Wesley Guild

A youth movement launched in 1896 by Charles H. Kelly and William B. Fitzgerald, who became its first connexional secretary. At the WM Conference that year opposition from conservatives such as Dinsdale T. Young, who were suspicious of any suggestion of 'entertainment', was counterbalanced by the support of Hugh Price Hughes and J. Scott Lidgett. The Guild was conceived as 'a Young People's Society,... holding weekly or periodical meetings for devotional, literary and social purposes', together with an emphasis on Christian service. Its motto was 'One heart, one way' and members renewed their vows annually in the light of the Guild Charter, which spoke of 'a whole-hearted consecration of Body, Soul and Spirit to the Lord Jesus Christ' and of the 'diligent culture of the mind' in order to 'give God thoughtful and intelligent service.'

The Guild provided an effective means of recruiting and training Sunday School teachers, local preachers and other church officers. Fitzgerald's vigorous and enterprising leadership was effected through the Guild Manual and a monthly magazine. The wide range of its activities proved a winning attraction and in the first decade, reinforced by vigorous recruiting methods, local Guilds grew from 620 to 1,920 with a membership of 133,228.

Guild Holidays began early in the new century; the first National Guild Conference was held in Sheffield at Easter 1907. Other activities included a Christian Youth Campaign and a Pen and Camera Club. An important part of its commitment to service was its support of medical missions in West Africa: Ilesha hospital, West Nigeria (built 1922 and completely rebuilt 1952); Ituk Mbang, East Nigeria (1930); and Segbwema, Sierra Leone, which developed from a dispensary into a fully equipped hospital in the 1930s. In 1943 the 'Methodist Guild Department' became part of the new Methodist Youth Department, but later reverted to its original title 'Wesley Guild'.

The Guild celebrated its centenary in 1996, but ten years later was a victim of the connexional cost-cutting exercise that deprived it of its financial support. Despite this it has continued to flourish, with a National Executive, a regular Newsletter and a website at http://www.wesleyguild.org.uk. Its Nigeria Health Care Project (http://www.nhcp.org.uk) reached a total of £1 million in 2010.

  • Leonard E. Ingram, Fifty Years for Youth (1945)
  • Frank H. Cumbers, The Story of the Wesley Guild (revised edition, London, 1983)
  • 'Eighty Years Onward, 1916-1996, to commemorate the 80th anniversary

> of the opening of Abbot Hall, Kents Bank, Grange-Over-Sands, as the > first Wesley Guild Guest House'>

  • A History of the Methodist Church in Great Britain, vol.4 (1988), pp.599-601
  • Methodist Recorder, 25 May 1939, 18 January 1996
  • William Leary, Wesley Guild: the first hundred years (1995)
  • Gareth Lloyd, [Catalogue of] The Wesley Guild manuscript collection (Manchester, 1996)
  • Martin Ellis, 'The Beginnings of Methodist Guild Holidays and its Link with the Methodist Church', in West Midlands Methodist History Society, Bulletin 10(9), Autumn 2018, pp.53-84