200 Years of United Methodism
An Illustrated History

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Several persons formed a Methodist group in New York City in the fall of 1766. Among them were Philip Embury; Barbara Heck, who prodded Embury to preach to those who were about to make a "shipwreck of their faith;" and a slave girl named Betty. By April 1768 these Methodists were so confident of their potential for growth that they wrote to John Wesley in England, asking him to send them a preacher, one who is "a man of wisdom, of sound faith, and a good disciplinarian."

Barbara Ruckle Heck (1734-1804). Watercolor on paper, about 1860.Meanwhile, two preachers, who are now linked with Wesley as fathers of United Methodism, had clasped hands in a barn in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and exclaimed in German, "We are brothers!" One was William Otterbein, an ordained pastor of the German Reformed Church; the other was a Mennonite preacher named Martin Boehm. The Reformed Church traced its origins to John Calvin, one of the principal Protestant reformers of the sixteenth century. Mennonites were Protestants who rejected much that Calvin stood for, including baptizing infants and the participation of Christians in war. But when Otterbein listened to Boehm preach in Long's Barn, sometime between 1766 and 1769, he recognized they were brothers in Christ, and from their embrace came the United Brethren movement, which was similar to the Methodism of John Wesley.

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