Methodist Church in Ireland
The Methodist Church in Ireland owes its origins largely to John and Charles Wesley who visited Ireland on many occasions, beginning with John Wesley's historic visit in 1747. But he had come to see a Methodist Society already firmly established in Dublin by a Methodist preacher who had been converted in England under Charles Wesley in 1738. From Dublin, the Wesleys journeyed into the midlands of Ireland and eventually, in 1756, on his sixth tour, John Wesley broke new ground when he visited the Palatines in County Limerick, penetrated into Connemara and Mayo in the far west and entered Ulster for the first time. From County Limerick, Methodist converts emigrated to America in 1760 where they founded a Methodist Society, and later built the first Methodist chapel in New York, in John Street, believed to be the first Methodist chapel in America. About the same time another Irishman began preaching in Maryland.
Today the majority of Irish Methodists live in Northern Ireland, the north-east corner of the country. However, there are Methodist churches in most of the larger cities and towns in the Republic of Ireland as well. The membership of the Methodist Church in Ireland is growing, especially because of the major influx of refugees and asylum seekers in recent years. Although closely linked to British Methodism, the Methodist Church in Ireland is autonomous, with its own president (one-year appointment) and secretary. The Methodist president takes an active part in the church leaders' meeting of the four main churches in Ireland. Of the 193 ministers, 120 are in active work in Ireland itself, the others being retired or engaged in other work both within and outside of Ireland. Irish Methodism has developed a wide ranging social-work service, largely through the activities of its city missions in Dublin, Londonderry, Belfast and Newtownabbey, with oversight of several old people's homes, places of care for youth and children, and day and night shelters for needy men and women. In the educational field the church has two large grammar schools, an agricultural college and a theological college.
In 2002 a covenant was signed between the Methodist Church and the Church of Ireland (Anglican). This has led to closer cooperation between the two churches in major and significant ways. The Methodist Church in Ireland is a member of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland.