Methodist History: The Christmas Conference
In 1784, John Wesley dispatched Thomas Coke from England to oversee the founding of the Methodist Episcopal Church in America. Coke met Francis Asbury at Barratt’s Chapel in November. Plans were quickly made to gather all Methodist preachers together for the Christmas Conference at Lovely Lane. Historian John Strawbridge talks about what happened over those ten days that formed a new denomination.
John Strawbridge, Lovely Lane United Methodist Church: “Every Methodist preacher in America left their homes and their parish on Christmas Eve, which is something that could not happen today. For them the important place to be was in the church forming this denomination, dealing with the business that it took to create a church that would serve the people.”
John Strawbridge is the historian at Lovely Lane United Methodist Church in Maryland. Lovely Lane Chapel was the site of the Christmas Conference of 1784.
John Strawbridge: “So, they gathered all the preachers in America, about 86 preachers that they knew of at the time, and planned to meet at the Lovely Lane Chapel on Christmas Eve 1784 for the formation of a new denomination. They met in conference for ten days, established a Discipline, a Book of Worship, they ordained preachers, and they aside Asbury as the first superintendent.
It was 10 days of debates and struggles and accusations and reconciliations, and the kinds of things that we do as Methodists, which is beautiful in its own way. To realize that this is not something that was handed down from high on the church, but that those people all came together as lay people. It’s so important that the laity realize that they are not the audience, that they are the church. And I think that’s really strong in Methodism and I think that’s really important that you realize that this is not a church where you go and leave it to the pastor. You are the church. You are expected to do the work that the church does.
So it was that the Christmas Eve Conference of 1784 established Methodism for the first time as its own denomination. So even though the movement began in England, as a church Methodism was born at the Lovely Lane Chapel in 1784.”
Barratt’s Chapel and Lovely Lane have been designated Heritage Landmarks of The United Methodist Church.
Learn more about church history at the site for the United Methodist General Commission on Archives and History.
And get ideas for sites every United Methodist should see.
This video was first posted on December 19, 2017.