The MHSI Report to Conference 2016
One hundred years ago the Belfast Conference of 1916 resolved that ‘the time has come for the establishment of a Methodist Historical Society in this country …’ It was 1926 before the Society fully materialised but Conference had set in place a commitment which still motivates the Society.
A century on it is a matter of gratitude that the significance of that project is increasingly recognised. It is one which Prof. David Fitzpatrick of TCD recently described as ‘a remarkable collection of records unmatched by other churches in Ireland’ and the late Prof. Keith Jeffery who paid tribute to ‘The Irish Methodist Archives, such a special treasure house, not just for Irish Methodism but for all types and varieties of history here and overseas.’
The responsibility for caring for that collection is under constant review. The most immediate issue facing the Society is the replacement of the Environmental Control Unit in the manuscript store at a cost of almost £9,000. Approaches have been made for grants to a number of charities. To date, approximately half the cost has been secured but the Society appeals to the Connexion for sympathetic consideration, not least in the contributions from the Circuits and Societies in giving to the Society’s annual appeal.
Earlier this year the MHSI received a hugely significant collection of autograph letters. Consisting of 22 items, there were ten letters from John Wesley and five from Thomas Coke to Arthur Keen of Dublin. There were also four previously unpublished ‘Remonstrance’ letters of 1789 from Dublin to John Wesley and a further three miscellaneous letters. The Society is most grateful to Mr David English of Dun Laoghaire through whom these letters have come to the Society.
It was a pleasure to welcome ‘home’ Prof. Billy Abraham of Dallas, to deliver the Annual Lecture in October 2015 on ‘The Place of Methodism in the History of Christianity’. Last July the Society jointly sponsored with the Charles Wesley Society, a lecture in Belfast by Prof. Kenneth Newport on ‘Charles Wesley in Ireland’.
The Society is grateful to the Pettigo and Irvinestown Societies for hosting the annual pilgrimage in May in a tour which also visited the well-preserved cemetery at Terwinney.
The faithful group of volunteers who staff the archives has been joined by a new member, Mrs Alma Abbs, who brings her experience as a librarian to the team. The Society pays tribute to the commitment and professionalism of all who work each week at the Edgehill home of the MHSI.
Once again the Society expresses its gratitude for the generous support both financial and prayerful of circuits throughout the Connexion. Without this and the support of its members the work of work of collecting, conserving and making available the enormous heritage of Irish Methodism would be impossible.