31st July 1974 – Bicentenary of Methodism on Jersey

Bicentenary of Methodism in Jersey

Jersey in the early 1700s had little connection with England, and the influence of Methodist teaching reached the island from Newfoundland, where many islanders travelled for the cod-fishing.

In 1732, 27 vessels sailed for cod-fishing or transport, and by the turn of the century this number had risen to 79, employing 2600 men.

Pierre Le Seur, an enterprising young man in the fish-curing industry, was deeply influenced while in Newfoundland by the preaching of Lawrence Coughlan, and returned to Jersey full of spiritual concern. He married in 1772, but found his wife unable to understand his problems.

He resolved to take up his cross and risk hostility, making open his convictions, and was joined at this time by another traveller returning from Newfoundland, Jean Tentin, who had also been influenced by Coughlan’s teaching and with a deep spiritual experience.

They met each evening for prayer and soon Pierre’s wife joined them. So Jersey Methodism began in 1775 with these three – “babes in Christ, but with His grace in their hearts”.

The first building for use as a chapel was bought on30 December 1790 by Robert Carr Brackenbury for £400, of which he contributed more than half.

The building was a house situated in the yard of No 22, Kings Street (then la rue de Derriere), and served its purpose for 24 years.

From Wesley’s Journal: -

Monday, 20th August 1787.

'About eleven we landed at St. Helier, and went straight to Mr. Brackenbury's house. It stands very pleasantly, near the end of the town… I preached in the evening to an exceeding serious congregation; and almost as many were present at five in the morning; whom I exhorted to go on to perfection; which many of them, Mr. Clarke informs me, are earnestly endeavouring to do.'

Tuesday, 21st August 1787

‘In the evening I was obliged to preach abroad on "Now is the day of salvation." I think a blessing seldom fails to attend that subject.'

Wednesday, 22nd August 1787

'In the evening, the room not containing the people, I was obliged to stand in the yard. I preached on Romans 3:22-3, and spoke exceeding plain; even the gentry heard with deep attention. How little things does God turn to His own glory! Probably many of these flock together because I have lived so many years. And perhaps even this may be the means of their living for ever.'

Thursday 23rd August 1787

 'I rode to St. Mary's, five or six miles from St. Helier, through shady, pleasant lanes. None at the house could speak English, but I had interpreters enough. In the evening our large room was thoroughly filled. I preached on "By grace are ye saved, through faith".

Mr. Brackenbury interpreted sentence by sentence; and God owned His word, though delivered in so awkward a manner; but especially in prayer: I prayed in English, and Mr. B. in French…'

Friday, 24th August 1787

'I returned to St. Helier. The high wind in the evening prevented my preaching abroad. However, on more than the house would contain, I enforced those awful words: "It is appointed unto men once to die."

I believe the word fell heavy on all that heard; and many wished to die the death of the righteous.'

Saturday, 25th August 1787

'In the evening God was with us in a very uncommon manner, while I opened and enforced those comprehensive words: "We preach Christ crucified". I know not when we have had such an opportunity: it seemed as if every soul present would have found the salvation of God!'

Sunday, 26th August 1787

'Dr. Coke preached at five, and I at nine o'clock. Afterwards I heard the English at Church; but the congregation was nothing near so large as ours at five in the morning. We had a French sermon in our room at three.

Afterwards I met the society; many of whom came from the country, and had no English; so Mr. Brackenbury interpreted for me again; afterwards we both prayed. Between five and six I began preaching in the yard; but before I had finished my sermon it poured down with rain; so I was obliged to conclude abruptly.'

Monday 27th August 1787

 (His return sailing to Southampton was delayed by adverse winds).

'In the evening, being appointed to preach at seven, I was obliged to preach within. We were extremely crowded; but the power of God was so manifested while I declared "We preach Jesus Christ and Him crucified" that we soon forgot the heat, and were glad of being detained a little longer than we intended.

Here we are shut up in Jersey, for how long we cannot tell. But it is all well; for Thou, Lord, has done it. It is my part to improve the time, as it is not likely I shall ever have another opportunity of visiting these Islands.'

Tuesday 28th August 1787

'Being still detained by contrary winds, I preached at six in the evening to a larger congregation than ever, in the assembly room. It conveniently contains five or six hundred people.

Most of the gentry were present; and I believe felt that God was here in an uncommon degree.

Being still detained, I preached there again the next evening, to a larger congregation than ever.

I now judged I had fully delivered my own soul; and in the morning, the wind serving for Guernsey, and not for Southampton, I returned thither not unwillingly; since it was not by my choice, but by the clear providence of God; for in the afternoon I was offered the use of the assembly room, a spacious chamber ion the market-place, which would contain at least thrice as many as our former room.

I willingly accepted the offer, and preached at six to such a congregation as I had not seen here before; and the word seemed to sink deep into their hearts.

I trust it will not return empty.'

John and Charles Wesley