Jean de Quetteville

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Jean de Quetteville

Jean de Quetteville 1761-1843 Methodist pioneer

Family

The eldest son of Elie de Quetteville and Marthe Perchard, Jean was born in St Martin on 22 May 1761. He was educated in Winchester, where he had his first contact with Methodism, but he was subsequently confirmed in the Church of England, although on his return to Jersey he went through a period of mental agony.

"By day I feared that the earth would open and swallow me up. By night I feared to go to sleep, lest I should wake in Hell."

He approached the Rector of St Martin, who suggested sea-bathing and cheerful company, but the young de Quetteville instead joined in religious meetings at the homes of Jeanne Perrot and neighbouring farmers, and gave his first address at one of these in St Mary. He then began to preach regularly on Sundays, in St Ouen, St Mary and St John, moving from one to the other on foot, because his disapproving father refused him a horse.

Methodist Society

In 1784 he joined Methodist soldiers from a new garrison regiment in forming a Methodist Society. Two years later he was chosen to go to Guernsey as a lay preacher to help with the development of Methodism there.

De Quetteville's memorial stone

Guernsey

The History of the Religious Movement of the Eighteenth Century by Abel Stevens

"Dr Coke visited Jersey, and found among its Methodists a zealous young local preacher, Jean de Quetteville, whom he took to Guernsey, where they formed the first society of the island. De Quetteville became a successful evangelist, and for nearly sixty years laboured indefatigably for the promotion of the Gospel in the islaes and in France. His French hymns are still sung in all the Methodist congregations of the Channel Islands. He endured stormy persecutions in Guernsey, but prevailed over them all. He was arraigned before the Supreme Court, and was in danger of a sentence of banishment; but the witnesses against him were strangely led to contradict themselves and to give decisive evidence in his favour, and he was acquitted."

This was not before he had suffered violent attacks while attempting to preach in Guernsey parishes. He was pelted with rotten eggs, smothered in dung and drenched with water on his way to meetings.

Sark

John Wesley first proposed a mission to Sark in 1787. Jean de Quetteville subsequently began preaching there, initially in a cottage at Le Clos à Geon and then at various houses around Sark. Preachers from Guernsey visited regularly, and in 1796, land was donated by Jean Vaudin, leader of the Methodist community in Sark, for the construction of a chapel, which Jean de Quetteville dedicated in 1797.

Alderney

The Alderney Society in 1789 purchased a plot of ground. By contributing in money, materials, and personal labour they actually succeeded in having their first Chapel ready for opening by 9 March 1790 — only three years after Adam Clarke's pioneer visit. Jean de Quetteville conducted the dedication services.

Jersey

Although he spent much of his time in the other islands, de Quetteville maintained the Methodist ideal of itineration by spending three periods of two months each year in Jersey. There he was regularly assaulted and his meetings were broken up, but he perservered, even though he clashed with John Wesley. In 1787 the question of the discipline of the Society was prominent. Wesley had foreseen this and soon after his visit had written to Adam Clarke: 'Be exact in every point of discipline. Keep our rules and they will keep you.’

Wesley's letters

De Quetteville, in these early days of his ministry, was apt to be both impulsive and severe in judgement. Letters survive relating to one difficult incident:

  • Wesley to Brackenbury:
"M.— (the omitted name is that of de Quetteville) is undoubtedly a good young man; and has a tolerably good understanding. But he thinks it better than it is; and in consequence is apt to put himself in your or my place. For these fifty years, if anyone has said: 'If you do not put such an one out of Society, I will go out of it', I have said: 'Pray go; I, not you, are to judge who shall stay'. I therefore greatly approve of your purpose to give Mr W— a full hearing in the presence of all the Preachers. I have often repented of judging too severely, but very seldom of being too merciful. As the point is undoubtedly of very great importance, it deserved serious consideration; and I am glad you took the pains to consider it, and discussed it so admirably well according to Scripture and sound reason.
  • Wesley to Adam Clarke:
8 December 1787. Brother de Quetteville and you do not mind what I say. I do not wonder at him (he does not know me), but I do at you. His natural temper is stern, yours is not. Therefore I expect you to regard me whether he does or no. We have no such custom among our Societies, nor ever had, as for a man to acknowledge his fault before a whole Society. There shall be no such custom while I live. If he acknowledges it before the preachers it is enough.
18 December 1787. I fear you have been too severe with Mr W. I am persuaded there is much good in him, otherwise he would have washed his hands of the Methodists. Take heed not to contract something of the temperament of de Quetteville.
8 January 1788. I have admired the spirit of young George W. During the hours that he has spent with us I do not remember his blaming anybody. He says nothing with regard to his father, except in reply to questions which I put to him.

It was no light matter for any of the preachers to encounter the rebuke of John Wesley. How he reacted to it is not known.

Paris

De Quetteville volunteered to work with the French Canadians but an unmarried man, Jerseyman Abraham Bishop, was chosen. He was, however, ordained and sent to Paris, but his mission was unsuccessful and he returned to Jersey after a few weeks.

Failing health restricted his work, but he was active in writing and publishing hymns, and his works helped Channel Island Methodism to stand out from the English movement.

He married Susanne de Jersey, daughter of Henri, of Mon Plaisir, Guernsey, in 1788. Their only son died young, but daughters Jeanne and Rachel survived him. He paid his last visit to Jersey in 1837 and preached in all 16 chapels which had been built during his ministry. Two years later he died in Guernsey.

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