For today I felt that I would go ahead and write more dialogue between the John Wesley and another person or persons. I am not sure what this scene will have in the show, if it will make it or not but I thought it would be a possible idea to have a character in which is a narrator of the show. Through this character, I can give the time for set changes, costume changes, and some interesting reflection between the narrator and the character of John Wesley. I see this narrator character to be a student researching John Wesley. By doing this I bring a context in today’s society and can play the difference between the two time periods. This scene below is further in the show as John is spending a moment writing a letter while he waits out a storm. I hope you enjoy this as much as I have enjoyed writing it.
(Lights Up, Student sits on bed reading. The sound of rain is played. John Wesley sits under a blanket as he writes a letter of reflection)
John: As the rain falls on my blanket brother I cannot help but remember that our journeys are never the easiest to travel. They are essential for the souls of our brothers and sisters in Christ as well as our own souls.
Student: This is yet again, nothing but a letter to his brother. When will I find something I can use for this paper? John Wesley is all well and good, but I do not have the time to keep reading pointless letters to his brother.
John: Brother, I cannot share with you all of the horror I have seen in my journeys around these countryside. I fear for my life almost every hour of every day but I do not show fear as I did on the boat to the American colonies. I have had many run ins with mobs of men whom feel that what I am trying to teach is against their beliefs. As I have told you many times my brother, I do not wish to distance ourselves from the Church of England, but rather want to change the church for the better. I do not know how much more I can continue to journey with all this danger filling my days and night. I wish you nothing but the best brother but I wish you would travel to the areas around your home. Your family is one thing but the souls of the nation are what are truly important.
Student: So let me get this straight. John fears for his life every day, does not want to continue with this fear for his life and yet he wants his brother, who is happily married, to leave his family at home and travel spreading the movement amongst all this danger. Why does this man put himself through this torture all for a movement, and what does he get in return?
(TO BE CONTINUED)
After writing this I am not so sure if I will use a narrator for the show. Yes it gives a different perspective and breaks up the old English. However, by breaking up the old English there is a possibility of the show not having flow and becoming too choppy. This is far from what I would like the show to do. I thought I would try the idea out, this is just a rough draft and it looks like I most likely will not keep it. But we shall see what the finished product looks like in the fall. Who knows whether the narrator will continue to be a character or not, I guess you will just have to stay tuned.
The reading for today was John Wesley writing to many different people, of whom I feel, is not going to be important to the story that I want to portray on stage. So for today’s two blog posts I have decided to combine them and would share with you readers an idea for a scene that I have been mulling over in my head. I would like to lay out the scene so that you understand why the characters are acting in the way that they are.
To set up the scene you must picture John Wesley on the boat traveling to America. The boat is tossing back and forth as the waves come crashing along the side of the boat. John is a younger man and is traveling with his brother Charles to America. They have Moravian traveling companions whom seem to not be scared of the storm, as John and Charles are. Here is the scene of John Wesley and Charles Wesley on the boat to America.
(Lights up, John looks out over the water trying to keep his eye on the horizon. Charles enters)
Charles: My brother, there you are?
John: Charles this is not the time to be by my side.
Charles: But John the service has begun to start (singing begins off stage) Can you not hear the Moravians beginning to sing.
John: Believe me Charles I hear their voices, but I am in no proper physical shape to be preaching to them.
Charles: I understand, but it was you that always told me that it is our duty as Christians to preach to all those that will listen.
John: (yells) how can I preach when I have no words to share!
Charles: You are beside yourself John. What has gotten into you? You never have yelled at me in such a manner. I feel this sea air has put a damper on your spirit.
John: It has done so much more than just damper my spirit Charles. I fear this journey. With every moment that passes I feel closer to death. Then I look at the Moravians and they just seem at peace amongst the storm. It is as if they do not fear death at all. Do you fear death brother?
Charles: I do not know. I have never thought about death in the mass that you have.
John: How can you not consider death, it is what we have been planning for as we have shared the word with the English and the reason we are traveling to the American Colonies.
Charles: I know, but I know that what I am doing is the Lord’s work. If you no longer feel the same I do not know what to say. So I will leave you with your thoughts and will join the Moravians in their worship. I just pray you join as well. (Exits)
John: You brother may have the saving faith but I am no longer sure I do.
(Lightning flashing across the sky and screams come from off stage. John falls to the ground as the boat seems to rock back and forth. Peter Böhler enters)
Peter: Are you alright there Brother John.
John: Yes Brother Peter, I am well.
Peter: You say that you are well but I look into your eyes and see no happiness but rather fear. What are you fearing John?
John: Yes, Can you answer me this question that has been weighing on my heart.
Peter: Go ahead brother
John: How is it that you and your fellow Moravians can be on this boat during a storm such as this and sing hymns when everyone else around you shivers in fear?
Peter: Because we have faith in the Lord. May I ask you a question John?
John: Of course
Peter: Do you have faith in the Lord?
(To be continued)
Well there you have it readers. That is a very very rough draft of a scene for the show. I know I have to work more on my old English, and I hope to do that in my future posts. Tomorrow may be more of the same, or not. But I promise you readers, I will keep you on your toes, so stay tuned.
In my last blog posts I commented on how John Wesley would write letters to his family and in these letters it would seem he was talking more to an academic rather than a family member. With today’s reading John seemed to have a different demeanor with the family member that he wrote to. For today’s reading I read the letters that John Wesley wrote to his younger brother Charles. What is interesting about these letters is John Wesley is writing about many things to his young brother. These topics range from women, the Methodist movement, to simple sibling conversation about their lives. Today’s blog will focus on the brother John writing to his younger brother Charles.
John wrote to Charles as much as he could but almost all of the letters have a focus of God with them. One of my favorite pieces of John’s correspondence with his brother is his letter on February 28, 1766. John writes “We must, we must, you and I at least, be all devoted to God! Then wives, and sons, and daughters, and everything else, will be real, invaluable blessings. Eia age, rumpe moras! Let us this day use all the power we have! If we have enough, well; if not, let us this day expect a fresh supply. How long shall we drag on thus heavily, though God has called us to be the chief conductors of such a work? Alas! What conductors! If I am (in some sense) the head, and you the heart, of the work; may it not be said, ‘The whole head is sick, and the whole heart is faint?’ Come, in the name of God, let us arise, and shake ourselves from the dust! Let us strengthen each other’s hands in God, and that without delay. Have sense sexagenarii (who would have thought we should live to be such!) time to lose? Let you and I, and our house, serve the Lord in good earnest. May his peace rest on you and yours!” This focus on each other was unique in John’s family letters because they saw each other as important in their movement. They were working with each other instead of arguing with each other. There are letters in which they do argue but for most of the letters that I have read, they have been rather cordial with one another.
Now there were definitely times in which John would complain about the movement as well as people in the movement. He would share with Charles about certain people in the movement that needed to be dealt with. One such case was the case involving a man named William Pine. John writes to his brother “I must not delay in answering your important questions,-‘What can be done with William Pine?’ If he still, after my earnest warning, ‘every week publishes barefaced treason,’ I beg you would once more warn him in my name and in your own; and if he slights or forgets this warning, then give him his choice, either to leave us quietly, or to be publicly disowned. At such a time as this, when our foreign enemies are hovering over us, and our own nation is all in a ferment, it is particularly improper to say one word which tends to inflame the minds of the people.” John would pass messages like this that dealt with the Methodist movement through his brother. His brother was almost used as an extension of himself.
I plan on using these letters, like the other letters to his family, in order to create dialogue between the brothers. These letters offer some very important information on how John communicates with his brother. He has many valuable conversations with his brother Charles and should be shared on the stage. I am excited to share these with all who see the show.
For today’s letter from John Wesley I thought it would be interesting to have John write a letter to his brother about the societies and inquiring about his brother’s journeys. I have not read any letters written by John to his brother Charles, although I do know that they did communicate with letters most often. This letter details what John has been doing, and wishing Charles well in his travels.
I hope that your travels have been well and you are safe in your present location. Thank you for blessing me and my travels in your previous letter. I was overjoyed in reading the good works that you have been doing in the communities you have been visiting, but be cautious young brother of those who will befriend you in order to weaken not only your conviction of faith but the faith of your followers. I trust that you have been keeping strict to our agreed upon teachings and saving the souls of all that will open their hearts to our savior Christ Jesus. On a more personal note, I must share with you some troubling news. I have been suffering from fever these past few days on my journey. The weather has not been an easy ride with the wind and rain offering no comfort to my illness. Pray for my health brother, for I feel that my duty to the Lord is not yet accomplished. I have changed the hearts of many on this circuit that I have been traveling and still plan on changing more with the grace of God. I hope that this letter has received you well.
Not knowing the types of letters John wrote to his brother Charles, this is the best that I could come up with. I have a feeling a little later in my journey through John Wesley’s journal and personal writings, that I will find letters from John to Charles. I will then use these letters to write another blog post and will have greater clarity on how John would communicate with his brother. I look forward to that day, as I hope you followers do as well. Stay tuned for tomorrow’s letter, who knows what it will be about.
Every bit of information that I am getting from John Wesley’s personal journal is useful to me and my journey and task of writing a drama based on John Wesley’s life. As I have stated earlier, I did not know how detailed Wesley’s journal would be, so finding the little gems inside this vast journal is not an easy task. I will say this; however, the gem that I found for today’s blog will definitely make the cut and be part of the drama. In all of the biographies there were instances of John Wesley confronting groups of Methodists and almost excommunicating them of sorts. He would kick people out of respected groups that they were in, in order to make the group stronger and eliminate people who disagreed with what he was teaching. Often times the people who were asked to leave were believing teachings of other Methodist preachers but because it was not John Wesley’s teachings, they were told by John Wesley to leave. The incident that I want to share on this blog today comes from the Kingswood group of Methodists.
The Kingswood group was devoted followers of John Wesley’s friend the Reverend George Whitefield. Now, John Wesley and George Whitefield had very different views of predestination, with John believing that there was no predestination and Whitefield following close to the opposite. John Wesley went to Kingswood at request of his brother Charles because they were not following the words of the Wesley’s beliefs. When John arrived he met with the people of the Kingswood Methodists and was not happy with what he found, but what was most interesting was John Wesley reading a letter written by one of the members of the group to George Whitefield. The letter reads: “My dear brother, that you might come quickly, I have written a second time. I sit solitary, like Eli, waiting what will become of the ark. And while I wait, and fear the carrying of it away from among my people, my trouble increases daily. How glorious did the Gospel seem once flourish in Kingswood! – I spake of the everlasting love of Christ with sweet power. But now Brother Charles is suffered to open his mouth against this truth, while the frighted sheep gaze and fly, as if no shepherd was among them. It is just as though Satan was now making war with the saints in a more than common way…With Universal Redemption, Brother Charles pleases the world: Brother John follows him in every thing. I believe no Atheist can more preach against Predestination than they: And all who believe Election are counted enemies to God, and called so.”
You would think that John would just leave after this knowing that he is unwanted at Kingswood. This is not the case; rather John Wesley decides to sit with the people of Kingswood and tries to understand what their theology is and if the two groups could reach an understanding. After meeting with all those that wanted to speak and share their personal theologies John Wesley read a final statement. This statement read as such: “By many witnesses it appears, that several members of the Band Society in Kingswood have made it their common practice to scoff at the preaching of Mr. John and Charles Wesley: That they have censured and spoken evil of them behind their backs, at the very time they professed love and esteem to their faces: That they have studiously endeavoured to prejudice other members of that society against them; and, in order thereto, have belied and slandered them in divers instances. Therefore, not for their opinions, nor for any of them, (whether they be right or wrong,) but for the causes above mentioned, viz., for their scoffing at the word and Ministers of God, for their tale-bearing, backbiting, and evil-speaking, for their dissembling, lying, and slandering: I, John Wesley, by the consent and approbation of the Band Society in Kingswood, do declare the persons above mentioned to be no longer members thereof. Neither will they be so accounted, until they shall openly confess their fault, and thereby do what in them lies, to remove the scandal they have given.”
The scene finally ends with those who were asked to leave praying with everyone and stating their final peace. After a short time spent in prayer they and a few others left the Kingswood Band Society. This scene at Kingswood shows a part of John Wesley that often gets glossed over. John believed that the bands needed to be streamlined and running smoothly. It was when they were not running to John’s standards; he then felt they had fallen into sin. This scene also shows the differences that John and George Whitefield had, despite them both being pastors and falling under the Methodist banner. I am excited to write this scene into the drama because it covers a wide range of the Methodist movement, from the band groups that John Wesley created and the many arguments that he and George Whitefield had over the predestination belief. I know this will be a pivotal scene and will show John Wesley in control and truly forming the Methodist church he believed in, even if he did not plan on it being its own church, but there will be more on that in a later blog. This concludes today’s blog. I hope you have enjoyed this look into John Wesley and the Kingswood Band Society. The journey is getting more interesting so as usual, stay tuned.
I know that there is plenty of writings on John Wesley, his brothers Charles and Samuel, as well as his parents Susanna and Samuel Sr. In my many conversations with clergy in the Methodist tradition, they all understand and realize that there is not much information on John Wesley’s sisters, but his sisters were a really big influence on who John Wesley was. Now John was the second of three boys to survive to adulthood. The Wesley family was filled with women, and for John that meant many sisters, each of them being unique and different in not only their relationship with John, but also their other relationships with men.
Now some of you may be wondering why I really care about John Wesley’s sisters, the answer is simple, almost all of them lived with him at some time. Also, their lives may hold scenes in which I will be able to show John Wesley interacting with his family members other than his mother and brothers. In this most recent reading, the author Henry D. Rack writes about the sisters of John Wesley and their lives. This next paragraph is from Rack’s book Reasonable Enthusiast: John Wesley and the Rise of Methodism.
“Emilia, after an abortive attempt at teaching, wished to marry a clergyman but was frustrated by her brother Samuel and her mother. Instead she married an apothecary, as unbending a Whig as she was a Tory. She was later left a widow. Mary was a cripple who married Samuel Wesley’s curate John Whitelamb at Wroot. Perhaps predictably, she died in childbirth, and Whitelamb lived on to disapprove of John Wesley preaching on his father’s tombstone in 1742…Susanna married a man who was ‘common, coarse and uncultivated, morose and too much inclined to despotic sway’, and later separated from him. Mehetabel (or Hetty) was the most tragic of all. She was the most sprightly and witty of the girls and a constant worry to her parents. About 1724 she was to have been married to a lawyer but her father prevented it. Hetty would have persisted, but apparently her suitor refused to do so, and according to Clarke she vowed either never to marry or to take the first man who offered that her parents approved of. This led to a highly unsuitable marriage to a drunken plumber. What in fact happened was that she was seduced by an unknown lover and hastily married to the plumber to cover the consequences…Martha Wesley’s tragedy was almost equally distressing. Secretly courted by and informally engaged to Westley Hall, a member of the Oxford Holy Club, she was jilted in favour of her sister Kezziah, then taken up again more publicly by Hall. This led to her being blamed by the family for stealing her sister’s lover. Hall married her but later became a shameless theoretical and practical antinomian, inflicting his mistresses on his long-suffering wife…Kezziah, having luckily escaped Hall, fell into ill-health and died young” (Rack 1992, 52).
These women were part of John Wesley’s life; they were his family and some of his greatest confidants. I would love to make them a big part of the show, especially through the letters that they wrote to each other and their childhood. I was not sure how much of John’s childhood I would like to put into the show, but some interesting events did happen in his childhood as well as his early times at the university. He was almost burned in the fire which leads to him being “a brand plucked from the burning.” This is a major event but one of the most interesting events in the family of the Wesley’s was involving a ghost by the name “Old Jeffery.”
Rack writes about “Old Jeffery” in this way, “The phenomena were those usually associated with poltergeists: groans, knockings, banging doors, fear shown by the dog, latches lifted and doors pushed open, a bed raised under one of the girls and the Rector feeling himself pushed by an unseen force. Rather more eccentric were sounds of gobbling like a turkey-cock, the turning of a windmill and the winding of a jack. A creature like a badger or white rabbit was seen and (allegedly) a human form” (Rack 1992, 59). Old Jeffery was something that the daughters and Susanna Wesley kept from father Samuel for the longest time and even when they told him of “Old Jeffery” he did not believe them. He did eventually believe and it would be Samuel’s diary and eye-witness accounts that John Wesley would research and fill his fascination with the supernatural world.
I feel the relationship of John with his sisters is just as important as his relationship with his brother Charles. Yes the relationships with his sisters will probably only be minor in the grand scheme of the drama, but their stories of failed love shows that John was not the only one in the family with marriage problems, it was rather a family affair. In the end, John loved his sisters and enjoyed the stories of Old Jeffery. I have to admit; I really enjoy the Old Jeffery story and may have to include a small bit of it in the story. Who knows where this new book of Henry Rack will lead me. As usual, stay tuned readers.
There were many people that John Wesley did not always get along with, which has been a major development in my reading. But, as John continued on his journey, people that did not always agree, they still respected the man. Towards the end of Stone’s book there is a quote from John Wesley’s sometime opponent, the Gentleman’s Magazine, written after John Wesley’s death. I find it is a great way to sum up who John Wesley was. Here for your enjoyment in the quote.
“Whatever may be the opinions held of his inspiration it is impossible to deny him the merit of having done infinite good to the lower classes of the people…by the humane endeavors of him and his brother Charles a sense of decency in morals and religion was introduced in the lowest classes of mankind, the ignorant were instructed and the wretched relieved and the abandoned reclaimed….He met with great opposition from many of the clergy and unhandsome treatment from the magistrates….He was one of the few characters who outlived enmity and prejudices, and received in his later years every mark of esteem from every denomination….His personal influence was greater perhaps than any private gentleman in the country. All the profit of his literary labours; all that he could receive or could collect (and it amounted to an immense sum) was devoted to charitable purposes. Instead of being an ornament to literature he was a blessing to his fellows: instead of genius of his age, he was the servant of God” (Stone 2001, 207).
This quote shows how John Wesley was an important piece to not only Methodists but to the world of the 18th century in England and in the English colonies. John Wesley did many things that are often over looked because of other events in his life. He was one that likes to be in control of everything he was involved in. Whether that was the “Holy Club” or just his relationships with women, John Wesley was in control. He had this idea and belief that if he was not in control, things that he had started would not run smoothly and possibly cease to exist. This was something that came true at times, but overall did not. In the times that the organizations did not succeed, it was not because of what John Wesley did or did not do. There were times in which he was able to come back to these organizations that were failing and he could turn them around, but shortly after he would leave they would fall apart again. Wesley was not perfect in his endeavors. He appointed two leaders of a Methodist school for children, both of these people embezzled money from the organization, resulting in one of them being hanged.
I am not sure what type of John Wesley I want to have played out on stage. As I have stated in earlier blogs, the Wesley that is to be portrayed is the Wesley that I feel is closest to the real thing. However, there is so many different looks at Wesley with all of these biographies, and I still have two more to read. I am excited to see what these final books share about the life and work of John Wesley, but deep down I hope that they show the Wesley that I have already begun to see coming from the pages of my research. I want to find a few more stories to fill the show with here and there. I would like to see John Wesley in more one on one interaction, but that may not come until I read his own journal and letters. I guess we shall see what happens when I get there, but until then the next blog will be from another biography. So until tomorrow readers, I hope you have a blessed day.