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Happy birthday, John Wesley

June 13, 2020
WHAT'S OLD IS NEW AGAIN
ANNE PACKARD


The Moore Methodist Museum celebrates John Wesley’s birthday each year on June 28. This in itself can lead to confusion because his real birth date is June 17, but when England’s calendar changed from the Julian calendar to the Georgian calendar, 10 days were lost and that moved his birth date to June 28.

The tagline the Museum uses to celebrate John Wesley’s birthday is, “We’re going to party like it’s 1703!” Usually, at the end of June, the Museum is filled with summer campers who always enjoy a party and the cake that comes with it. We spend a little time thinking about how birthdays would be celebrated in 1703 and how that would differ from 2020.

But this year is different. The Moore Methodist Museum will be open, but no summer campers will be joining us to celebrate John Wesley’s birthday. Masks will replace party hats and we are trying to research how we can offer party food without killing anyone. As I put the announcement of John’s birthday party under the Events tab of our website, www.mooremethodistmuseum.com, I included the tagline, “We’re going to party like it’s 1703!” At least that is not being taken away.

This got me thinking to other similarities between 1703 and 2020. Thinking tends to lead me to research and research seems to lead me to how what’s old is new again. This year is not the only year when John Wesley’s birthday might be muted due to a pandemic. Even the exact year of his birth included a small pox pandemic that killed 1,500 people in Canada, or New France as it was called then. The year prior saw a yellow fever epidemic that killed 500 people in New York. A few years later another small pox outbreak killed 36 percent of the population of Iceland – more than 18,000 people.

The point of June 28 is not the party or even the cake. It is not about a birthday celebration. It is about hope. The hope of the sixteenth child born to rather poor parents in a rather obscure part of the world. The hope of love and the power it holds to change the world. The hope of a hot meal or medicine or comfort. The hope of lifting our voices in song. This year we might not celebrate the birth of John Wesley with a party, but maybe that’s not how it should be honored. We will celebrate his birth with the hope of meeting again in the places we hold most dear to sing our hearts out to the Lord and holding each other close.

Anne Packard serves as Conference Historian and director of the Arthur J. Moore Methodist Museum on St. Simons Island. Contact her at director@mooremuseum.org.

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