Today is Local Preacher Sunday in the Methodist Church. Once a year Local Preachers, sometimes known as Lay Preachers, fill every Methodist pulpit throughout the land. The truth is that this is not far from the reality of every other Sunday. It is estimated that Local Preachers conduct around two-thirds of all Methodist worship services each week. This may be surprising for us at CMM for we are used to having ordained clergy present just about every week. Yet throughout the country the number of Methodist churches / worship services far outnumber the clergy available on any given Sunday. In most situations ordained clergy oversee multiple Methodist congregations – sometimes over 20 – especially in rural areas. In these situations, clergy may only connect with a congregation once every 2 or 3 months. Every other Sunday Local Preachers hold sacred space for the people called Methodists to gather in worship. Today it is privilege to have Marion Rhode at CMM. Marion is from the Bellville Circuit. Welcome!
Here is a little Wikipedia history regarding Local preachers in the Methodist tradition:
Local preachers have been a characteristic of Methodism from its beginnings as a revival movement in 18th-century England. John Wesley tried to avoid a schism with the Church of England, and encouraged those who attended his revival meetings to attend their parish churches, but they also attended Methodist preaching services which were held elsewhere and met in “classes” (small cell groups). It quickly became necessary to build “preaching houses” where the Methodist meetings could be held. These began to function as alternative churches, often depending on the attitude of the local Anglican clergy.
One such preaching house was The Foundery, which served as Wesley’s base in London. In about 1740, Wesley was away on business and had left a young man, Thomas Maxfield, in charge of The Foundery. Since no clergymen were available, Maxfield took it upon himself to preach to the congregation. Wesley was annoyed by this and returned to London in order to confront Maxfield. However, his mother, Susanna Wesley, persuaded him to hear Maxfield out, suggesting that he had as much right to preach as Wesley. Wesley was sufficiently impressed by Maxfield’s preaching to see it as God’s work and let the matter drop, with Maxfield becoming one of Methodism’s earliest lay preachers.
Methodism formally broke with the Anglican church as a result of Wesley’s 1784 ordination of ministers to serve in the United States. Before the schism, Wesley had as accredited preachers only a handful of fellow Anglican priests who shared his view of the need to take the gospel to the people where they were. Because of the limited number of ordained ministers he could call on, Wesley appointed local preachers who were not ordained but whom he examined, and whom he felt he could trust to lead worship and preach: though not to minister sacraments.
PREACHER PATRIARCHY: Women local preachers were at some point restricted to addressing women-only meetings. In 1804 even though the Wesleyan Conference was very short of male preachers, it would not sanction the use of women. Some women, such as Sarah Mallett, however, ignored this ban. From 1910 the blanket ban was repealed, and from 1918 on, Wesleyan Methodism recruited and deployed women local preachers on exactly the same basis as men.
Long live the spirits of Thomas Maxfield and Sarah Mallet – long live.
Is preaching your calling? Some people feel sure of their ‘call to preach’ at an early stage, but for others the first steps are very tentative, and it is not unusual to feel ill-equipped. But those exploring this call are not alone – it is a process of discernment that is shared by the Church, including theological and biblical studies as well as practical experience in leading worship and preaching. If you would like to find out more please do speak with me.