Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Pursuing Social Holiness: The Band Meeting in Wesley's Thought and Popular Methodist Practice

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Pursuing Social Holiness: The Band Meeting in Wesley's Thought and Popular Methodist Practice

Article excerpt

Pursuing Social Holiness: The Band Meeting in Wesley's Thought and Popular Methodist Practice. By Kevin M. Watson. (New York: Oxford University Press. 2014. Pp. xiv, 221. S74.00. ISBN 978-0-19-933636-4.)

In Pursuing Holiness Kevin Watson has given us a lavishly documented historical study of the inception, role, and transitions that occurred in the "band meetings" that played a significant role in eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century British Methodism. Using John Wesley's original understanding of "social holiness" as referring to the life of sanctity as being worked out within the Christian community, Watson gives the reader an insightful and stimulating study of the bands of early British Methodism.

Watson rightly views the bands as being distinct from Wesley's more famous "class meetings," where those who had been raised up by Wesleyan evangelism were prompted to experience the fruits of conversion or initial justification. The bands, which Watson described as a locus for "communal Christian formation" (p. 2), were more properly the place for a person's quest for holiness of heart and life (in Wesleyan theological parlance "entire sanctification" or "Christian Perfection"). The Band was a small group of four to six intentional and mature Christian disciples, who-as one of the early Methodists, Charles Perronet put it-"aim at being wholly devoted to God . . ." (p. 141, emphasis in original). In this sense, the band meeting was "a means of grace" (p. 62) for the early Methodists, in which spiritual formation practices and the discipline of examination of the conscience were practiced among Protestant laity.

Watson does a wonderful job of showing how the band meetings were a synthesis of Moravian experiential religion and Anglican-style spiritual formation. He gives the reader a generous dose of the Wesley brothers' ardent and sometimes conflicting understanding of the role and value of this small group. …

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