EARLY METHODISM IN NEWFOUNDLAND

by Hans Rollmann


1.

LAURENCE COUGHLAN AND THE ORIGINS OF METHODISM
IN NEWFOUNDLAND

On 27 October 1746, William Peaseley, a missionary of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (SPG) in Foreign Parts in St. John's, Newfoundland, wrote to his employer in London:

The hopes of the Anglican priest that enthusiastic religion not flourish in Newfoundland seem to have been fulfilled; we hear nothing further of this earliest revivalist preacher or of "enthusiasm" there, that is, until the arrival of Peasely's ministerial colleague, the Rev. Laurence Coughlan, in 1766 at Harbour Grace, Conception Bay.

The story of Newfoundland's Methodist origins as depicted by nineteenth-century denominational historiography, notably in the influential panoramas of T. Watson Smith and William Wilson, was a rather idyllic affair, which linked the Newfoundland pioneer Laurence Coughlan harmoniously both with Methodism's founder John Wesley and the island's subsequent Wesleyanism. Most historians have taken over wholesale or in part this nineteenth-century portrayal of harmony and continuity. Upon a close examination of all relevant sources, however, the story appears to be more complex than our Victorian predecessors publicly admitted and in dire need of revision and re-telling -- this time in all of its colours, shades, and contours and free from the polemical concerns of an age that was preoccupied with denominational self-definitions and differences.


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