Fourteen members of the Perkins community enjoyed an extraordinary journey to the places in England where Methodism first began, as part of the Perkins UK-Wesley Immersion, July 20 – August 1. The group retraced the steps of Methodism’s founder, John Wesley, visiting the places where he studied, preached and ministered. Ten Perkins students from the Dallas and Houston-Galveston programs were in the group, as well as four faculty, staff and friends of Perkins.
“Visiting Oxford, I got to sit in pews where Wesley sat, stand in pulpits where Wesley preached, and see the place where he lived out his commitment to a disciplined life of holy study,” said the Rev. Tripp Gulledge, a third-year M.Div. student.
The trip was co-led by faculty member Dr. Ted A. Campbell, Albert C. Outler Professor of Wesley Studies at Perkins, and the Rev. Connie Nelson, Executive Director of Public Affairs and Alumni/ae Relations. It was the third such immersion, organized by the duo, first offered in 2017.
“When I joined the staff at Perkins ten years ago, my goal was to create this opportunity to explore the history of John Wesley in the UK along with Ted Campbell, who is one of the leading Wesley scholars in the world,” said Nelson. “I love seeing participants have these ‘aha’ moments, where they connect Wesley’s history with their own spiritual journeys.”
“I gained so much from this trip, and especially enjoyed hearing the background stories, that I did not get in books, shared by Dr. Campbell and the guides,” said Eunbyul “Stella” Cho, a third-year M.Div. student in the tour group.
Included on the itinerary: a tour of John Rylands Library in Manchester, which houses the Wesley Family papers; a stop at The Old Wellington, an historic pub where Wesley met with some of his Manchester acquaintances; a tour of the Old Rectory in Epworth; and a visit to Wesley Memorial Church. Participants worshipped on July 24 at St. Andrews Church in Epworth, then traveled to Oxford, where Campbell led a walking tour highlighting significant places in John Wesley’s life, followed by a tour of Lincoln College. The group stayed in the dormitories at St. Anne’s College and attended Choral Evensong at Christ Church Cathedral.
Participants also attended a lecture with Dr. Daniel Reed from the Brookes University’s Centre for Methodism and Church History and enjoyed an exhibit of some of Lincoln College’s Wesley treasures. The group also traveled to London to tour Wesley’s Chapel, visit Methodist Central Hall Westminster, and walk along Wesley’s Way, including Bunhill Fields, Aldersgate Flame Memorial, Charterhouse School and St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Sara Cowley, a second-year M. Div. student on the trip, was deeply moved by the visit to The New Room in Bristol.
“The chapel was so peaceful,” she said. “I had a spiritual experience praying there. I could spend forever sitting there in quiet meditation. I truly believe that my relationship with God has transformed for the better because of my experience at The New Room. Incredible vibes in that chapel.”
“For me, a deep commitment to study God and God’s word is absolutely integral to the ministry to which I have been called,” said Gulledge. “As such, the opportunity to encounter the places of work, study, worship, and residence in the scholarly life of John Wesley were very meaningful for me.”
“I was surprised at how persecuted the Methodists used to be in the UK,” said Cowley. “The little details – like the choice to not put windows on the first floor of some of their worship spaces – cemented how difficult their lives would have been. The Wesleys did not have it easy!”
Several students commented that the trip made John Wesley more real.
“I have met John Wesley through books, but when I visited this place where he and his family actually lived, I realized that he was a normal person like me,” said Cho. “It reminded me that God works through a normal, ordinary person for God’s glory.”
Photos courtesy of Eunbyul “Stella” Cho.