View from the Vicar
John Wesley, one of the founders of the Methodist Church, was first ordained as a deacon in the Church of England in 1725. On 16th October 1771, he wrote in his Journal: "I preached at South Leigh. Here it was that I preached my first sermon, 46 years ago.” I’m sure some of you have seen the plaque on the pulpit at St. James Church which reads: On this pulpit the Rev John Wesley sometime fellow of Lincoln College Oxford preached his first sermon AD1725.
However research has discovered a copy of his first sermon, and in John Wesley's hand on the cover is the inscription, "The first Sermon I ever wrote." Again, on the back cover, are listed some of the places and times of preaching this sermon, corresponding to several diary entries for his preaching during the period 1725-27. Of particular interest is a notation that he preached this sermon at South Leigh in 1727, confirming that, "Here it was that I preached my first sermon", although it was probably not the first preaching of that sermon. As was frequently the case, his memory was less than precise as to the date.
Let’s face it, who can remember what they were doing 46 years ago… interestingly, on his return to South Leigh, he wasn't allowed to preach in the church and had to preach outside. The Methodist renewal had an impact all over West Oxfordshire; many people discovered faith and experienced peace at a time when there was much chaos and confusion in the world.
Now obviously we don’t live in chaotic and confusing times… or do we? Many people are still discovering hope and security through faith in God. However, at the same time rural churches are finding it difficult to support weekly services. We are fortunate at South Leigh that with a good team of volunteers, lay ministers, retired clergy & Nick Pike, our associate vicar, we have been able to continue to offer weekly services. We don’t however want to take this for granted and so are trying to think creatively about future options that might make it easier for people to connect with their neighbours and discover more about the faith that brings hope to so many.
We would love to receive your thoughts about how the church can be more involved in your life and the life of the village.
We hope to see you on Easter Day at the church and in the meantime, may I wish you God’s peace and blessing.
Rev. Simon Kirby, Vicar of St. James, South Leigh & St. Mary’s, Cogges