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This item is taken from PN Review 234, Volume 43 Number 4, March - April 2017.

Pictures from a Library

31: ‘Artifacts are made, organisms grow’: horse bone effigies of John Wesley
Bone effigies of John Wesley preaching

FIVE HUNDRED YEARS ago Martin Luther nailed his ninety-five theses to the church door in Wittenberg. Condemning the clergy for corruption and neglect of the poor, he set in train the Protestant Reformation. Some two hundred years later, on the evening of the 24 May 1738, another nonconformist could be found reluctantly attending a service in Aldersgate, London. Equally at odds with his faith, his heart was ‘strangely warmed’ as Luther’s preface to St Paul’s Letter to the Romans was read aloud. This young man was John Wesley and the occasion was his evangelical conversion. Like Luther, Wesley set out to reform his church. And, like Luther, his reformation ultimately led to schism and the creation of a new ‘sect’. Today the Methodist Church has a global membership of over seventy million people.

Wesley and his fellow Methodists, whose faith was rooted in scripture and ‘good works’, took a lead on many of the social issues of their times. They fought against injustice, advocated for the abolition of slavery, pressed for the reform of prisons and demanded universal education. Aiming their message at the poor, they took to the road to find them; and in their zeal to reach them they developed a new style of preaching in the open air. Wesley himself is reputed to have travelled 250,000 miles and given over 40,000 sermons, over the course of his life.

As his message spread, many wanted their very own versions of their ...

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