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John Wesley

by Carey C. Giudici

Before becoming the founder of what would become the Methodist Church, John Wesley spent 23 months in Georgia helping establish the colony of Georgia.

In 1736 the 33-year-old cleric accompanied James Ogelthorpe as pastor of the Georgia colonists and to preach to the local indigenous tribes.

Although he considered himself unsuccessful in those efforts, Wesley's experiences helped prepare him for his "Wesleyan Revival" within the Church of England. For example, the tranquility of spirit he saw in German Christian settlers became a cornerstone of Wesley's "methodology."

One year after his return to England John Wesley had a "heart-warming experience" during a religious gathering that led to his organizing "societies" of believers within Episcopal congregations. In the remaining 52 years of his life he preached more than forty thousand sermons--sometimes four a day. After his death in 1791, his followers established a new Protestant denomination.

John's brother, the poet Charles Wesley (1707-1788), may have endured the worst reception of any literary visitor to St. Simons Island. Secretary to James Ogelthorpe, the new colony's Director of Indian Affairs, and the first pastor of Christ Episcopal Church, Charles had to live in a lean-to covered with palmetto leaves near Fort Frederica--without, he complained to Ogelthorpe, even a bed or teapot. Sick with diarrhea and plagued by boils (and by some of his flock), Charles stayed for only four months before leaving the island for Savannah and England.

Back in London in 1738, Charles helped spread Methodism with his pen rather than oratory. His over 6,000 hymns include "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing."

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