For further reading, Eileen Mignot's book, 'The Adventure of Methodism in Alderney' can be purchased from the Alderney Methodist Church.
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Methodism was brought to Alderney in March 1787 by Adam Clarke, a red-headed Irishman who had been sent as a preacher to Guernsey by John Wesley. Hearing that the people of Alderney could speak English he managed to get smugglers to bring him to the island in their boat, landing him at Hannaine Bay. He stayed for just three days, preaching at the Marais Square and at Braye. After he left, a Jerseyman called Jean de Quetteville, came to continue Adam’s work, eventually spending over sixty years working between the islands and France.
Later that year John Wesley came to Alderney, being blown off course when en route to Guernsey. With his companions who included Adam Clarke, he slept at the Inn which is now The Divers and preached on the beach at Braye. Within three years the first church was built on a site behind the present Central Garage in Victoria Street. Very soon the growing band of Methodists faced a severe challenge. It was compulsory for all men to take part in military exercises on Sundays, as a precaution against the threat from nearby France. The Methodists refused to attend on a Sunday and were severely persecuted. Eventually, after intervention by King George lll in person, they gained the right to parade on a week day and were nick-named Gideon’s Army.
One of the children who heard Adam preach was Amice Olivier who later became the first Alderney-born man to be ordained as a Methodist minister. The first Church building became too small and so another was opened in 1814 in Church Street; this was known as the French Church as Services were conducted in French. The present building at Butes opened in 1852 but Services continued in both the French and English churches. So many English speaking people had come to Alderney at that time, involved in building the forts which were to be defences against Napoleon lll, that not only was a new Methodist church needed but a new Anglican church was built; Roman Catholic and Presbyterian Churches were also constructed on the island at that same period. By 1860, when the breakwater and government works were nearing completion, the membership of the Methodist church was 162, the population being nearly 5,000. A Wesleyan day school thrived as well as Sunday schools but when the workforce left the church membership inevitably dropped. There was a strong missionary zeal among the congregation and both men and women went to work in France and Haiti. One of these missionaries, Jean-William Herivel, died of yellow fever only two years after reaching Haiti.
At the end of the nineteenth century the population and church membership again rose as the British government had a garrison stationed in Alderney. When this was withdrawn , membership fell again. On June 23rd 1940 almost all of the population was evacuated and the island was occupied by German forces. Our Church at Butes was used by the occupying forces as a place of worship. Special Services and gatherings organised by churches on the mainland, through Channel Island Societies, helped to keep Alderney people in touch with each other. Those who returned after the war had not only their own homes to rebuild but neglected church properties to restore. The cost of maintenance eventually proved too much, so apart from the Church and schoolroom at Butes and the manse, the rest was sold. In 1983 there was a time when Butes was left without a minister. The membership fell to eight and there was a possibility of closure. However, under the inspired leadership of Margaret Cosby and Alistair Carter the church survived and a pastor was appointed. When the 200th anniversary of Wesley’s visit to the islands was celebrated a time capsule was placed under the church steps.
Although numerically small, Alderney Methodist Church is still large in spirit and aims to keep in tune with the expectations and challenges of modern living. Butes became one of the first churches to be on the internet; a cyber-café was run in its School hall. Women have been appointed as Lay workers; Good ecumenical relations with the other churches has been a strong feature of island life for many years and this has been extended since the signing of the Covenant between the Anglican and Methodist churches. Regular sharing in services at the parish church has become a feature. A retired Alderney-born Methodist Minister, Rev Arthur Mignot was appointed by the Bishop as Associate Minister at St Anne’s and he preached regularly in that Church.
When Jean de Quetteville explored the possibility of continuing the work begun by Adam Clarke, he said that if ten people could be found who would join the Church, then he would become their Minister. Ten did come forward to confess their faith in Christ, and over 200 years later the Christian message is still being proclaimed and practised at Butes Methodist Church in Alderney.