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Another Methodist faith, the Wesleyans, was the largest of the Black Loyalist churches. The Wesleyans were founded by and named after the famous preacher John Wesley. Through their remarkable leader, Moses Wilkinson, Wesley's teachings of individual faith and humility before God were spread widely through the Black Loyalist community.

Wesley himself expressed direct interest in the fate of the Black Loyalists. He famously commented that "they will never want for books while I am alive", and he encouraged Shelburne Methodists to support and give charitably to the Blacks in Birchtown.

When Moses Wilkinson first arrived in Birchtown he was one of the few Christians of any variety among the blacks. Converted to Methodism at an early age, he was a powerful speaker who never passed up an opportunity to encourage others to have faith in God. At first a few believers joined his faith, including Boston King's wife, Violet, and then a steady stream of others were attracted by his power and faith. Shelburne was also experiencing a flowering of Methodism under the influence of the celebrated preacher Freeborn Garretson. The Methodists in Shelburne encouraged and supported the followers of their faith in Birchtown.

The Wesleyans were of two minds in how they treated the blacks. They were strong opponent of slavery and taught that all men were equal as sinners before God. On the other hand, there was an explicit policy of segregation of blacks into separate congregations. When Wesley visited Nova Scotia, the black Methodists were not allowed to join in the general worship. At Methodist gatherings, where all the preachers in the province would preach to the assembled worshipers, the black preachers were segregated into separate afternoon meetings, and were not allowed to preach to the gathered believers.

Wesley was a committed abolitionist, but like many others, his support for the blacks ended where his front door began. It was one thing to have them as believers, but another to have black preachers with spiritual authority over your race.

Still, the Black Loyalists embraced the Methodist church like no other. As the reality of discrimination became clear to them, an effectively independent church fed their desire for the freedom to believe as they wished. In an exclusively black church, they had an institution that they could feel was truly theirs and yet was still accepted in white society.

Many blacks first converted by Wilkinson were ordained as preachers themselves, notably John Ball and Boston King. Both of these men spent some time traveling the area as circuit preachers. Neither was paid for his efforts; they supported themselves as they traveled from place to place to spread their faith. King eventually became the minister for the Preston congregation, not long before virtually the entire Black Methodist congregation left for Sierra Leone.

Once they arrived, their desire for independence became more apparent. Methodists were typically among the ringleaders of unrest among the settlers, particularly in regards to religious matters. They were notably successful in attracting converts from the Maroons and 'Liberated Africans', although their congregation splintered into a number of small sects. Wilkinson outlived all of the other religious leaders brought to Sierra Leone, despite (or perhaps because of) being blind and lame.

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Moses Wilkinson

Boston King


Boston King's Narrative

William Jessop's Account of preaching at Birchtown

Marrant's conflict with the Wesleyans