JOHN WESLEY MOMENTS DAVE HANSON
“Did John Wesley ever marry?”
That is the most often asked question after my Thursday afternoon lectures at the Arthur J. Moore Museum at Epworth By The Sea on St. Simons Island.
It is amazing how much interest there is in John Wesley’s relationships with women. Well, I guess some things never change. So, for the next several months in this column I will tell you about “John Wesley’s Women.”
The number one woman in his life was his mother, Susanna. Susanna Wesley, “The Mother of Methodism,” was one of the most remarkable women in all of Christendom. She gave birth to 19 (some say 20) children and raised 10 to adulthood. Beginning on their fifth birthday she homeschooled her children. She expected instant obedience. She managed her large household with little help from her husband. Each week she spent one hour alone with each of her children listening to their hopes, dreams, and struggles and encouraging them in their spiritual lives. She prayed for them and let them know how much she loved them even while teaching them to cry softly and never ask for food outside of mealtimes. When John went off to Oxford he asked his mother to pray with him each Thursday afternoon at the same time they had met together at Epworth.
Once while her husband Samuel was away for a length of time, she began a devotional time in the parsonage on Sunday afternoons because the curate (assistant pastor) preached the same sermon every Sunday. Soon 200 people were coming to the parsonage and nobody was attending church! The curate complained to Samuel who wrote his wife to stop those meetings. Susanna wrote back, “If you show me from scripture and command me as my husband to stop, I will surely do so, but you must promise me that when we stand before Almighty God you will explain to the Lord why I was not allowed to help feed these hungry souls.”
Susanna encouraged John to allow more lay leadership in the church. She also helped him expand the role of women in church leadership.
I pray that God will raise up more women like Susanna Wesley. We need them today, more than ever.