United Methodists celebrate Aldersgate Sunday in May of each year to mark the day that the movement's founder John Wesley experienced assurance of his salvation. It is a day for individuals to reflect on their own faith journeys and what it means to be United Methodist.
The Rev. Alfred T. Day III, General Commission on Archives and History: “We often talk about Aldersgate Street or the Aldersgate experience as John Wesley’s conversion experience. It represents a watershed moment in his spiritual journey somebody who has some sense of who God is and what God means and what God’s about in their head, but doesn’t feel it. The spirit stirs in him in a way that a dynamic connection is made between what he believes about God in his head and now what he feels and experiences about God in his heart, in his emotions.”
(John Wesley quote) “I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sine, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.”
Rev. Fred Day: “It was the sense that ‘God loved him, even him,’ that was life changing.”
In early 1738 John Wesley was at a low point, having just returned from his disappointing missionary efforts at the colony of Georgia in the New World.
Wesley reluctantly attended a group meeting on the evening of May 24th on Aldersgate Street in London. As he heard a reading from Luther's preface to the Epistle to the Romans, he felt his "heart strangely warmed."
Rev. Fred Day: “He writes in his journal, “I felt that God loved me.” I experienced that God loved me. It was no longer something that was in my head, but it’s something that I felt in my heart.”
Wesley was the son of a preacher and grew up in a devoutly religious home but the dynamic connection to God made at Aldersgate was new to him.
Dale Patterson, General Commission on Archives and History: “I think he came to his adulthood with one particular concept of how the religious life should work for him. And I think that’s what he had to relearn. He had initially planned to live life in a certain way and that was going to make a great relationship with God. And what Aldersgate taught him was he had to flip it. He’d gotten, unintentionally, the cart before the horse.”
This re-awakening of faith may happen many times in a person’s spiritual journey. United Methodists set aside a day each year to celebrate the love of God in their own lives.
Rev. Fred Day: “Aldersgate Sunday is a chance for us to do a little bit of spiritual inventory on our own. ‘How am I experiencing God’s love in my life?’”