The purpose of this project is not to compare the theologies of different churches or movements. Nor is it my aim to promote one church above another. In fact, the particular beliefs and theologies of the different churches are not discussed at all, except where necessary to explain the differences between two groups of believers.
What interests me are the origins of each church or movement. Who, where and why did they begin? What is their history? And isn’t it interesting that so many denominations that have now spread around the world, began with one person, in one location in Great Britain or Ireland?
In the 1990s, not long after I had begun to take my Christian faith more seriously, I became assistant editor on The DOOR, the newspaper for the Diocese of Oxford. Not only was the job interesting in itself, but we also met an amazing parade of people who passed through the Bishop of Oxford’s offices – from composers and artists to vicars and curates, bishops from far and near, and theologians, administrators, architects and accountants.
But it was all very Anglican. So I began to ask myself whether there was a book that could teach me the basics about some of the other main streams of Christianity, such as the Baptists, the Methodists, the Presbyterians and the Catholics, but my enquiries went unanswered. Each denomination, it seemed, was sufficient unto itself, and appeared to have no curiosity about the others.
And so my project was born. I have focused solely on church denominations which have their origins in Great Britain and Ireland, and on ministries which work for reconciliation. So, apart from Catholicism, there is no mention of church movements that were founded elsewhere.
I have made every effort to ensure the accuracy of my research. However, stories about the earliest saints and the churches they founded are often based on tradition as much as they are based on facts and it can be difficult to distinguish between the two. I have cross-checked my facts as far as possible by comparing historical information with tourist guides, novels, maps and academic research. Where possible, I have also asked people who are familiar with the denomination or organisation being described to check my work for accuracy.
Everything possible has been done to seek permission to reproduce poems, songs and quotations taken from other publications, but in a few cases I am yet to hear back from the copyright holders. Should more information subsequently come to light, the text will be amended as required. Permission to include certain quotations is dependent on the website being password-protected.
This project has been many years in the making, so suggestions about places to visit were obviously made in a pre-COVID time. It is to be hoped that we can soon once again enjoy the freedom to visit churches, museums, stately homes and conference centres as and when we wish without masks and in the close company of friends old and new.
The chapters can be read in any order as they are self-sufficient. It might even be a good idea to start at the end and read from chapter 30 back to the beginning. Or you could just look at the map and choose a location that interests you. I hope you enjoy exploring the history of Christianity in Great Britain and Ireland.
Venetia Horton, All Saints 2020
© Venetia E Horton
Contact email: firstname.lastname@example.org
First published 2020
Author: Venetia E Horton BA
Illustrator: Steve Broadway
Copy-editor: Amber Ross
Website designer: Darren Hill