Guernsey, Channel Islands

Jerseyman Pierre Arrivé, then living in Guernsey, heard of the Methodist movement and while visiting his native Jersey in 1785 was taken to a class meeting. He was converted and invited R.C. Brackenbury to visit Guernsey. Brackenbury did so and then wrote to Thomas Coke, asking for another preacher to be sent out. Coke lost no time in visiting the Channel Islands himself and persuaded the young bi-lingual preacher Jean de Quet(t)eville to go from Jersey to mission Guernsey. He arrived early in 1786 and the island was included among the places named in Coke's missionary appeal that year. In the autumn de Queteville was joined byAdam Clarke, who spent three years on the island. John Wesley himself paid a visit in August 1787. The first chapel was opened in Rue Le Marchant, St. Peter Port, in 1789; Ebenezer chapel, in 1816. The first Sunday School was opened in 1808.

The BCs sent their first preachers, Mary O'Bryan and Mary Ann Werrey, in 1823. Their first chapel was opened in St. Peter Port in 1826. The 52 members reported in Guernsey that year grew to 268 at the time of the formation of the United Methodist Church in 1907, but the decades before the union of 1932 were a period of decline.

PM work began in 1832, when sailors from Guernsey encountered revivalism in South Shields and succeeded in getting a preacher, George Cosens, sent to the island by the Sunderland and South Shields circuit. An outbreak of cholera gave an impetus to the cause, but the PM mission was never strong and in 1933 it amalgamated with the WM English Circuit.

A WM secession from Ebenezer chapel, St. Peter Port in 1836 led to the establishment of a Methodist New Connexion society. William Booth paid three visits between 1854 and 1860, during his years in the MNC ministry. A substantial church, St. Paul's, was opened in St. Peter Port in 1862.

There was more scope for English work than in Jersey. Methodist Union resulted in a single English circuit in 1933, but the French and English circuits remained separate until recent years. A single island circuit was established as recently as 1976.


John Wesley's Journal:

August 1787: 'The first thing I observed in [St. Peter Port] was the very narrow streets, and exceeding high houses. But we quickly went on to Mr. de Jersey's, hardly a mile from the town. Here I found a most cordial welcome, both from the master of the house and all his family. I preached at seven, in a large room, to as deeply a serious a congregation as I ever saw, on "Jesus Christ, of God made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption." '

Thursday, 16th. 'I had a very serious congregation at five in a large room of Mr. de Jersey's house…

In the evening I preached at the other end of the town, in our own preaching-house. So many people squeezed in (though not near all who came) that it was as hot as a stove. But this none seemed to regard; for the word of God was sharper than a two-edged sword.

Friday, 17th: 'I waited upon the Governor, and spent half-an-hour very agreeably…

'In the evening I did not attempt to go into the house, but stood near it, in the yard, surrounded with tall, shady trees, and proclaimed to a large congregation, "God is a Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth." I believe many were cut to the heart this hour, and some not a little comforted.'

Saturday, 18th. 'Dr. Coke and I dined at the Governor's. I was well pleased to find other company. We conversed seriously, for upward of an hour, with a sensible, well-bred, agreeable man. In the evening I preached to the largest congregation I have seen here, on Jeremiah 8:22; and they were all attention. Surely God will have a people in this place.

Sunday 19th. 'Joseph Bradford preached at six in the morning at Montplaisir les Terres to a numerous congregation. I preached at half-an-hour past eight, and the house contained the congregation. At ten I went to the French Church, where there was a large and well-behaved congregation. At five we had the largest congregation of all; of whom I took a solemn and affectionate leave, as it is probable I may not see them any more till we meet in Abraham's bosom.'

[But in the event contrary winds delayed his return from Jersey to the mainland and he found himself back in Guernsey.]

Thursday, 30th: 'We set out about nine, and reached St. Peter's in the afternoon. Good is the will of the Lord. I trust He has something more for us to do here also. After preaching to a larger congregation than was expected on so short a notice, on "God was in Christ, reconciling the world un to Himself," I returned to Mon Plaisir, to stay just as long as it should please God. I preached there in the morning, Friday the 31st, to a congregation serious as death…

'I designed to preach abroad in the evening, but the furious wind drove us into the house. However, our labour was not lost, for many felt the sharpness of the two-edged sword while I was expounding Gal. vi.14.'

September 1: '… In the evening, the storm driving us into the house again, I strongly exhorted a very genteel audience (such as I have rarely seen in England) to "ask for the old paths and walk therein." '

Sunday, 2 September: 'Being still pent up by the north-east wind, Dr. Coke preached at six in the morning to a deeply affected congregation. I preached at eight on Rom. viii.33. At one Mr. Vivian, a local preacher, preached in French, the language of the island. At five, as the house would not contain half the congregation, I preached in a tolerably sheltered place on "the joy there is in heaven over one sinner that repenteth"; and both high and low seemed to hear it gladly. I then designed to meet the society, but could not. The people pressed so eagerly on every side that the house was filled presently, so that I could only give a general exhortation to walk worthily of their profession.

'I was in hopes of sailing in the morning, Monday the 3rd; but the storm so increased that it was judged impracticable. The congregation in the evenings increased every day, so I trust we were detained for good purpose. They appeared to be more and more affected; so that I believe we were not detained for nothing.'

Tuesday, 4. 'The storm continued, so that we could not stir… In the evening I fully delivered my own soul, by showing what it is to build upon a rock. But still we could not sail, the wind being quite contrary, as well as exceeding high. It was the same on Wednesday…'

  • R.D. Moore, Methodism in the Channel Islands (1952)
  • Arthur T. Mignot, '"Mon Plaisir" and the Methodists of Guernsey', in WHS Proceedings, 53 pp.42-45
  • David M. Chapman, Chapel and Swastika: Methodism in the Channel Islands during the German Occupation 1940-1945 (Jersey, 2009)