"Philip, you must preach to us or we will all go to hell together, and God will require our blood at your hands."
With these words in 1766, Barbara Heck - who to her horror had found her formerly Methodist relatives playing cards in her kitchen - persuaded her cousin, lay preacher Philip Embury, to form the first Methodist society in North America.
The congregation - organized even before the Methodists in England had separated from the Anglican Church - descended not from English Methodists, but from a group of German Lutheran refugees in Ireland who were brought to Methodism by John Wesley, the English Methodist leader. They emigrated to New York City in 1760, and at first - since the city as yet had no Methodist presence - they worshipped in a local Lutheran church. Embury's group outgrew temporary quarters in a rigging loft, and in 1768 the preacher, by trade a carpenter, built the first "preaching house," the Wesley Chapel on John Street. Though the Methodists in Embury's time still belonged to the Anglican Church, the American Revolution quickly led to a break between the American Methodists and the Church, followed by the creation of a new Methodist Episcopal denomination and the transformation of Wesley Chapel from preaching house to church. The current John Street Church, third on the site, incorporates timbers and stones from Wesley Chapel.