""I am still a Methodist, You can never get it's special glow out of your blood" Ellen Wilkinson
BBC Radio 4 and Methodism are core to my very being. Without realising it, they have shaped, nurtured, challenged and (to be honest) encouraged me to discover all I can about the world, while still not being content with the lot we are given. Therefore it was with some excitement that I picked up a tweet from Methodist Media highlighting a program broadcast on BBC Radio 4 challengingly titled “The Life and Death of Methodism”. Therefore it was with a nervous excitement that I tuned my dial to radio 4 and listened in, either I was going to plunge into a half hour utopia or (instead) realise that the media is great until you know about the subject they discuss....
The program, while 30 minutes long, managed to do fine justice to Methodism's long history and distinct charisms. Mixing personal testimony, diary extracts, fascinating facts and editorial narrative, this is a good 'primer' for anyone wondering why Methodism managed to capture the heart of the UK, then the world. By starting with discussions of the Holy Spirit and 'strangely warming' it was clear that this was taking Methodism seriously.
What was fascinating throughout all of this was the bizarre mix of personal and corporate. Individuals live were transformed and yet this was only possible because of corporate decisions towards training, engagement and access. Words such as 'participation' were thrown about and women spoke movingly about being allowed to have a voice in an otherwise patriarchal world. However the end conclusion of the program was simple - modern day methodism has slipped and just doesn't capture the spirit in a way accessible to the public.
Reflecting on the program it is clear the programs end summary 'methodism is dead, but it hasn't stopped trying' is both right and wrong. It was sad to hear Rev David Gamble, ex president of Conference, discuss how he saw Methodism as 'part of another church' in a hundred years time. This concept of giving up is a clear opposite to the very fire and enthusiasm that marked true methodist . To non methodists I urge you to listen and understand why Methodism had something important to say. To Methodists I urge you to listen and understand why our heritage is important, why our model and understanding of faith still has something to offer and I urge you all to listen and consider this - what principles do I hold dear, how are they shaped and what can I do to pass them on?