John Summerfield (1798–1825) was a Methodist preacher born in England. He gained recognition for his eloquence and powerful preaching, and he became known for his revivalist activities in both England and the United States during the early 19th century.
Here are the highlights about John Summerfield:
Early Life and Conversion:
- Summerfield was born on January 31, 1798, in Preston, England.
- His father was a local preacher in the Wesleyan Methodist connection in England. He was educated in those religious principles, which governed his life, until around the age of 15 when he lost his direction.
- He experienced a religious conversion at the age of 16, and this marked the beginning of his journey as a Methodist preacher.
Trouble as a Teenager:
- John Summerfield faced financial challenges due to a neglect of business matters, resulting in monetary losses.
- His only interests were to hear speakers perform, leaving home for weeks at a time to no miss opportunities to hear eminent speakers. If he was not out listening to preachers he was locked in his room studying, only willing to study, unwilling to work.
- To address his financial difficulties, he resorted to endorsing paper acceptances for individuals he considered friends. This means he guaranteed or supported the financial obligations of others.
- As a consequence of his financial downfall, John Summerfield was incarcerated in the Marshalsea of Dublin, indicating a significant low point in his life. Being a part of a financial demise, Marshalsea was a debtor's prison.
- Despite his predicament, Summerfield, with his vast studying, assisted fellow inmates by drafting memorials for those seeking release under the provisions of the Insolvent Act.
- Once free, he began revisiting his faith and church services. Soon after he was a leader of a prayer association (around 1818).
These confusing times of John Summerfield were detailed on pages 37-41 in his biography: Memoirs of the Life and Ministry of the Rev. John Summerfield, A.M. By John Holland · 1830
"Marshalsea of Dublin," it refers to the Debtors' Prison in Dublin
Mission to the United States:
- In 1821, John Summerfield traveled to the United States to continue his ministry. He aimed to support the growing Methodist movement in America.
- After arriving in New York, John Summerfield made his first public appearance at the anniversary of the American Bible Society. This event marked the beginning of his public speaking engagements in the United States.
- His speech on that occasion was highly impactful and regarded as one of the most remarkable examples of platform eloquence. It left a lasting impression on the audience.
- John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, had sent missionaries to the American colonies in the 18th century, and the movement continued to flourish. Summerfield likely saw an opportunity to contribute to this expanding Methodist community.
- During his time in the U.S., John Summerfield collaborated with prominent Methodist leaders of the era, including Bishop Francis Asbury and other circuit riders.
Impact in the U.S.:
- Summerfield's preaching had a significant impact in the U.S., contributing to the growth of Methodism during the Second Great Awakening.
- He was well-received in major cities, and his sermons attracted diverse audiences. The churches couldn't accommodate the large audiences eager to hear him speak.
- Summerfield, known for his powerful and charismatic preaching style, may have been drawn to the evangelical opportunities present in the U.S.
According to historical accounts found in "Sermons and Sketches of Sermons" by John Summerfield and Thomas Emerson Bond (1842), "Wherever Mr. Summerfield appeared, there was the same eagerness in all classes of people to hear him, and to see him and, everywhere, there was the same uniform admiration of the preacher's manner and of his sermons.".
Illness and Death:
- Unfortunately, John Summerfield's time in the U.S. was cut short by his declining health.
- He suffered from tuberculosis and passed away on March 13, 1825, at the young age of 27.
- Despite his relatively short life, John Summerfield left a lasting legacy in the Methodist movement, remembered for his fervent preaching and the impact he had on the spiritual awakening in both England and the United States.
- Many churches, towns, included Summerfield, NC, and Methodist men were named after John Summerfield for example as John Summerfield Engle who was born in the Methodist parsonage at Churchville, VA 1868.
His works & story is documented across three books which can still be found online to research: His biography was written by John Holland (New York, 1829) and another by William M. Willett (Philadelphia, 1857), and his Sermons and Sketches of Sermons were published (New York, 1842).
The Rev. Donald Goodson, pastor of Summerfield United Methodist Church, stands outside the Mariners Harbor house of worship. The congregation is celebrating its 165th anniversary. 2004 (Staten Island Advance)
The Summerfield United Methodist Church, 225 King Street, Port Chester, NY.
Summerfield Methodist Church located in Summerfield, Alabama.