National service to mark John Wesley's 300th anniversary

  The President of the Methodist Church, the Rev Ian White, will lead prayers at a national service of thanksgiving for the life and ministry of one of Britain's greatest Christians, John Wesley. The service will be held at Lincoln Cathedral tomorrow, the date of 300th anniversary of the birth of the founder of Methodism. And many of the 6,100 Methodist churches across Britain are organising their own services, exhibitions and other festivities to mark the anniversary. The birthplace of John Wesley - Epworth Old Rectory - is among historical churches and museums across Britain set to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the birth of the founder of the Methodist movement during Summer 2003. John Wesley recently featured in the BBC's Top 100 Great Britons, those people who have been most influential on the life of the British Isles. In his latest biography, Roy Hattersley describes how "Wesley's influence on the new industrial working class would play a major part in shaping society during the century of Britain's greatest power and influence leading to Methodism becoming a worldwide religion and the inspiration of 20th-century television evangelism". Epworth Old Rectory is on the site of the former north Lincolnshire house where John Wesley was born in 1703 and spent his formative years. In 1709 Wesley narrowly escaped from a devastating fire that destroyed the original rectory. Wesley's father, Samuel - a Church of England clergyman himself - oversaw the building of the current house. The Old Rectory now houses a popular museum in one of the most tranquil parts of rural Britain. John Wesley was born on 17 June 1703. He became a renowned preacher and spiritual leader of the 'Methodist revival'. He lived and died as a Church of England clergyman, keeping his vow to remain with the church of his birth. But the movement that he founded eventually became the largest Free Church in Britain. And with some 70 million followers, Methodism is today one of the world's largest Christian Churches. A series of special exhibitions and events for the 300th anniversary are taking place this year. For more information visit: www.wesley2003.org.uk