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THE METHODISTS IN PERTH

There has been a Methodist ‘society’ in the Royal Burgh of Perth since at least the early 1760s. What the circumstances were in which it was formed are now lost in time; what we do know however is that when John WESLEY [1703-91] made his first visit to Perth in 1768, the society was already in being. He had been led to believe great things about that little group of the ‘People called Methodist’, and when he rode "over the mountains" from Glasgow on the 23rd April it was clearly with some anticipation. However, he felt himself a little disappointed by what he found. He nevertheless appeared to form a very real concern for this small society, which was to bring him back to the city a further five times between then and 1784. Indeed his continuing commitment to Perth was recognised by the City fathers in 1772 when they presented him with the ‘Freedom of the City’.

That first society met in rented accommodation in Meal Vennel, before eventually moving to premises in South Street in 1818. In due course they developed this site with a purpose built Meeting House at first and second floor levels, and accessed through a Pend which became known as Wesley Close.

Unlike the Presbyterian and other congregations in Perth, the Wesleyan ‘itinerant’ preachers and ministers were ‘stationed’ by their Annual Conference for what by modern standards appear to be a very short period – usually one or two years, and only as the 19th century passed did this become three years, or on rare occasions, five. The first ‘itinerant’ to have a responsibility for the Methodists in Perth was William Whitwell in 1765. Perhaps this very pattern of ministry contributed to the development of a very strong lay led society with deep roots within the wider Perth community. Anyway, by mid-century it was strong enough to consider the building of a new Church on ground behind their existing premises, but to be served from the newly laid down Scott Street.

This Church, in a modest Gothic style was opened in 1880, and from then to the 1950s the Methodists occupied both their new, and their old buildings, eventually finally disposing of the latter in 1958.

The Methodists still occupy that Church in Scott Street. Over the years it has been extended and developed in many ways, but would doubtless still be recognised by the courageous people whose faith and vision brought it into being.  This building however is no more than the home for a continuing and lively Methodist society. The Methodist people in Perth are proud of their past, but live in the present age, looking in faith to the future.

There is a close working relationship with Perth Congregational church and, jointly, the two churches fund the half-time services of a youth worker employed by Perth YMCA. This provides centre-based and detached work with young people, and volunteers from both churches are involved in this work.

A major refurbishment of the premises has now been completed and the congregation is enthusiastic about its continuing work and witness in the city centre.

 


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