John Wesley set up the first Methodist Society in 1738. They met in London, at a building on Fetter Lane, and so became known as the Fetter Lane society. Below is an excerpt from his diary with the rules they expected all members to adhere to:
This evening our little society began, which afterwards met in Fetter Lane. Our fundamental rules were as follow:
In obedience to the command of God by St James, and by the advice of Peter Bohler, it is agreed by us,
- That we will meet together once a week to ‘confess our faults one to another, and pray for one another, that we may be healed.’
- That the persons so meeting be divided into several bands, or little companies, none of them consisting of fewer than five or more than ten persons.
- That every one in order speak as freely, plainly, and concisely as he can, the real state of his heart, with his several temptations and deliverances, since the last time of meeting.
- That all the bands have a conference at eight every Wednesday evening, begun and ended with singing and prayer.
- That any who desire to be admitted into the society will be asked, ‘What are your reasons for desiring this? Will you be entirely open; using no kind of reserve? Have you any objection to any of our orders?’ (which may then be read)
- That when any new member is proposed, every one present speak clearly and freely whatever objection he has to him.
- That those against whom no reasonable objection appears be, in order for their trial, formed into one or more distinct bands, and some person agreed on to assist them.
- That after two months’ trial, if no objection then appear, they may be admitted into the society.
- That every fourth Saturday be observed as a day of general intercession.
- That on the Sunday seven-night following be a general love-feast, from seven till ten in the evening.
- That no particular member be allowed to act in anything contrary to any order of the society; and that if any persons, after being thrice admonished, do not conform thereto, they be not any longer esteemed as members.
(Journal, 1 May 1738)
What can your small group learn from Wesley’s rules for Methodist societies? Is there anything you want to implement?
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Mark Williamson works as a director of One Rock. He’s an experienced leadership trainer, author of biographies on John Wesley and William Wilberforce, and is also passionate about praying for London. He enjoys good films, good food, and going for long walks with his wife Joanna. You can follow him on Twitter @markonerock.