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John Cennick (1718-55)

John Cennick was born of a Quaker background in Reading, Berkshire. He was converted in 1737 and was introduced to the Wesleys and George Whitefield. In 1739 he was invited to assist at Kingswood and in June Cennick preached there in the open air without any complaint from John Wesley. He was therefore the first official Methodist lay preacher. He remained at Kingswood for eighteen months and led a mission to Gloucestershire in 1740.

Cennick sided with Whitefield in the debate concerning Calvinism and in 1741 he was expelled by Wesley. In June of that year he opened a Calvinist Tabernacle at Kingswood and travelled with the Welsh evangelist Howell Harris. Cennick and his followers became leading members of Whitefield's English Association.

Cennick travelled extensively throughout the South of England and endured a great deal of persecution. In 1745 he joined the Moravians and offered them his associations of converts. Cennick visited Germany in December of the same year and was sent by Count Zinzendorf to Ireland where his ministry was to last five years and proved very successful - as many as 220 religious societies were formed there through his work. He was ordained into Moravian orders in 1749. Cennick died in London following a period of poor health which was exacerbated by financial difficulties and conflict with the Moravians.

Cennick was one of the greatest evangelists of his generation. In addition to publishing his sermons, he also wrote many hymns and one of the first hymn-books of the revival, Sacred Hymns for the Children of God (1741).

Source: Encyclopedia of World Methodism (1974) and Dictionary of Evangelical Biography, edited by Donald Lewis (1995) and Dictionary of National Biography

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