Plans for 250th anniversary celebrations at Wesley's "favourite chapel" at Yarm (From Darlington and Stockton Times)
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Oldest octagonal chapel in the world to celebrate milestone
PREPARATIONS are well underway to celebrate the 250th anniversary of one of the region's most important churches.
Methodism's founder John Wesley declared Yarm Methodist Church, built in 1763, as his "favorite chapel" and "by far the most elegant in England."
Wesley first preached in Yarm in 1748 after first speaking in Stockton, which, he said, was "rowdy" compared to the "serious-minded gentlemen of Yarm".
The land for the church, which was to be one of 14 octagonal Methodist chapels, was donated by salt merchant George Merryweather and would be packed at 5am with hundreds of people prepared to hear preachers. Wesley himself spoke there 18 times.
It is the oldest octagonal chapel in the world, with an unbroken tradition of Methodist worship dating back to 1763. Wesley apparently liked the octagonal design because it meant "there are no corners for the Devil to hide in".
Ian Simpson, who takes a special interest in the church's heritage, explained that several commemorative events had been planned throughout the year. However, on Saturday, September 14, people will be invited to a special "sing in" of hymns and songs written by Wesley's brother, Charles, from 10am to noon. People will be led by a man dressed up as Wesley leading a horse and at 7pm there will be a grand concert by the Stockton Citadel Band and Songsters.
Mr Simpson explained the building had been changed from the one Wesley knew. In 1815 an upper floor was added and in 1873 a new porch was grafted on to the 'wynd' side of the octagon. The hall was added in 1892.
Mr Simpson explained the chapel can hold 300 people. He said: "Wesley even said when they built the church in Thirsk 'why didn't they copy the one in Yarm'. He certainly did like it."
The Reverend Moira Peters explained that, originally, it would have been a preaching house, not a church, because at that time Wesley still advised worshippers to receive communion at Church of England churches.
She said the congregation was still lively and friendly, with more than 200 members and a fulltime youth worker.
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