Today we visited John Street United Methodist Church in the heart of Wall Street. The church was founded in 1766 by a German immigrant to Ireland, who then immigrated to America, Phillip Embury. He was a Methodist local preacher in Ireland who took up preaching once again in America at the urging of his cousin, Barbara Heck, because she found her family playing cards one day, and probably gambling, too. Sweeping the cards into the fire, she implored Phillip to preach to them “or we shall all go to Hell.” Along with Captain Thomas Webb, they built Wesley Chapel on John Street in lower Manhattan in 1768 and the church has been there ever since, though this building was constructed in 1843.
We were welcomed by Rev. Jason Radmacher, who said he wasn’t too stressed to occupy a pulpit once served by Francis Asbury! Jason gave us an excellent lesson on the history of John Street church in the church’s museum. We even saw a chair leg used in the “Great John Street Methodist Church Street Fight” in the mid-1800s. We also learned how, despite the church’s being 250 years old next year, Jason has NEVER heard anyone at the church say, “We never do it that way.” Amazing.
After the lesson, we then went up (literally) to the sanctuary (in no way is this building handicap accessible!) to the sanctuary for worship and Holy Communion. The church was pretty full with people of all different types. The neighborhood around the church is once again becoming more residential. We heard a wonderful sermon by Jason and two beautiful solos by John Easterlin, who has actually sung opera with our own Richard Paul Fink! My take away from Jason’s sermon was: “Arrogance is the antithesis of faithful discipleship. Arrogance convinces us that we do not NEED grace and that those who oppose us do not DESERVE grace.”
It was a WONDERFUL visit. We learned. We worshiped. We fellowshipped. We met new friends. We left the church around 1:30 for a free afternoon on our own.