St Paul’s Cathedral churchyard, London, England
His right had is reaching upwards, his cassock is billowing behind him and he’s taking a step forward. John Wesley is a man on the move. A man with places to go. And indeed, John Wesley lived his life moving, going places and always on the road. It’s said that during his career as a preacher, he travelled more than 250,000 miles across the British Isles. And everywhere he went, he took his message of peace and his campaign for social reform. John was born in 1703, the 15th of his parents’ 19 children. His father was the Rector of a poor Anglican parish in Epworth, north Lincolnshire, and he was committed to the care and welfare of local widows and orphans. Something of that kindness rubbed off on John who grew up believing that being a Christian didn’t just mean turning up to church on a Sunday, it meant living a life of charity and goodness. John went on to study at Oxford University, was ordained a deacon and became a Fellow of Lincoln College in 1726. There, he set up the Holy Club for students to meet and discuss theology. The club quickly became known as ‘Methodist’ because of its members’ commitment to studying the Bible methodically. Soon, that method had spilled out into the lives of those students. They tried to serve God in their everyday lives by acting only in ways that would please Him, by acting methodically in goodness and compassion. For John, salvation was only possible through love and understanding for your fellow man. He campaigned for prison reform, universal education and spoke against slavery and taking his message of compassion to the people became his life’s work. It’s said he delivered no fewer than 40,000 sermons in his 40-odd years on the road. And it worked. Today, Methodism is seen as a denomination of the Protestant faith, and has 80million adherents across the world. This statue shows John on his journey across the country, and on his journey towards acceptance. It sits here in St Paul’s Churchyard because in May 1738, John Wesley worshipped in the nearby Chancel of the Cathedral. While there, he felt the warmth of God’s love in his heart, and would later write in his journal that in that moment, he knew God’s love was free for all who wanted it. The words on the plinth under his feet read quite simply, By Grace ye are saved through Faith. John Wesley’s message lives on.