Open air

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John Wesley’s open air preaching (before 1815)
By permission of the Trustees of Wesley’s Chapel, City Road, London
[click on the picture to enlarge it]


One of the most innovative aspects of the Methodist movement, at the beginning, was open-air preaching. It attracted a working class public that had partially deserted the existing churches, and radically called into question the traditional parish structures.

It was in front of a school that John Wesley preached in the open-air in Edinburgh. His fellow minister George Whitefield preferred to use the orphanage park for this.


One of the commonplaces in Methodist iconography therefore represents open-air preaching, as this painting from before 1815 and a stained glasss window of the London church of St. Botolph’s, Aldersgate examplify.

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Stained-glass window at St. Botolph’s (1955)
[click on the picture to enlarge it]


In the Anglican church of St. Botolph’s, very near the place where John Wesley had the personal revelation that led him to found Methodism, a modern stained glass window commemorates open-air preaching, which started in 1738 at Moorfields.


The central figure naturally represents John Wesley, dressed in clerical attire. We can see in the congregation young children, and the poor, but also a pastor and a notable wearing a sword. St. Paul’s Cathedral can clearly be distinguished in the background.

Wesley also had chapels in numerous cities.