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Living in the shadow of Susannah Wesley

September 13, 2011

As a womb to tomb United Methodist and a mom of many I often get comparisons to Susannah Wesley.  For those who were not brought up Methodist or some other Wesleyan denomination, Susannah Wesley was the 25th of 25 children and was a mother to 19.  She is more importantly the mother of John Wesley the founder of the Methodist movement and Charles Wesley who wrote over 6000 hymns, many of which form the foundation of our hymnal.  Obviously, people bring up the comparison because one of the things that they know about her is that she was a mom of many,  but I think she is a pretty great woman for a clergy mom to be compared to for other reasons.  Many people will point out that Susannah was not a clergywoman.  Honestly? I think that is a technicality and is a product of the patriarchal time she lived in.  And I think it could be argued that she was in fact a model for clergywomen.

Reasons why I think Susannah Wesley is a pretty great role model for clergy moms

  • Susannah led her own “church”  – “[While her husband was away] there were no afternoon church services, [so] Susanna began an evening family gathering where they sang psalms, prayed and Susanna read a short sermon from her husband’s library. It began with the family and the servants but soon word spread and others neighbors appeared, and soon there were too many for the parsonage.” *
  • Susannah was a Preacher’s kid- While I am not a preachers kid, I think preachers kids are pretty swell especially since I am now a mom to PKs. “Born on January 20, 1669, as the daughter of a London pastor and the youngest of 25 children, Susanna Annesley was quite familiar with both a clergyman’s household and large families… Susanna was educated at home, with her lessons supplemented by the intellectual atmosphere of her father’s many scholarly visitors. One of these was the son of a Dissenting minister, Samuel Wesley, then a student.”*
  • Susannah was married to a Pastor- I am not married to a pastor, but many clergy moms are half of a clergy couple, so I thought it was something to note. “Samuel Wesley was ordained in 1689 and he and Susanna, who had also decided to affiliate with the Anglican Church, were married soon after when she was 20 and he was 28… Following his ordination and marriage, Samuel served other parishes before 1696 when he came to Epworth in the North Lincolnshire area, the church he would serve most of his life.”*
  • Susannah knew each of her kids as individuals– “She gave each child individual attention by purposely setting aside a regular time for each of them. In fact, she dedicated one hour a week to each child, which was no small task. She wanted to influence each one of them as an individual and make sure that each one knew the Lord and were growing in their faith. To do that she had to know them. To know them, she needed to invest the time. She reaped great rewards.” *
  • Susannah made time for a personal prayer life–  The story I most often hear from people talking to me about Susannah Wesley is how she prayed for 2 hours everyday.  If she couldn’t find a private place to pray, she would  flip her apron up over her head to pray.  There are many days in my life that I wish I wore an apron everyday, so I could flip it over my head and find  a private prayer place.
  • Susannah was no pushover“Susanna was a strong supporter of the Stuart King James who had been overthrown in 1688 and replaced by William, his Dutch son-in-law. In 1702 when in family prayers Samuel prayed for King William, Susanna refused to say ‘Amen.’ She was, as her son John described it later, ‘inflexible’, and Samuel was equally so.  ‘Sukey,’ he told her as he left home. ‘We must part, for if we have two kings we must have two beds.’ Susanna asserted that she would apologize if she was wrong but she felt to do so for expediency only would be a lie and thus a sin. Eventually after five months and the death of King William Samuel returned home and from their reconciliation was born John in 1703.”*

*excerpts from Susanna Wesley: Mother of Methodism” by Anne Adams.

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