Athlone Methodist Church to mark 275-year milestone
John Wesley, the travelling preacher who led a movement that became the Methodist Church, came to Athlone to open its society here 275 years ago.
To mark that anniversary, a number of special events will be taking place at the Methodist Church on Athlone's Northgate Street this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (July 14 to 16).
Local pastor Trevor Parkes explained that everyone is welcome to attend this weekend's events, which he hoped would prompt some people to take a first look inside the distinctive church building which itself dates from 1856.
"We are very open and friendly. The church is a unique, neo-Gothic style building. I've been all over the country and I haven't seen anything like it (elsewhere)," he said.
The 275-year anniversary events are billed as a 'Weekend of Worship', and begin with a night of testimony from Irish-American Pat O'Shea, of the Church of God, who will talk about his personal journey "from the gangs of New York to church leader".
This will take place on Friday, at 7pm, and will include acapella singing from the choir of The Church of God congregation.
On Saturday morning, at 10am, a prayer breakfast will take place in the church. A full Irish breakfast will be served, and it will be free to all.
On Saturday evening, at 7.30pm, a Ministry of Healing service will take place, involving hands-on prayer for people suffering from a bereavement, sickness, personal or family issues.
Trevor explained that a healing service also took place in the church last year and attracted a large turnout, prompting the decision to make it an annual event.
Throughout the year, a 10am Service of Holy Communion takes place on Sunday mornings, with Rev Nigel Gill, and this will continue this weekend.
And on Sunday evening, at 7pm, the popular annual 'Songs of Praise' service will take place at the church. It will involve a full traditional Irish band and will present a unique take on Church hymns.
Trevor Parkes looks after the running of the Methodist church and outlined the history of the movement in Athlone since 1748.
He explained that John Wesley preached in Athlone on ten occasions in all, with people coming out barefoot to follow him into the town.
Hundreds of townsfolk from all religious persuasions would come to hear him preach, in what is now Custume Place, and also to the rear of Athlone Castle at Main Street.
He said the movement's first meeting house in Athlone was located at the bottom of the present church's lane, in what was the old malt house store room. Methodists, of course, being a Bible-based faith, practice temperance.
This room became too small, resulting in a move to a new property to the right of Court Devenish House. Again, that became too small, and the first full-sized church was built on Northgate Street to the left of the entrance to Court Devenish laneway. This is currently the site of a solicitor's office.
The present Methodist church was then built, across the road on Northgate Street, in 1856 and continues to serve a congregation of Athlone people plus a number of Ukrainian nationals and 'new Irish' who have made the town their home.