And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:24-25)
On this day in 1743 eight men met in a house in what is now the outskirts of Caerphilly. At that time, the Church of England also covered Wales and the group contained a mixture of Anglican clergy and laymen. Some were Welsh, but chairing the meeting was an Englishman - one George Whitefield. Whitefield was a son of Gloucester, and had gained a reputation as a mighty evangelist on both sides of the Atlantic.
In Wales a great religious revival had sprung up under the preaching of Daniel Rowland and Howell Harris (amongst others). There was a great need to offer spiritual care to the newly converted, and this caused some concern. A conference had been held to address this issue, but there was still much to do. In fact Harris had written “I hope our dear Lord has inclined Brother Whitefield to come and see ye Brethren in Wales & to settle all in order”.
Harris’ prayer was not in vain. As the eight men met - half ordained, half lay - at the home of Thomas Price a system of rules and regulations was drawn up. ‘Overseers’ were appointed to districts of Wales. ‘Exhorters’ were set in place to encourage the faithful.
So it was that the first Methodist Association was begun, and its principles were focussed on encouraging each and every Christian. True, there were regulations but their focus was not on an institution but on the individual. Let us never forget that the church is in truth the people, and not the building or the hierarchy!