Some personal reports from people attending some previous Wesley Fellowship residential conferences:

Reports Wesley Fellowship Conference
Cliff College, October 2000

We have four reports, the first from the residential conference held in April 2007 at the Hayes Conference Centre at Swanwick, Derbyshire; the others from the residential conference held in October 2000 at Cliff College, Derbyshire. Click these links to read the recollections of:

The first account is by Revd Harold Moore at Swanwick, April 2007:

A personal report from Harold E. Moore:

A correspondent in The Times on Easter Saturday, 7 April 2007, complained that, although the Maundy Thursday’s edition had been ‘flush with articles on Christianity,’ the focus in all of them had been slanted towards the ‘curious and the negative’ aspects of the faith – such as the Dean of St. Albans berating his God as a ‘psychopath.’ On that same Thursday my wife and I had been travelling home to Darlington after spending three glorious days at the Wesley Fellowship conference held at The Hayes, to celebrate the tercentenary of Charles Wesley’s birth on the 18th December 1707. The traffic on the M1 was horrendous but our hearts and minds were elevated and refreshed. We had shared in a marvellous retreat and our minds were ringing with the poetic glories of Charles Wesley’s great hymns.

The Rev Dr John Newton, former President of the Methodist Conference, was in great form and gave four exquisite papers on Charles Wesley: his ‘Families’, as ‘Preacher of the Gospel’, the ‘Atonement in his Hymns’, and finally (with John) as ‘Brothers in Arms.’ Sadly, Charles often seems to be overshadowed by his illustrious brother but we were allowed to gain a new snap-shot of this gifted poet and preacher, who temperamentally was very much the son of his father Samuel, sometimes hot headed and certainly more emotional and soft-hearted than his elder brother. We were given glimpses of him as a young man who at Oxford refused to ‘be made a saint all at once,’ but who became a most effective itinerant teacher, a prolific gospel poet, a staunch Anglican clergyman, a loyal husband to Sally Gwynne and a loving father to his three gifted children, and whose death (reported to John while visiting Bolton) turned that most unemotional man to tears as he announced and sung Charles’ superb hymn – Wrestling Jacob, with the words:

Come, O Thou Traveller unknown
Whom still I hold, but cannot see!
My company before is gone,
And I am left alone with Thee.

The lecture devoted to Wesley’s teaching on the Atonement seemed to end abruptly and I felt we were not given a full insight into Wesley’s exposition of his favourite theories of the atonement. However it prompted a discussion that compared Wesley hymns on the Cross with the words ‘When I survey the Wondrous Cross’, of Isaac Watts, who follows Abélard in valuing our Lord’s death simply as a moral influence on our lives but is really devoid of God’s regenerating and reconciling grace, which is so characteristic of Wesley’s hymns, with lines like:

Set up Thy kingdom in my heart,
And make me rich, for I am poor. (MHB No. 349)

Over 70 people shared in Christian fellowship at the Love Feast, and the communion was rich and warm. The Wesley Fellowship is not exclusive to Methodists and the group included scholars and believers (such as Salvationists, Nazarenes, and others in the Wesleyan tradition) who share the same faith in Christ Jesus. Often they are more fervent and knowledgeable, and exult in Wesley’s Arminianism and his emphasis on Scriptural and Social Holiness. It was good to meet friends new and old. Some I had not seen for nearly 50 years. I was particularly struck by the generous gift of prayer; usually extemporary, fervent and eloquent, liberally sprinkled with scriptural texts and quotations from our great hymns. This gift is now so rare amongst modern Methodists, but once common in my boyhood days. The whole experience was a tonic to our souls and a breath of fresh air to the whole body of believers gathered together in one place. ‘God was in this place…it was the house of God and the gate of heaven’ (Gen 28:17).

The conference also included the 2007 Annual Maynard James Memorial Lecture, given by Dr Herbert McGonigle on the hymns of Charles Wesley. It was a real tour de force. It is to be published - and anyone interested in Wesley’s hymns needs to be sure to obtain a copy! All in all, we enjoyed a wonderful, enriching time, and returned to our homes, churches and tasks with brighter visions and renewed consecration. Praise be to God!


The next report is from Herbert McGonigle, at Wesley Fellowship conference held at Cliff College, October 2000:

I am writing this with the 'warm glow' that lives on from our very wonderful residential two-day WF Conference at Cliff College in October. From the Introductions to the Benediction it was indeed a memorable time. A fellow-attender summed it up when he said to me: 'If our members had known how good this Conference was going to be, we wouldn't have room for all who would have wanted to come!' There were four Papers presented, top in quality and which, hopefully, will be available in published form. With careful research and evaluation Bill Graham informed us about the education of John Wesley's preachers, illustrating how Wesley wanted his itinerants to have both warmed hearts and informed heads. John Colwell broke new ground in showing how both Thomas Aquinas and John Wesley saw biblical perfection in terms of love to God and man. Dr Colwell's brief personal testimony to Christ's power in his own life at a time of particular need made his presentation spiritually challenging as well as academically stimulating. Geoffrey Fewkes' Paper on Reader Harris, the Founder of the League of Prayer, introduced a subject that was new to many of those present and Geoffrey made it 'live' with his usual animated style and use of overhead notes. And what can I say about Dr Bill Parkes' Paper on the American Camp Meeting evangelist, Lorenzo Dow? As expected, it was very carefully researched and delivered with clarity and conviction. But it was more - it was a salutary reminder to all of us, especially preachers - to make sure we continue to walk humbly before the Lord. Bill reminded us that Dow, once a most popular Holiness evangelist both in America and Britain, had a very sad end to his life and ministry. But you must read this Paper (and the others) for yourself when it is published by the WF! The programme also included two uplifting expository sermons from Col. David Guy and Mr Paul Taylor, a very moving Love Feast conducted by Bill Parkes and the special fellowship that marks all meetings of the WF. All too soon this wonderful Conference was over and we were saying our farewells to one another…


The next account was from Denis and Virginia Haywood who were then new members attending their first Wesley Fellowship Conference:

Somewhat 'tongue in cheek' we first mention the wonderful setting of Cliff College in which the Conference met - as we are both permanent residents who work at the College and we are somewhat biased!
We both felt humbled and privileged to 'sit at the feet' of people who obviously had well researched and knew their subject thoroughly, but who also had a real passion for it and the Wesleyan tradition. We were led through interesting theological insights and were enlightened into the lives of those connected with the Wesleys or whose theology ran parallel to theirs. Most of all those insights led us straight to Christ Himself, the source wherein the Wesleys laid their foundations.

The papers were: 'The Education of Wesley's Preachers', given by Bill Graham; 'Stages in Salvation: John Wesley and Reader Harris', given by Geoffrey Fewkes; 'Offending in Many Things: John Wesley and Thomas Aquinas on Sin in the Christian', given by John Colwell; and 'Lorenzo Dow', given by Bill Parkes.

We were enthralled by the two wonderful preaching services where the preachers were Paul Taylor and David Guy. How blessed we were to listen to these two persons; it was excellent preaching of the kind hard to find today; which is vital to hear in today's world, and which we crave to hear from our pulpits and preachers. From each of the Papers and the two preaching services there were valuable truths and new insights to take in and reflect on. Interestingly the two preacher's thoughts dovetailed beautifully with thoughts presented through the Papers and we are certain that God's Holy Spirit had been at work in this, as He revealed and reinforced His truths.

We were struck much by the warmth and strength of the Fellowship. Members of the Fellowship for barely a year, we found the Conference an excellent opportunity to get to know people in a way which is almost impossible over the usual two one-day sessions held annually. The Love Feast was a wonderful experience of openness and sharing between the members, particularly in testimony. That atmosphere flowed over into the following day's early morning Prayer Meeting as, in love, people (some mentioned the previous evening) were brought before the Lord in prayer. This prayer was both fervent and sincere and, in this, the strength and caring of the Fellowship was confirmed.

Based on our impressions, we commend the Conference to those who, as yet, have been unable to attend. A Wesley Fellowship residential Conference, with the time spent together, is a learning, sharing, and affirming experience. It went far beyond the high expectations we had anticipated.


Ken and Maureen Rose also recorded their memories of their time at the Wesley Fellowship Conference 2000:

In October we were privileged to attend the Wesley Fellowship conference at Cliff College in Derbyshire. It was a real treat. As well as enjoying the fellowship, Charles Wesley's great hymns, a lively time of Questions and Answers, a Love Feast, and some stirring preaching, our perceptions and understanding were stretched by four high quality papers, opening up areas which (for us at least) were quite new. Bill Graham's erudite and fact-packed talk on 'The Education of Wesley's Preachers' left us wondering whether Mr Wesley was ever able to put into full effect his incredible vision for the education of his preachers and their children, but it will surely help us to counter the view, still expressed in some circles, that academic study is somehow 'unspiritual'. The second presentation was by Geoffrey Fewkes, a Baptist minister from Swansea, entitled 'Stages in Salvation: John Wesley and Reader Harris'. Harris, a QC by profession, founded the League of Prayer, a holiness ministry, in 1891, and Geoffrey's paper highlighted some significant differences between the original Wesleyan teaching and some of its later developments in the Holiness movements. Another Baptist minister, Dr John Colwell, from Spurgeon's College, spoke to us about 'John Wesley and Thomas Aquinas on Sin in the Christian'. We (and, we suspect, most of those present) had never associated Aquinas in any way with John Wesley, so it was a real revelation. We wanted more! Lastly, Bill Parkes gave us a fascinating picture of Lorenzo Dow, the eccentric American preacher who made a number of visits to Britain around the turn of the Eighteenth Century. Dow was influential in stimulating the first Camp Meetings on Mow Cop, which themselves played a major part in the birth of Primitive Methodism. Sadly, he ended his life in the toils of Freemasonry: an awful warning to all of us in any kind of ministry, and a reminder that however great the gifts God has given us, and however powerful the anointing of His Spirit, we need always to hold ourselves accountable to our brothers and sisters in order to avoid 'making a shipwreck' of the Faith. We returned home stimulated and challenged, grateful for a conference that had combined sound historical scholarship with a surprising amount of relevant application for today. We had indeed enjoyed a 'feast'. The food served up by the College chefs wasn't bad, either!


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