John Wesley: Who was the founder of Methodism and what were his links to Sheffield

The founder of Methodism John Wesley preached in Sheffield on many occasions sharing the Christian message and campaigning for social justice.

Tuesday, 24th May 2022, 1:13 pm

Along with his brother Charles, he travelled across the country telling people of God’s love. Today the Methodist Church consists of about 30 million people worldwide.

Who was John Wesley?

John Wesley was an Anglican minister and Christian teacher who founded the Methodist Church with his brother Charles. Wesley was born on June 17 1703 in Epworth near Doncaster, the son of Samuel and Susanna Wesley. Wesley is said to have preached 40,000 sermons – many outdoors – and travelled 250,000 miles, sharing the Christian message and campaigned tirelessly on social issues until he died in 1791.

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John Wesley was born in Epworth near Doncaster

What happened at Aldersgate Street?

On May 24 1738 when Wesley was almost 35 years old, he attended a meeting of Moravians at Aldersgate Street in London.

Wesley wrote in his diary: “In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther's preface to the Epistle to the Romans.

"About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation, and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine and saved me from the law of sin and death.”

John Wesley preached to one of his largest crowds in Paradise Square, Sheffield

It was at this point that Wesley’s life changed and his belief and preaching was transformed, ultimately leading to the formation of the Methodist Church.

What are John Wesley’s links to Sheffield?

Wesley visited many places in Sheffield to preach his message over many years.He had founded the beginings of the Sheffield Methodist Society in 1742, starting a group which met in a small wooden meeting house in Cheyney Square – on the site of the current Town Hall.

The meeting house was destroyed in a riot in 1743 during a service conducted by John’s brother Charles Wesley and a new chapel was built on Mulberry Street.

One of John’s most famous visits to Sheffield was when he preached in Paradise Square to what he described as "the largest congregation I ever saw on a weekday" on July 15 1779.

A year later, the Norfolk Street Wesleyan Chapel was built on the site of the Victoria Hall in Sheffield city centre and was opened and consecrated by John Wesley. He described the church as "One of the largest in the Kingdom".