“I learned more about Christianity from my mother than from all the theologians in England,” John Wesley, 1703-1791.
In the tiny English village of Epworth, Susanna Wesley gave birth to 19 children, but only 10 lived to adulthood. She was a strict, religious mother who believed in hard work, schedules and discipline and her sons and daughters received an education at home that included art, music and languages.
Fifteen members of Concord United Methodist Church spent a week in May in England visiting Epworth and other significant locations in the life of John Wesley, Susanna’s most famous son and “the founder of the Methodist movement,” said Glenna Manning, CUMC pastor of discipleship and outreach.They spent a night in Leeds, three nights in Birmingham and three nights in London.
In the Tea and Tattle tea shop in the basement of a bookseller, they enjoyed high tea with sandwiches, clotted cream, jam, biscuits — and smoothies — since it was a hot day.
They ate fish and chips and blood pudding and profiteroles. They visited Shakespeare’s home at Stratford-Upon-Avon, saw the martyr’s handwriting inside the Tower of London and posed for pictures inside red phone booths.
But when all was said and done, Manning and Jane Currin, director of missions, could really only talk about one thing: the founder of their denomination. “was John Wesley,” Manning said. It was a Wesley heritage tour. We went to places that were high points in his life.”
In Epworth they learned about Wesley and his siblings: Samuel, Emilia, Susanna, Mary, Mehetabel, Anne, Martha, Charles and Kezia. “I think the part about his sisters was interesting,” Currin said. “The fact that they were treated fairly with their brothers and were expected to learn.”
“Susanna Wesley’s routine was very structured,” Manning said. “Beginning the day they turned 5, they had to know the alphabet and were all trained in languages. She homeschooled and spent an hour per week alone with each child.”
“Socially it might have hurt them,” Currin said about the girls. “When they found spouses, they had a hard time keeping marriages because of the difference in how they were raised. There were no peers to be had in Epsworth. You kind of felt for them. They ended up not marrying, coming back home or staying in bad marriages.”
Apparently, Wesley’s mother’s love for work and order rubbed off.
“He was up for devotions at 4 in the morning,” Manning, said. “If you stayed with him, he expected you to go to bed the moment the sun went down because there was no reason for you to be up. He fasted one or two days a week. He read and wrote letters on horseback. He’s noted for having read 1,400 different authors; not just theology, but Plato, Shakespeare, medicine and science. Obviously he was brilliant.
“We went to York where he was jailed, Christ Chapel at Oxford where he received his ordination, to Bristol where he had a training ground and London where he started a city chapel.”
This was the first trip of this type for CUMC, but Currin and Manning said it was such a success they’re already thinking of where to go next.