Two Jerseymen involved in the fishery trade with Newfoundland were influenced by Laurence Coughlan’s ministry and on their return home in 1774 formed the first Methodist society in the Channel Islands. In 1783 R.C. Brackenbury responded to an appeal for a bilingual preacher and spent the next seven years in the islands, supported by the native preacher Jean de Quet(t)eville. Thomas Coke paid a visit early in 1786 and John Wesley himself in 1787.
The medieval 'Chapelle de Notre Dame des Pas' was purchased by Pierre Le Sueur in 1782. (The first purpose-built chapel was at St. Ouen in 1809; replaced in 1871.) A house on King Street and Don Street, St. Helier, was bought in 1790 by Abraham Bishop on behalf of the Methodists and converted into a chapel. This was replaced by Don Street chapel in 1813, which accommodated both English and French congregations until 1827, when the former moved to Wesley Street chapel (enlarged 1842; replaced 1846; closed 1956). In 1847 the French congregation moved to a new chapel in Grove Place (enlarged, 1904), where it was joined by the Wesley Street congregation in 1956 and by the Aquila Road (formerly PM) congregation in 1992. Grove Place was rebuilt and renamed the St. Helier Methodist Centre in 2000.
The Jersey Ladies College, established in 1880, was sold and ceased to be a Methodist school following the 1902 Education Act.
A BC mission was launched in August 1823 by Mary Ann Werrey. A small chapel was built facing Le Geyt Street in 1825, and rebuilt with a frontage on Great Union Road in 1850. Further enlarged in 1864, it closed in 1960 and became the Aquila Youth Centre until demolished and replaced by housing.
PM work began in 1832, under the auspices of the Sunderland and South Shields Circuit. Its pioneer, a West Indian, George Cosens, concentrated his attention on Guernsey, while his work in Jersey was consolidated by Joseph Haughton. The first chapel was built on Aquila Road in 1839, enlarged 1866; the society became part of the St. Helier Methodist Centre in 1992 and the last service was held at Aquila Road in 2000.
John Wesley's Journal:
20 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. ' … 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. '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. '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. '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. '… 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. '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. [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. '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.'