United Methodists will celebrate Heritage Sunday on May 21, just days before our observance of historic Aldersgate Sunday on May 24.
Observed on the third Sunday of May (to correspond with Aldersgate Day), Heritage Sunday calls the denomination to honor its heritage by committing itself to the continuing call of God known and spread initially by John and Charles Wesley, along with others in the early Methodist movement and eventually here in America.
United Methodists celebrate Aldersgate Sunday to mark the day their founder John Wesley experienced and indeed, felt God’s life-changing assurance of his salvation. It is an ideal day for members to reflect on our own faith journeys and what it means to be Christian and United Methodist.
UM Communications offers a short, inspirational video (about 3 minutes long) about that seminal experience. See it and read the transcript at How Aldersgate Changed John Wesley. In the video, the Rev. Fred Day, head of the General Commission on Archives and History and former pastor of Historic St. George’s UMC in Philadelphia, explains Wesley’s revelation and what it can mean for us today.
Like their founder, the early Methodists were especially concerned about inviting people to experience God’s grace and to grow in their knowledge and love of God through disciplined Christian living. They placed primary emphasis on Christian living, on putting faith and love into action. This emphasis on what Wesley referred to as “practical divinity” has continued to be a hallmark of United Methodism today.
The denomination’s website, wwwumc.org, also offers Can God really love me?, a responsive reflection that recalls Wesley’s search for a clear sense of his own salvation. It refers to his own crisis of faith, which many people must confront, before his Aldersgate experience convinced him in both his head and his heart that God truly loved him.
The church, whose mission is to “make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world,” is not a place for perfect people, but it is for those who are “going on to perfection.” For us, being made in the image of Christ is a lifelong process that begins with acknowledging God’s grace and love and accepting that we are forgiven.
To enhance your church’s Heritage Sunday celebration, consider using a Heritage Sunday Litany composed by renowned United Methodist historian Charles Yrigoyen, of the Eastern PA Conference. It can be found on the UM Discipleship Ministries website.
For more Heritage Sunday information and ideas, visit the General Commission on Archives and History (GCAH) website and read An Invitation to Heritage Sunday 2017: “Milestones” — Calling Local Churches to Discover and Celebrate Their History.
Also, want a fresh, mildly humorous explanation of Heritage Sunday? Check out Chuck Knows Church: Heritage Sunday for an off-center look at this special day and suggestions for how your congregation can celebrate it.
Or do you just want to know more about our denomination’s history…that is, more but not too much more? Well, you’re in luck. Interpreter, the United Methodist ministry leaders journal, just published “A (Brief) History of the People of The United Methodist Church” in its May-June issue.
Finally, look for more information we will post this week about our celebration at Annual Conference (June 15-17) of “Passion, Perseverance and Partnership! 250 Years of Methodism in America.” We will celebrate our beginnings as an early Methodist Society meeting in 1767 at what is today Historic St. George’s UMC in Philadelphia.