18th century, the first people to be called “Methodists” were friends in Oxford. They were serious about their faith and met regularly for Bible study, prayer and Holy Communion. It was this ‘methodical’ approach that gave rise to the name.
One of them was John Wesley who started the movement that eventually became the Methodist Church. At this time a lot of people went to church just out of habit. But Methodists believed that religion should come truly from the heart, and that it had to make a different to how you lived your life. We still believe this today.
In Britain there are around 220,000 Methodists in about 5,000 churches. But this is only part of a far wider and greater Methodist family. With over 80 million Methodists all across the world, you’ll find Methodists or Partner Churches in countries from Antigua to Russia and from Australia to Zimbabwe.
What do Methodists believe?
Methodists are part of the universal Church of Christ and bring our own special witness to it. We have always been clear that no-one is beyond the reach of God’s love. That love and forgiveness is there for everyone who turns to God. Through Jesus’ death on the cross, and his resurrection, Methodists (along with all Christians) believe that God broke the power of all that is evil, both in the world and in ourselves.
What happens during Methodist worship?
Methodist services are led by a minister, a local preacher or a worship leader. They can range from the formal to very informal, depending on those leading worship and on the practice of the local church.
Worship will include singing hymns and worship songs (both old and new); reading from the Bible; prayer – which relates to what is going on in the world; preaching which applies the Bible and Gospel (good news) of Jesus to life today and an opportunity to reflect on our personal relationship with God. Some services also include Holy Communion, which recalls Jesus’ last meal with his friends on the night before he was crucified. The bread is shared and the ‘wine’ is drunk, although wine in a Methodist church is non-alcoholic.
Methodism: faith in action
Methodism has always combined a focus on our individual response to God with a passionate concern for social justice. Early Methodists were active in the struggle against slavery, campaigned for prison reform and set up a range of educational initiatives to improve literacy and health as well as to develop understanding of the faith.
Today, there are still opportunities to get involved in practical care for others locally and in the wider community. Every local Methodist church looks for ways to serve and show Christian love in action. This may be through lunch clubs, foodbanks, street pastors, toddler groups or safe spaces for children and teenagers.
Methodists across the world have joined with other Churches to challenge injustice in today’s world, like racism and sexism, human rights abuses, unfair trading practices and world debt. As followers of Jesus Christ, Methodists care about poverty and suffering and we don’t think the church should keep out of politics.
"What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God?" Micah 6:8.
"Since God is invisible to our eyes, we are to serve God in our neighbour, which God receives as if done to himself in person, standing visibly before us." John Wesley.
What else goes on?
Methodist churches often have a variety of activities for the local community such as coffee mornings, women’s and men’s groups and groups for children and young people. There are special activities for children on a Sunday morning in Junior Church. Whenever things are organised for children, young people or vulnerable adults, Methodist churches operate a safeguarding policy
One of the strengths of early Methodism was its emphasis on the power of small groups to love, support and challenge each other on their journeys of faith. In recent years many churches have rediscovered the strength of small groups meeting regularly for discussion, study and prayer, often in someone’s home. These help us support each other to explore, learn more and move on in our journey of faith. The company of other Christians is one of the most important ways for us to understand the working out of God’s love, and his call to us to serve, in our daily lives.