|Event to explore Charles Wesley?s work, legacy|
By Melissa Lauber*
April 13, 2007 | COLUMBIA, Md. (UMNS)
While history may have cast him in the shadow of his brother John, it
was Charles Wesley who set Methodism to music and gave the church a song
Charles Wesley's life and legacy will be
remembered at a 300th birthday celebration July 20-22 in Chevy Chase,
Md. Artwork by Frank Salisbury, courtesy of the World Methodist Museum.
The writer of an estimated 9,000 poems, Charles Wesley's works and
legacy will be explored during his 300th birthday celebration July 20-22
in Chevy Chase, Md.
Participants will sing some of the 41 Wesley-penned hymns that are in today's United Methodist Hymnal,
including: "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing," "Christ the Lord is Risen
Today," "O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing" and "Come, Thou Long-Expected
They also will explore the character and faith of this man who lived
from 1707 to 1788 and called together a group of like-minded men to form
the Holy Club at Oxford University in London, laying the foundation for
what grew to become the Methodist Church.
John Wesley, the acknowledged founder of Methodism, was "a man of
angles and straight lines. Charles was a man of curves, parabolas and
ellipses," said ST Kimbrough Jr., the founding president of the Charles
Poet with a mission
In 1985 at Carnegie Hall in New York City, Kimbrough debuted in a
one-man show about Charles Wesley titled "Sweet Singer." The baritone,
who performs opera on international stages, has enacted Wesley's story
more than 500 times.
In the process, he has gained many insights about faith from this "poet with a mission."
John Wesley was “a man of angles and straight lines. Charles was a man of curves, parabolas and ellipses.”
–ST Kimbrough Jr.
"One of the things I've learned from Charles Wesley is that music
opens the door to mystery in a magnificent way," Kimbrough said. "In
'And Can it Be,' he wrote, 'Tis mystery all.' Charles Wesley was willing
to stand firmly in that mystery with faith."
For both Wesley and Kimbrough, it is art that keeps opening the door
to the mystery of the unknown. "Art provides a continual affirmation
that God continues to renew that which sustains us as we journey through
life," he said.
Love also plays an essential role in Wesley's theology, Kimbrough
said. In 1738, when Wesley had "heart palpitations" as he experienced
his conversion (three days before his brother John's heart was
"strangely warmed"), he discovered of God that "thy nature and thy name
"Almost inevitably, if you read his poetry carefully, that
four-letter word 'love' will usually be the culmination of what he is
saying," said Kimbrough. "Love is the full nature of God. Love should be
the full nature of human beings who emulate God on this earth."
Time in America
Shortly before his conversion, Wesley spent time in America, where
events conspired to send him on a quest for inner peace. What he
experienced in the Colonies also found its way into his music, according
For example, Wesley witnessed a slave being nailed up by his ears,
beaten and soaked in scalding water. It took the man four months to be
able to move again. Two years later, he wrote, "Come thou long expected
Jesus, born to set thy people free."
ST Kimbrough Jr. portrays Charles Wesley in his one-man show titled "Sweet Singer." A UMNS Web-only photo courtesy of
ST Kimbrough Jr.
"Those words are not only about salvation," said Kimbrough.
Knowing the life experiences that shaped the man and his hymns adds another dimension when singing these sacred songs.
The tercentenary celebration is being held in conjunction with the
sixth historical convocation of The United Methodist Church. The event
will include the annual meetings of the Historical Society of The United
Methodist Church, the Charles Wesley Society, the Southeastern
Jurisdiction Historical Society and the General Commission on Archives
and History. To register by June 10, visit http://www.gcah.org.
Kimbrough also is participating in other events and activities during
2007 to honor the acclaimed hymnist. In addition to a music festival at
Oxford and creating two music CDs, he has written on Charles Wesley's
experience in America for Methodist History magazine.
*Lauber is associate editor of the UMConnection newspaper in the Baltimore-Washington Conference.
New media contact: Marta Aldrich, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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