Letter from John Wesley to Sarah Rutter, October 18, 1790
John Wesley inspired both men and women to cultivate their spiritual gifts. This letter to Sarah Rutter (fl. 1765–1795) is an example of the encouragement that he offered to many women. Sarah Rutter experienced a religious awakening when John Wesley preached at St. Neots in 1778. Later, with Wesley’s blessing, she became a Methodist band leader.
My dear sister You give me a very agreeable account of the state of our friends in St Neots. I did not doubt but if you yourself stirred up the gift of God which was in you, God would give a blessing thereto, and you would see . . . the fruit of your labour. You have good encouragement to proceed. Still . . . make use of the faith and talents which God hath given you, and he will give you more faith and more fruit, for there is no end of his mercies.
In eighteenth-century Methodism, bands were two- to four-person same-gender groups that met frequently to examine each other’s lives. The band system was never thoroughly embraced in North America, where larger, mixed-gender class meetings prevailed.