Around the beginning of the 20th century a grop of Wesleyan ministers and laymen formed the 'Guild of Divine Service' to foster forms of liturgical worship, inicluding more frequent Communion services, in Methodism. Prominent among its members were men likeAgar Beet, H.H. Fowler andH.B. Workman. The Guild had a short life, ceasing in 1914, but was eventually succeeded by the Methodist Sacramental Fellowship.
The Sacramental Fellowship held its inaugural conference in 1935, with Alfred E. Whitham as its first President. Its founding led to misgivings elsewhere in Methodism. In response to criticisms of its emphasis on sacramental worship, the Conference of 1937 set up a committee of enquiry, which reported the following year, when J. Ernest Rattenbury defended the MSF against the charge that the position it gave to the Sacrament was 'not in harmony with the teaching and practice of the Methodist Church'.
The Fellowship seeks 'to reaffirm the Catholic faith', based on Holy Scripture and the Nicene Creed; 'to restore to Methodism the sacramental worship of the Universal Church and in particular the centrality of the Eucharist'; and 'to work and pray for the restoration of Catholic unity in Christ's Church'. It also embraces the sacrament of Baptism, believing it to be 'a sign and mark of entry into the Church and of regeneration by the Holy Spirit'. It supports Methodism's view of infant baptism as the norm, rejecting any usage purporting to be baptism of anyone known to be already baptized. Its 75th anniversary was celebrated in London in November 2010.
'With a consistent membership of around 300, the MSF is open to clergy and laity of all communions. Having begun as a Methodist "high Church" ginger group, the fellowship now seeks to persuade contemporary Methodist to live out their faith and practice in the mainstream of the Catholic tradition.'
Methodist Recorder, 18 November 2010