Summer, as most Christians know, is the time for Vacation Bible School. For today’s blog I would like to write a scene that shows John Wesley talking to the students and professors at the Kingswood school. John pays special attention to the child who comes up to him inquiring why they rise so early. In all of my research there is very little interaction between John and young children. This allows me to take certain artistic liberties but I still plan on being as true to John Wesley as possible. I hope you enjoy the scene.
(Lights up. John enters a room with students sitting in rows waiting to hear from John)
Professor: Students, allow me the privilege to introduce you to John Wesley. He is the man that has helped created this fine educational establishment of which you all are educated.
John: Thank you professor that will be enough. Good morning children, I hear that your studies have been on schedule and that your knowledge grows by leaps and bounds on a daily basis. I am proud to see that your hard work will help you leave this place of education and you will contribute greatly to the society around you. I cannot stay long I am afraid, so if you any questions feel free to ask them now.
Student: Mr. Wesley I have a question for you if you will answer it for me.
John: Go ahead young student.
Student: Please correct me if I am wrong in this statement. Is it not your rules and guidelines that we must follow every day?
John: This is true. Is that your question child?
Student: My question is this. Why must we rise every day at four o’clock in the morning? Why must we never deviate from your rules and guidelines for the day?
Professor: This is the way it has been for years. How dare you child ask this of Mr. Wesley?
John: It is alright professor; the student is of age to ask such questions. Well child the answer is simple, by having a daily regiment one is able not to worry about the daily task of living but rather can focus on ones relationship with our Lord in heaven. This is the way all should be living. If you follow this practice as a youth you are far more likely to continue to live in this lifestyle as an adult. Is this a sufficient answer for you?
(To be continued)
I rather like this conversation between John and the student. He is very loving to the student when the professor yells at them. However, John is still very stern when dealing with answering the question. John sees nothing wrong in his ideas and guidelines that he makes the students follow. He sees this as the best option for the students and therefore they are better off following his lifestyle. I hope this scene, you feel, is true to John Wesley. I feel that it is, but I will let you be the judge.
For today’s letter from John Wesley I have decided to write a letter written to the children of the Kingswood school. He mentions many instances in his journal that he meets with the students and talks to them about their studies, faith, and spiritual formation. I am just attempting to take those bits and pieces from John’s journal and put them in letter form. I hope you enjoy what I have created.
Dear Kingswood Students,
I pray that this letter receives you all well and does not keep you from your studies. I have received word from your professors that some of you have begun to fall away from the regiment that I have laid out as the foundation of your studies. This is not a proper conduct for youth to grow, and you must understand that the professors and I have the best interest in not only your wellbeing mentally but your wellbeing in your soul. These studies are not just in reading and writing but are the studies that will grow your faith in our Father Almighty. I want you all to understand that this strict regimen is for your good and if you follow it you will be able to succeed in this world and the next.
As always my thoughts and prayers are with you and your souls. Please stay focused on your studies and your relationship to our Father Almighty. You are all children of God and your faith alone is what is asked of you in order for your soul to be saved. Do not forget that my friends. I look forward to the next time you and I will converse again.
Your Loving Servant
Kingswood was very important to John Wesley, and he truly cared for those kids. That is why he often removed people from teaching the children because he felt that they were more harm than good. I hope you have enjoyed this letter as much as I enjoyed writing it.
In my post on Friday I focused deeply on the look of John Wesley and roughly who he was as a man, without the chaos of people around him. For my first post of July I would like to keep with this theme but more importantly focus on a John Wesley as a preacher, author, editor, and educator. John Wesley was known for preaching and being one of the founders of the Methodist movement, but looking at the other pieces and things that John Wesley had his hands in will only make my job, to fill the stage with as many scenes as possible, easier. I would like to show, as I have stated many times in my blog, every side of John Wesley that I can, but still make an enjoyable drama. Maybe some of the information in today’s blog and today’s reading will make the final cut for the show.
Now Wesley as a preacher Rack writes heavily on this subject. Rack writes “in practice Wesley preached extempore for an hour or more and the indications are that, like most preachers, he filled out and varied the basic material with anecdotes and illustrations, sometimes adapted to circumstances or incidents occurring during preaching…often succeeding when he prepared but failing when he did not. ‘He preached too frequently; and the consequence was inevitable’ – he became trite and disjointed. But he ‘made a point to preach, if he could stand upon his legs’” (Rack 1992, 343). John Wesley also gave himself and his other preachers guidelines for preaching, these were “have a serious deportment, suit the subject to the audience, keep to plain texts, avoid ‘rambling’, be sparing in allegorizing, eschew quaint words, say ‘hallowed’ not ‘hollowed’ in the Lord’s Prayer. After preaching they should avoid spirituous liquors and take mild ale or lemonade” (Rack 1992, 344). I plan on using this information as much as possible because preaching was a huge part of John Wesley’s life seeing that he preached almost till the day that he died, and would have preached on the day he died if he was strong enough. Now as important as preaching was, John also did a ton of writing and editing which should be shown in the show.
Rack writes about an interesting part of John Wesley’s writing style, he was a “borrower” which means he was kind of plagiarizing other people’s work. Rack goes into detail on this when he writes “Wesley was remarkably cavalier in his borrowings. He seems to have taken the view that if a thing was good it should be spread further by abridgment. When dealing with his favourite Catholic saints, he omitted what he found offensively ‘popish’, highlighting what he saw as the essentials of perfection” (Rack 1992, 347). As much as John Wesley wrote or stole from other people he was still an original author. He wrote sermons, pamphlets, a magazine, and a journal. It is his journal that will be a major piece of not only my research but also the show. John Wesley wrote about everything in his journal, and in some cases even published it in the Methodist magazine. John Wesley wrote in his journal but also asked that all of his pastors write journals as well. In these journals would be records of people they met, churches they served, and their daily lives. What is most interesting is John Wesley started writing his journal while he was an educator.
The school that John Wesley founded in 1748 was dear to his heart. This school is the Kingswood school, not to be confused with the one founded by Whitefield. John Wesley had, as usual, complete control over how the school is run which meant that John was going to have these kids taught like he was taught as a child and would be on the same regimen that he was currently on. John Wesley in 1768 described the regimen that the students followed: “they rose at 4 a.m., spent an hour in reading, singing, meditation and prayer, met for worship an 5 and from 6 worked until breakfast. ‘For as we have no play-days…so neither do we allow any time for play on any day.’ He quotes a German proverb: ‘He that plays when he is a child, will play when he is a man.’ Tradition tells that when asked to allow the boys to play he responded: ‘If they wish for recreation let them have a prayer meeting.’ On fine days they worked in the garden and otherwise in the house. Some learnt music, some did ‘philosophical (scientific) experiments’. They should do all in the presence of a master. The routine continued with school from 7 to 11 a.m.; then walking or working from 11 to 12. They dined and then sang or worked till 1 p.m. Work came again from 1 to 5; then private prayer; walking or working from 6 till supper; then public worship and at 8 p.m. bed, beginning with the youngest” (Rack 1992, 356). This would not have been fun for children but it was typical of how John Wesley taught both children and adults. John had a plan and did not deviate from that as long as he could. This carried out throughout his entire life.
I plan on using these great finds in Henry Rack’s book in the drama. I do not know where just yet, but I know they will find a place. Kingswood was important to John, so there must be a scene involving this school of John’s. Also he spent a ton of time writing, I would like to bring as much of his writing to the show as possible, whether that be his journal (which I know will be huge in the show) or his letters to people around him, it is all important. I do not have much reading left with the biographies, only a few more days till I get to read John Wesley’s writings. The journey is getting more and more interesting. As usual, stay tuned friends.