The World Methodist Museum, at Lake Junaluska, N.C. USA, has unveiled two new exhibits this winter. An 18th century pulpit from High Town Methodist Church in Luton, England, has been loaned to the museum. It was from this very pulpit that the early founders and shapers of Methodism preached. It is the only pulpit in America from which both John Wesley and Francis Asbury preached. The pulpit was also used by early Methodist preachers such as Adam Clark. The second exhibit highlights the work and correspondence of Bishop Joshua Soule, an early leader in the Methodist Episcopal Church and the author of this church’s founding constitution. Letters of Bishop Soule have now been transcribed and give a glimpse into the life of a preacher and bishop of the mid-nineteenth century.
Methodist founders framed early views from this very pulpit
A most remarkable 18th Century pulpit is now on exhibit at the World Methodist Museum at Lake Junalsuka. From the High Town Methodist Church, Luton, England, it has been purchased by Mr. Matthew Kilgore of New York and is on loan to the Museum.
The historic significance of this pulpit is arguably unparalleled, having been in continual use from the organization of the Luton Parish Church from the 1700’s through the end of the 19th century. This original pulpit was used by John Wesley each time he visited the Luton Parish, first recorded in his Journal in 1767 and many times subsequent.
At the conference of 1767, Mr. Wesley appointed a zealous 22 year old Francis Asbury to the Bedfordshire circuit just north of London which included the Luton Parish Church. From the summer of 1767 to his setting sail as a missionary to America in 1772, Francis Asbury preached regularly and often at the Luton Parish Church throughout his time riding the Bedfordshire circuit. Little did the aspiring young circuit rider know that once he set sail for America, he would never again see his friend and mentor, Mr. Wesley, this side of Heaven. This is the only pulpit in America that had been preached from by both of the patriarchs of Methodism, John Wesley & Francis Asbury, Mr. Kilgore explained. Also used by Adam Clark and other early preachers, it is truly a piece of living history.
This is the original 18th century pulpit, according to Kilgore, which after being removed from regular use a century ago, has been preserved in the church museum because of its tremendous historical significance. Due to a recent church fundraiser to restore the church’s historic pipe organ, the trustees decided to sell this pulpit among other things to raise the needed funds.
“It is a great honor to have been able to purchase this most remarkable piece of Methodist Church history,” Mr. Kilgore said, “and after several months of coordinating customs, freight and the like, it finally landed.”
Delivery of the Pulpit
Donor Explains Significance of the Pulpit
New exhibit features paintings, orders and letters of Soule
Valuable early American paintings of Bishop Joshua Soule and his wife, Sara Allen Soule are now on display at the World Methodist Museum, Lake Junaluska.
“The paintings are very valuable examples of Early American paintings,” explains Museum Director Jackie Bolden, “but they are especially significant to the Museum because of the leadership of the subjects.” Bishop Soule was a leader in the Methodist Episcopal Church and the primary author of its founding constitution in 1808. He and his wife, Sara Allen, together had 11 children, and their portraits are special works of art. The first bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South (1846), Bishop Soule lived from 1781-1867. Already in the Museum’s collection were letters written to his wife as he traveled to and from California and Deacon’s Orders with his signature and seal. The letters have been recently transcribed, according to Bolden.
The life of Bishop Soule is a most fascinating one, and his letters are like reading a short story of steamboat travel from that time. “It is especially important that these collections of paintings and manuscripts have now been brought together,” explained Museum Director Jackie Bolden.
These early American paintings were given to the World Methodist Museum by Dr. and Mrs. James T. Laney. Dr. Laney was previously served as Ambassador to South Korea, President of Emory University, and Dean of the Candler School of Theology.