Aldersgate Day

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Aldersgate Day
John Wesley memorial Aldersgate.jpg
This monument marks the approximate location of John Wesley's "Aldersgate experience", in London. It features Wesley's account of the experience, taken from his journal.[1]
SignificanceCommemorates the founding of John Wesley's ministry and the Methodist movement
CelebrationsChurch services
Date24 May
Next time24 May 2022 (2022-05-24)
Related toAldersgate Sunday

Aldersgate Day, or Wesley Day,[2] is a commemorative day celebrated by Methodist Christians on 24 May or the nearest Sunday. It recalls the day in 1738 when Church of England priest John Wesley attended a group meeting in Aldersgate, London, where he received an experience of assurance of his New Birth.[3][4] This was the pivotal event in Wesley's life that ultimately led to the development of the Methodist movement in Britain and America.[5]

In the calendars of the Methodist Church of Great Britain and the United Methodist Church the event is publicly commemorated in church services on the Sunday before 24 May, called Aldersgate Sunday.[6][7]

The "Aldersgate experience"[edit]

According to his journal,[8] Wesley found that his enthusiastic gospel message had been rejected by his Anglican brothers. Heavy-hearted, he reluctantly attended a group meeting that evening in a Moravian chapel on Aldersgate Street in London.[9] It was there, while someone was reading from Martin Luther's Preface to the Epistle to the Romans, that he felt that his heart was "strangely warmed".[8] He describes it as:

I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.[3][8]

Daniel L. Burnett called this event Wesley's "Evangelical Conversion", even though he was already a priest.[5] In 1739 Wesley broke with the Moravians and founded a new society, which would become the Methodist movement.[10]

Date and commemoration[edit]

Methodists may privately commemorate the event on 24 May. Churches will also mark it on the nearest Sunday. The United Methodist Church has produced a special liturgy to be used for Aldersgate Day.[3] The United Methodist Church also celebrates Heritage Sunday on Aldersgate Day or the preceding Sunday.[11] Previously Heritage Sunday was held on 23 April (the date in 1968 of the church union which created The United Methodist Church) or the Sunday following that date,[12] but in 2004 the United Methodist General Conference moved Heritage Day to coincide with Aldersgate Day.[6]

In Britain, Wesley's Aldersgate experience is celebrated on the Sunday preceding 24 May if that day is not a Sunday.[7][13]

Shirley Murray's hymn "How small a spark has lit a living fire!" celebrates Welsey's Aldersgate experience and was written in 1988 for the 250th anniversary of the event.[14]

John Wesley was a priest of the Church of England. In that church's new Common Worship lectionary, published in 2000, Aldersgate Day was included in the calendar as a commemoration of both John Wesley and his brother, Charles.[15]


  1. ^ "John Wesley's Conversion Place Memorial – The 'Aldersgate Flame'". Methodist Heritage. Retrieved 21 May 2016.
  2. ^ "Thursday (Wesley Day)". The Methodist Church in Britain. 24 May 2018. Retrieved 22 May 2021.
  3. ^ a b c "What is Aldersgate Day?". The United Methodist Church. Retrieved 21 May 2016.
  4. ^ Dreyer, Frederick A. (1999). The Genesis of Methodism. Lehigh University Press. p. 27. ISBN 0-934223-56-4.
  5. ^ a b Burnett, Daniel L. (15 March 2006). In the Shadow of Aldersgate: An Introduction to the Heritage and Faith of the Wesleyan Tradition. Wipf and Stock Publishers. pp. 36–37. Retrieved 21 May 2016.
  6. ^ a b "Heritage Sunday and Other Heritage Events 2016 May 22, 2016: "Roots, Shoots, and Branches"". United Methodist Church. Retrieved 21 May 2016. HERITAGE SUNDAY shall be observed on Aldersgate Day (May 24) or the Sunday preceding that date (2012 Book of Discipline, par. 264.1).
  7. ^ a b "Diary". The Methodist Church in Britain. Retrieved 21 May 2016.
  8. ^ a b c "John Wesley the Methodist: Chapter VII – The New Birth". Wesley Center Online / Northwest Nazarene University. Retrieved 21 May 2016.
  9. ^ John Wesley's Heart Strangely Warmed, Accessed on 21 May 2016.
  10. ^ Tomkins, Stephen (2003). John Wesley: A Biography. Lion Books. p. 89. ISBN 978-0-7459-5078-5.
  11. ^ UMC General Commission on Archives and History, Heritage Sunday 2017, accessed 24 May 2017
  12. ^ United Methodist Church, Glossary: Heritage Sunday, from A Dictionary for United Methodists, Alan K. Waltz, Copyright 1991, Abingdon Press, accessed 24 May 2017
  13. ^ "Aldersgate Sunday". The Methodist Church in Britain. Retrieved 21 May 2016.
  14. ^ Murray, Shirley. "How small a spark has lit a living fire! (StF 408)". Singing the Faith. Retrieved 24 May 2021. The hymn alludes to a number of aspects of the life of John and Charles Wesley and to Methodist tradition in general
  15. ^ Buchanan, Colin (2006). Historical Dictionary of Anglicanism. Oxford: Scarecrow Press. p. 470. ISBN 978-0-8108-6506-8. Retrieved 22 May 2021.

External links[edit]