“The United Methodist Church
does not designate saints –
and teaches that all faithful
Christians are saints.
However, if we did –
Francis Asbury would be likely
to be among the canonized.”
These words from UMC.org
remind us that Bishop Francis Asbury
is a vitally important figure in our church (past & present!)
Francis Asbury is the first great leader of American Methodism and one of the most prominent religious figures in American history.
He transformed our church from a renewal movement through example and shear dogged-determination he established the shape of American Methodism (gcah.org)
Here is a little more about Bishop Francis Asbury (1745-1816). He was a local preacher at 18 and was ordained at 22. In 1771 he volunteered to travel to America. When the American Revolution broke out in 1776 he was one of only two Methodist minister to remain in America. In 1784 John Wesley named Asbury and Thomas Coke as co-superintendents of the work in America. The American Methodists named them both "bishops". This marks the beginning of the "Methodist Episcopal Church of the USA". For the next 32 years, Asbury led all the Methodists in America.
Like Wesley, Asbury preached in all sorts of places: courthouses, public houses, tobacco houses, fields, public squares, wherever a crowd assembled to hear him. For the remainder of his life he rode an average of 6000 miles each year, preaching virtually every day and conducting meetings and conferences. Under his direction the church grew from 1,200 to 214,000 members. (some info from https://religion.fandom.com/wiki/Francis_Asbury - there is lots more to discover about him on-line!)
Jesse Lee Meeting House
We are proud to also worship & praise in another site in Readfield. Our very own Jesse Lee meeting house is the oldest Methodist church which is open for worship in New England. It is lovingly preserved in its original condition. This site is rich in history...
Yep, our Jesse Lee Meetinghouse has the proud distinction of being the site where Bishop Francis Asbury presided over the first New England Methodist Conference with nearly 2,000 people in attendance.
To get there Asbury, in his journal, noted the following: "Saturday, August 25, we had to beat through the woods between Winthrop and Readfield, which are as bad as the Allegheny mountains, and the shades of death. We have now laid by our carriage and saddle to wait until Wednesday next for the conference, the first of the kind ever held in these parts." As soon as the conference was over he headed to Portland riding “sixty miles (by horseback) in two days, under the heat of the sun over desperate roads and rocks” – crazy right! How cool is this connection.
The meeting house is handicapped accessible, located on Main St. East Readfield corner of Plains Road and route 17. We worship here every Sunday evening in July and August along with Easter Sunrise Service and Christmas Eve Service.