WHAT’S OLD IS NEW AGAIN
The historical societies of the Southeastern Jurisdiction and The United Methodist Church met at the Moore Methodist Museum this summer to trace the footsteps of John and Charles Wesley while they ministered to the colonists in Georgia. Highlights of the week’s events included a stop at Peeper’s Island, a walking tour of historical Savannah, and time on the grounds of Christ Episcopal Church and Fort Frederica. While walking in these sacred places, the journals of John and Charles were read to help identify what was happening and who was being encountered while they spent time in these same places. What’s Old Is New Again!
Standing on the bluff of what we now call Cockspur Island, it is easy to visualize the Symonds tall masts coming into view and imagine the gratitude that must have been felt by those aboard. After four months at sea, with the last few weeks being especially stormy, the sandy beach and swaying palm trees must have looked like paradise.
The Savannah that John and Charles knew was much smaller than the one we know today. It was only a few blocks in length and width and, because of Oglethorpe’s meticulous planning and detail, we know exactly where houses and churches stood in the earliest days. The parsonage where John lived backed up to the ground reserved for the Anglican Church. The church wasn’t constructed until several years after John left but, had it been constructed, it would have been wonderfully convenient. And Thomas Causton’s house, where Sophy Hopkey lived with her aunt and uncle, was located on the same square where the Anglican Church was constructed and only one square away from John Wesley’s parsonage. It was truly a small town, and people would have known each other well.
Fort Frederica, like Savannah, was small and well planned. The soldiers guarding the fort from the Spanish to the south and the Native Americans all around were given the best food and accommodations. Townspeople would often fill many roles as both doctor and barkeeper, for example. This was an even less educated, less civilized group than was found in Savannah and John and Charles both suffered because of this.
While here in Georgia, John and Charles went to church, spoke to small groups, worked with fellow colonists, and met strangers. They had good days, bad days, and really bad days. There were people who liked and supported them and people who didn’t. The brothers tried new things; sometimes they succeeded but, oftentimes, they didn’t. When seeking the true high points of the Wesleys’ ministry, there would not be many found while they lived in Georgia. However, here we are, hundreds of years later, tracing their footsteps through their average daily lives because the lessons they learned while living here went on to greatly influence the work done later and the subsequent success. While living their “normal” lives, John and Charles were changing the Christian outlook forever. They were making history every single day.
As we go about our average daily lives, may we also change the Christian outlook by truly welcoming strangers into our small groups with faith, hope, and love. May we constantly reach out to those who have been forgotten or overlooked and proclaim the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ. May the footsteps we make today leave such a positive impact that others will follow in them even years later.
Anne Packard serves as Conference Historian and director of the Arthur J. Moore Methodist Museum on St. Simons Island. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.