Religion in early America

The World Methodist Museum in Lake Junaluska announces its participation in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History exhibit. The “Religion in Early America” exhibition is currently open to the public.

The Francis Asbury wooden trunk and a first edition hymnal written by John and Charles Wesley when they were at Oxford are included in the exhibition and are on a one-year loan. The inaugural exhibit in the Nicholas F. and Eugenia Taubman Gallery will trace the distinctive way that religion developed in the early American republic.

It will focus on three themes: the diversity of religious traditions in early America, the principle of freedom of religion that was incorporated in the U.S. Constitution’s Bill of Rights and became a guiding American ideal, and the growth of different religions in the new American republic after the nation was formed. The exhibition will include a wide array of national treasures, a statement from the Smithsonian explains.

Asbury’s small wooden trunk, covered in leather, contained this early Bishop’s worldly possessions. He traveled more than a quarter of a million miles as a circuit rider and assigned many young men to cover territory as preachers from lower Georgia to upper Maine. Asbury is credited with being the person most influential in adding Methodists to America’s religions.  The hymnal, “Hymns and Sacred Poems” is an original that was published in 1742 and contains the songs sung in early American Methodist services. These items will be returned to the World Methodist Museum at the end of the yearlong exhibit.

“We are very excited to be included in this important exhibition,” explains Bishop Ivan Abrahams, general secretary of the World Methodist Council. “It is indeed an honor to be in this display and be part of the important message it shares. We are aware of the number of irreplaceable historical artifacts at the Museum and are pleased when others are also cognizant of this.”

World Methodist Museum Director Jackie Bolden explained that it was thrilling to be part of this exhibit and assist in promoting its phenomenal historical content.

“In keeping with this year’s theme at the National Museum of American History, ‘The Nation We Build Together,’ we, too, invite our museum guests to explore the evolution of America’s founding principles, ideas and ideals and how they developed over time,” Bolden said.

Bolden was present on June 23 for the opening media day at the Smithsonian, prior to the public opening.

“Including World Methodist Museum objects with national treasures from the Smithsonian’s permanent collection such as George Washington’s christening robe from 1732, ‘The Jefferson Bible,’ and many other significant religious artifacts across numerous dominations is important. It reminds us that our history continues to shape who we are as individuals and as a country,” Bolden said.

The displays will remain at the National Museum of American History for one year and are open for public viewing. To learn more, visit

The World Methodist Museum, located at 475 Lakeshore Drive, Lake Junaluska, is open year-round, Tuesdays through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. For information, visit, on Facebook or call 828.456.7242.

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