The local church
|"Do you not think that the
secret of the extraordinary hold of Methodism upon the English poor
lies in the strict and intimate communion which forms so essential
a part of it? Methodism is eminently social…"
Local Methodist churches are
congregations based on the original Methodist 'societies' that met
within the Church of England. These met initially in people's homes
for worship, fellowship, prayer and instruction.
When they began to gather in larger buildings, Methodists
continued the practice of meeting in small groups or 'classes' for
Bible study, prayer and Christian conversation. These intimate
support groups were very effective at building commitment and a
sense of belonging
membership is still held in the 'society' in a certain
place - it is locally based. All members belong to a 'class' (which
may or may not meet). Many other people are associated with
Methodist churches, through attending worship and participating in
clubs and fellowship groups.
Local churches manage their own affairs (including church
property) through lay volunteers called Church stewards. But they
are connected to others in the circuit, and more widely to the
district and the Methodist Connexion.
In some places, Methodists have entered into a Local Ecumenical
Partnership with one or more churches of another denomination.
Worship in the local church may be led by the minister who has
pastoral charge of the church, but will frequently be conducted by
a Local Preacher, who is a trained lay person.
Fresh expressions of church
There is considerable interest in developing new ways of gathering
as Christians and 'being church' that are more appropriate and
attractive in the contemporary world. Some Methodist churches are
moving to a Cell Church concept, which once more highlights the
crucial importance of the dynamic and holistic small group in
developing Christian discipleship.
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