EARLY METHODISM IN NEWFOUNDLAND
by Hans Rollmann
LAURENCE COUGHLAN AND THE ORIGINS OF METHODISM
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:
There is lately come among us one of Mr Whitfield's Disciples, who
has taken upon him to pray & preach publickly; but as he is
discountenanc'd both by the Civil & Military Power, & has not one
Follower, 'tis to be hop'd he'll soon find his attempt fruitless.
We have not, I thank God, as yet been troubled with that
Enthusiastick Spirit, which has rag'd so violently in other parts
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.
Back to The Origins of Methodism in Newfoundland