Michael Stewart looks back
The John Wesley Society was a huge part of making generations of students feel welcome at a formative time of their lives.
I came to Oxford as a student towards the end of the 1990s, and having been a member of my local Methodist Church made contact with Wesley Memorial and the John Wesley Society. At this point the society was far smaller than it had been at its peak, but still had three groups (predominantly used when organising services around the Circuit once each term), and a busy weekly and termly programme of activities.
The JWS was a huge part of making generations of students feel welcome, at a time of great upheaval in their lives. The spiritual and the social were both attended to (I can name two ministers and three married couples from my years without pausing for thought!)
Start and end of term communion; weekly bible studies and the ‘bread and cheese’ lunch; Sunday morning services followed by lunch; leading worship at Churches around the circuit and then joining our group families (always welcomed by Ann and Geoff Lemmon); the annual advent dinner. The programme was full, but with no pressure – you could come to what you could attend, and there was never an issue if other aspects of life or study got in the way at times.
At this point Philip Beuzeval was the Minister, who was the first person to introduce me to the Methodist preaching tradition of ‘sixthly – and more briefly’ in his sermons. I have very fond memories of cycling out to the manse on a Sunday evening, being plied with home cooking by Sue, and occasionally noticing Philip sitting back, watching a group of noisy students and young people, and simply smiling. They opened their home to us, and gave many people a sense of belonging to the city, as well as the university.