John Wesley's injunction was: 'Let all preaching places be built plain and decent, but no more expensive than is absolutely unavoidable.' It is arguable that the chapel he built in the City Road, London in 1778 ignored these guidelines, though it was less ornate than later generations made it. At any rate, by the early nineteenth century WM chapel debts were becoming burdensome. As early as 1817 a Fund for Distressed Chapels was instituted, followed in 1827 by a Chapel Loans Fund, to which some of the better-placed Trusts contributed. But the first Chapel Committee was not appointed until 1854, when William Kelk (d. 1866; e.m. 1820) submitted a paper on 'Our Chapel Debts' and was appointed the first full-time Chapel Committee Secretary.
The first PM Chapel Committee and General Chapel Fund had been set up as early as 1831. (Hugh Bourne wanted simple buildings that could easily be converted to cottages should the need arise.) The BCs, MNC and UMFC all made similar provision.
Following the 1932 Union a Chapel Affairs Department was established in Manchester, where the WM committee had been based since 1855. In 1973 this became the Property Division and from 1996 the Property Committee. This not only scrutinized and advised on local schemes, but included experts on legal and financial matters and was concerned with the link between architecture and theology. After the demise of the Property Committee as such, the task of scrutinizing schemes etc. was for individuals working in the Property Office to do, until a major change took place in 2009. At that point, the responsibility for giving consent to property schemes (now known as projects) was in many cases devolved to the District, with the Connexional Team still retaining consent-giving functions on a range of issues.
In 2016, a Property Development Committee was created by the Methodist Council, comprising some connexional and district officers and persons bringing particular expertise in property areas, with the responsibility of developing, maintaining and implementing a connexional property strategy for the use and, where appropriate, disposal of Methodist land and the use of its proceeds, so as to ensure that the Church's property resources are used so as to give maximum effect to their value and to missional opportunities.
See also Architecture; Trustees
Entry written by: JAV and PAK
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