Wesley Pilgrimage Testimony
By Diamond Pate, Guest Contributor
Revival: Reconnecting to the past so we can be propelled into the future.
John Wesley’s last words are believed to be, “The best of all is, God is with us.” In a time when so many churches across the United Methodist connection are either hearing about or feeling the effects of disaffiliation or separation, it is good to be reminded of the everlasting presence of God that inspired the Methodist movement in the first place. This summer, along with thirty-seven other clergy and laity, I had the privilege of being a part of the 2023 Wesley Pilgrimage. We spent ten days learning about the early Methodists, their motivations, experiences, and impacts. We went to Epworth, the birthplace of the Wesleys. We saw the area where John “was plucked like a brand from the fire” and where Susanna Wesley taught the boys (and the sisters) the importance of faith and proved that laypeople, especially women, are called to be powerful teachers of God’s word.
We went to Oxford, the city of dreaming spires, where Charles and John Wesley went to school and formed the Holy Club. While we were in Oxford, it was graduation day for one of the colleges, so the city was quite crowded, but it was fun to see the new graduates taking pictures at Christ Church in their caps and gowns. That reminded us that this place makes an academic impact. However, for the Wesleys, Oxford provided more than an academic impact; it had a spiritual impact. At Lincoln College, where John served as a fellow, there is a stained-glass window in the chapel that depicts the story of Jonah. While contemplating this image, John decided to go on a missionary journey to Georgia, which made a significant impact on him and his leadership in the Methodist movement.
We were able to go to Bristol, where the New Room was built. This was one of my favorite days of the pilgrimage. The New Room is the oldest Methodist building. It was built after Methodists were meeting in a church building and there were so many of them that they fell through the floor; hence, they had to build a new room. The New Room is in the heart of Bristol. The Methodists who gathered there emphasized care for their neighbors. On the top floor of the chapel is a museum of early Methodism that highlights the way the movement was involved in social justice matters such as slavery, education, labor, and women's rights. We were told stories about how the members would collect pennies and then distribute them to neighbors in need. The original pews in the chapel were constructed so that the backs would move so that the people could easily face one another when it was time for small-group discussions. We stopped here to take Holy Communion together and kneel at the rails. It was such a powerful experience to sit and pray where so many faithful Methodists have prayed and broken bread before us. The early Methodists had no idea how big and how far the movement would grow and that there would be twelve million United Methodists (and so many others that have branched off from the original Methodist movement) all over the world still going strong hundreds of years later. Those early Methodists did not envision UMCOR, Global Ministries, United Women in Faith, and other faithful ministries that have continued their work of caring for those in need. I felt like the Wesleys were watching over us at that moment and filled with pride that all their hard work and all the tribulations and trials they faced were worth it.
The early Methodists had no idea how big and how far the movement would grow and that there would be twelve million United Methodists . . . all over the world still going strong hundreds of years later.
The Wesley Pilgrimage isn’t just about looking at old buildings and hearing the stories. It is so awesome to see the place where John and Charles were baptized or John Wesley’s grave, but it is so much more than that. The pilgrimage is about revival – reconnecting to the past so we can be propelled into the future. The pilgrimage allows attendees to learn why Charles and John and the other Methodist leaders felt compelled to start the movement out of love of God and neighbor; further, the pilgrimage enables attendees to learn about the original structures of covenant discipleship and the focus on works of piety and works of mercy. I saw a lot, and I learned a lot, but my spirit was also restored by this trip. I would recommend this pilgrimage to anyone, whether you have been a lifelong United Methodist or are new to the church. I promise, your spirit will be moved by the experience.
Diamond Pate is the pastor of Flagstaff Federated Community Church in Flagstaff, Arizona. She is a former US-2 missionary through Global Ministries, where she served at the Hinton Rural Life Center. After completing her missionary service, Diamond attended seminary at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary outside of Chicago, Illinois. Diamond served her first full-time appointment as the associate pastor of First United Methodist Church of Gilbert in Gilbert, Arizona, in 2018. She remained there until she was appointed to Flagstaff Federated Community Church in July 2022.