For my final blog for a few weeks, and the final blog of the research portion of my independent study, will be a reflection of the process of research. I would like to talk about my thoughts on the biographies, and then go into the personal writings of John Wesley. I will then conclude the blog with a heads up with what is coming up on this blog.
Now when I started the journey of finding biographies about John Wesley, I honestly thought I could get away by only looking at one or two that I already had in my library. I was wrong, but I am very glad that I was wrong. Because I was told to use more by my supervisor I was able to read a wider range of opinions on John Wesley. Each one of them had their own understanding of John as well as their own stories that follow their thoughts on John. I enjoyed reading the stories and seeing John in many lights, the problem that I had, however, was there was so much to process. I am thankful I had my blog to reflect to all of you my thoughts, but there were times in which this blog was not enough to process all that I have learned. I understand that there is more to be learned, but I think I currently have enough for my show at this point. Who knows, maybe during the process of writing I will read another biography. Only time will tell I guess.
I have to admit that I love John Wesley’s personal writings. I will also admit that the reading at times seemed to drag on. But the reading was full of who John Wesley truly was, or at least who he wanted people to see him as. I was able to pull many different stories and insights about John Wesley that I never knew before. It is hard to truly break away from the John Wesley that I grew up with, but it is important to do this because I cannot write a show about the John Wesley I grew up with. I must write a show about the true John Wesley. By reading John Wesley’s personal writings I am able to break my preconceived notions of who John Wesley was, and truly find the real John Wesley among all of this research.
I cannot wait to write this show, but alas I must wait till the semester starts. I have enjoyed the research portion of the independent study but it has come the time for me to take a break from writing in this blog. I will be taking a week off to relax and then return to this blog after the week. I will be reflecting on how the show is progressing, so the blog post may be shorter than you readers are used to. I hope that you have enjoyed this blog and my journey so far with John Wesley. Only the research portion of the journey has ended, but now the real fun begins. I must channel my inner John Wesley and put him on the page in a theatre drama. Let the fun of writing a theatre drama about John Wesley begin!
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.
So for this final week of research blogs I thought it would only be fitting to begin to write the show and reflect on this tremendous journey I have been on with my new friend John Wesley. For today’s blog I wanted to reflect on how this journey truly began as well as a dream that I had during this research process.
As I have told many friends before, I have had an idea to write a show about Methodism and the people involved, and who was not more involved than John Wesley. I left undergrad constantly thinking about how I would use my theatre background at seminary. After my first year on campus I began to think of ways I could try and use my theatre knowledge. The chapel on campus has a lighting system that can be used for theatre, and then I learned that the campus used to have a group of students and staff that performed theatre shows. That group had long been disbanded and there was nothing currently going on. So I then decided this needed to be changed, I just needed an opportunity to show itself.
This is when I was graced to take United Methodist History. In this class many people talked about the different images of John Wesley. Some of which were good, some of which were not so good. In any case, however, they often were only pictures, stories, or movies. I did not encounter any portray of John on stage. It was then and there that I decided that it was time to begin a journey that would change my life. I then talked with the professor of the class and she was just as enthusiastic as I was. She guided me into looking further into other theatrical shows about John Wesley. To my surprise I found many but none that have been really successful or modern. By modern, I mean something that was around after the 1980s. I understand I make take some flak for that, but it is my opinion. I see that John Wesley has not been shown on stage for quite some time and that needed to be changed.
I then went into the process of making this be for credit, and getting the approval of the school. I thought this would be the point that would end the journey. I honestly felt that the school would not agree with me on undertaking this project, but to my surprise, they were more than excited to go on this journey with me. There are some professors that have told me that they would like to see it performed when the show is finally finished. I was also surprised to hear that almost all the students I have told about this project, have told me that they would love to be in the show. Many of which whom want to be John’s mother Susanna. I truly hope that the show is completed and edited to the point that I feel comfortable with allowing it to be performed. I cannot say that I am not super excited to see it performed. This brings me to my dream, one in which it is performed.
In my dream I had completed writing the show and it had been performed at the seminary. To my surprise there were many different upper level United Methodist pastors and staff was in attendance. At the end of the show some of the people from the greater church were wondering what I wanted to do with the show further. I told them my idea to have the show be shared with Methodists in America and around the world. I told them that I see it as a traveling show and that being a ministry all in itself. To my surprise they agreed and told me that they wanted to have me travel with the show, help cast it, and make changes as the show tours. I was so happy to have that happen. Unfortunately I woke up after that moment, but I now have a new goal for this show. My goal is to see this show tour the United States and then the world. I want Methodists to embrace the show, and go see it. I want to see how far the show can go. Does it have Broadway capabilities, I do not know, it is not written yet. But no matter what I plan on seeing this show through to the end, whatever that ends may be. Until then, I will blog, write, and enjoy this journey with John Wesley, I hope you keep following cause this ride is now picking up some speed.
So it has finally appeared. In a previous blog post I wrote on the confrontation between John Wesley’s wife and a woman by the name of Sarah Ryan. Sarah Ryan was believed to be a woman that John was enamored with, at least that is what his wife grew to believe. In this altercation John’s wife bursts into the room in which Sarah Ryan is serving dinner to John and his guests. John’s wife then proceeds to ridicule and judge Sarah Ryan, her lifestyle, and her history of men. The problem with that past post was that there was no actual account or backlash to this point. What I was writing on at this point was based on biographies and not on the actual written work of John Wesley. Well readers, this is no longer so, because in today’s reading I read several letters written by John Wesley to the woman Sarah Ryan. More importantly there is a letter that is written shortly after the incident between John’s wife and Sarah Ryan.
John’s letter that followed the incident reads as such: “Last Friday, after many severe words, my —— left me, vowing she would see me no more. As I had wrote to you the same morning, I began to reason with myself, till I almost doubted whether I had done well in writing, or whether I ought to write to you at all. After prayer that doubt was taken away. Yet I was almost sorry that I had written that morning. In the evening, while I was preaching at the chapel, she came into the chamber where I had left my clothes, searched my pockets, and found the letter there, which I had finished, but had not sealed. While she read it, God broke her heart; and afterwards found her in such a temper as I have not seen her in for several years. She has continued in the same ever since. So I think God has given a sufficient answer, with regard to our writing to each other.” John will later conclude the letter with questions that deal with how Sarah’s life is going, not as one that is too much of a spiritual nature but more of a general interest.
I find that this letter adds so much more to the story of Sarah Ryan and John Wesley. All of this will make an appearance in the show because Sarah Ryan was deeply important to the person of John Wesley. She is one of a handful of women that John wrote to on a regular basis and he often wrote about how she had renewed his strength in God. I would like to show more about Sarah Ryan than just her altercation with John’s wife. I desire to write about more of how Sarah renewed John’s strength, but I also realize the power that lies in the scene with the altercation. I am extremely grateful for John Wesley writing more about this event. It should be interesting to see what happens as I take this letter, other similar letters, and research I have gotten from the biographies to write the scene, or scenes, for the show. Stay tuned to see what happens in the future with John Wesley and Sarah Ryan when their characters are portrayed on stage.
After writing the last blog post about John’s communication with Charles I find it only fitting that the letter I will write be addressed to his brother Charles. In this letter, I hope to accomplish the love John has for his brother, but also the focus on the movement and improving that through Charles. I hope you enjoy the letter as much as I have writing it.
I apologize for writing you later and less frequent than our usual pattern of conversing. I have been traveling visiting the band groups here in the north preaching to all who come forward to listen. You must be busy with the same based on your previous letter the bands in the south seem to grow. I cannot help but praise God for the great works you have been accomplishing in these past few weeks. Remember brother that we have been given a gift and this should be spread to the world. Let us not forget that we are the head and the heart of this movement and we must be with Christ at all moments in our lives. I have told you many times that if we fall short the movement follows. I pray that you and your family are well.
Your Loving Brother
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 I felt that I should write a letter from John Wesley addressed to his mother while he is at school. This is from a time in his life that I feel that John would be down in the dumps as you could say. There were moments of weakness in his school years, so here is my attempt at a letter during that time in his life.
I apologize for my letter being later than I have promised in my previous letters, one of my friends has fallen ill with fever with which I have also have acquired myself. Pray for not only my health but the health of my fellow students. My studies go well but I am tormented by the different theologies and discussions I have with some of my superiors and professors. My faith has become shaken to the point I do not know if I can carry on. Samuel says that this is not unusual but I look to my classmates and their faith seems to grow every day. Pray for my soul as it is tempted by the society I live in at the school. I pray every day for the family back at home. Please to continue to write me about “Old Jeffrey” because I am interested in him highly.
Your grateful son,
I have finally reached the homestretch of my research portion of the independent study. As the final two weeks of my summer intensive come to a close, I would like to share with you the information that this blog will continue. It will change, however, in content and may not have a blog post every weekday. The content will always be about John Wesley, but it may be more focused on the show in general and the process that it will be undertaking in the fall. Anyway, you followers are expecting to read something new, well here is what I learned today.
For today’s blog I have been reading many different letters written by John Wesley. More importantly, in today’s reading the focus was on John Wesley’s family. John wrote to his father, mother, and eldest brother Samuel. In these letters he is rather professional as if he is talking to a colleague instead of a family member. John gets into very educated discussions that often get heated in the way that one would with a rival scholar. It is as if John Wesley used his family to hone his argumentative skills that he uses later in life. He gets into arguments about different theologies depending on which parent he is talking to. The conversations with his older brother are interesting because they both went to the same university, but what I find interesting is how he feels about his education.
In one of his conversations with his mother he comments on his education and his ability to use it in the future. John Wesley writes “One advantage, at least, my degree has given me: I am now at liberty, and shall be in a great measure for some time, to choose my own employment. And as I believe I know my own deficiencies best, and which of them are most necessary to be supplied, I hope my time will turn to somewhat better account than when it was not so much in my own disposal.” John saw his education as a gateway to a better life, but as he got older he saw that his education was to be the piece of his life that gave him a bit of power in changing the thoughts of society. He was not always liked, as my previous blog posts suggested, but understood that his education allowed him to be in powerful positions.
I am not sure if the letters will be good for the show, mostly because I don’t think people want to watch someone write a letter to someone. I do feel that they will help in the writing process of the show. By reading his letter conversations between John and his family, I will be able to write a more true dialogue between family members. I now know that as John got older, he began to see family as colleagues and not family members. I am interested to see how the dynamic is portrayed on stage, but I guess that will all depend on the lines I write for the show. Stay tuned to see what happens with the show.
As I stated in the other blog today, John had a high standard for the Methodists and that even came to the clothing that they wore. So for today’s John Wesley voice blog, I have decided to write a piece that is intended for the modern Christian. This is what I feel John Wesley would voice as his opinion on the dress of today.
To My Christian Friends,
It has come to my attention that you may have not been given the opportunity to read my statement on appropriate dress for Christians. I have stated many times that the dress of both ladies and gentleman should be simple, clean, and appropriate to their station in life. As I have observed your churches and societies, I am astounded to find that this is far from the case. Articles of clothing are being used to grab the attention of the opposite sex when the attention should be focused on the words of God. You spend valuable time shopping for clothes that only make you more uncomfortable, when you should be focusing your spare time and energy on your inner souls other than your outward appearance. I will pray for God to guide you next time you purchase goods in which you will wear not only in public but in the church. Remember to put the focus not on goods of this world but on the Lord who is good not only in this world but in the next.
Your Humble Servant,
I hope you have enjoyed this letter; it was a fun one to write. I cannot wait to begin writing the show, which is slowly beginning with storyboarding. Stay tuned followers; the journey is beginning to get more interesting.
In previous blog posts I have made comments on the setting, the characters, bits and pieces of plot, and overall life in the 18th century. For this post today, I would like to write about the costumes. Not necessarily the costumes of the entire cast, but rather what John Wesley would put everyone in the cast in. John Wesley writes a document entitled “Advice to the People Called Methodists, with regard to dress.” In this document John lays out how he feels people should dress in the Methodist society and in the great Christian society. For the purposes of this blog I will focus on only a few quotes from the document that I found rather interesting.
The first is where John Wesley gets his idea of how Methodists should dress. He writes “Many years ago I observed several parts of Christian practice among the people called Quakers. Two things I particularly remarked among them, – plainness of speech, and plainness of dress. I willingly adopted both, with some restrictions, and particularly plainness of dress; the same I recommended to you, when God first called you out of the world; and after the addition of more than twenty years’ experience, I recommend it to you still.” John may have not agreed with the theology of the Quakers but admired their plainness in dress. He even goes on to write that the Methodists should imitate them in two ways; “First, in the neatness of their apparel…be as clean as your station in life will allow…Secondly, in the plainness of their apparel. In this are implied two things: (1.) That your apparel be cheap, not expensive… (2.) That it be grave, not gay, airy, or showy; not in the point of the fashion.” This is all well and good, but what I found most interesting was the detail John Wesley went into to describe what each gender should wear.
When it comes to the clothing of each gender, John Wesley writes “Wear no gold, no pearls, or precious stones; use no curling of hair, or costly apparel, how grave soever. I advise those who are able to receive this saying, Buy no velvets, no silks, no fine linen, no superfluities, no mere ornaments, though ever so much in fashion. Wear nothing, though you have it already, which is of glaring colour, or which is in any kind gay, glistering, or showy; nothing made in the very height of the fashion, nothing apt to attract the eyes of the by-standers. I do not advise women to wear rings, ear-rings, necklaces, lace, or ruffles, which, by little and little, may easily shoot out from one to twelve inches deep. Neither do I advise men to wear coloured waistcoats, shining stockings, glittering or costly buckles or buttons, either on their coats, or in their sleeves, any more than gay, fashionable, or expensive perukes.” Now fashion of the time was elaborate for the upper class, and would be rather exciting to construct for the costumes of the show, but instead John would rather prefer the simple dress and muted colors. John asked all of his Methodist followers to live life as he did, which would require them to dress simply and be who they were. As I have stated in another blog and conversations with others, John Wesley refused to wear a wig, and because of that he grew his hair out. John was an odd person when it came to the common pieces of society; he always went against the grain as you can say.
I think this is interesting to take into the modern society. I can only imagine what John Wesley would say the Christians and Methodists in today’s modern society. There are short shorts, skirts that are very revealing, people with underwear showing, and so much more. I am not saying that there should be a major change. I am one of those that do not like wearing a suit to church, but John Wesley would have a field day with the congregations of Methodists today. Maybe a bit of John Wesley with this show will rub off on the audience and change their thoughts on modern fashion. Who is to say what will happen? Only time will tell.