New songs in a new colony

The Covington News - - School Beat -

Af­ter re­turn­ing from the Korean War in 1952, I made my home for a time in Ma­con, where I at­tended Mercer Univer­sity. I had a rig­or­ous sched­ule, since I was singing in a gospel quar­tet. We trav­eled ev­ery week­end to towns through­out the south­east to sing in con­certs and so­called “all-night sing­ings.”

I de­cided to take voice lessons to im­prove my singing. A teacher at Mercer sug­gested I find a voice in­struc­tor at Wes­leyan Con­ser­va­tory of Mu­sic, lo­cated in Ma­con. When I en­rolled for just one class, I didn’t know any­thing about Wes­leyan; but I soon learned some im­por­tant things that must be shared.

The Wes­leyan Con­ser­va­tory of Mu­sic and School of Fine Arts is lo­cated near the busi­ness dis­trict of Ma­con and is part of Wes­leyan Col­lege, the first col­lege in the world char­tered to grant a de­gree to women. Founded in 1836, it awarded its first de­gree to Catherine Brewer of Ma­con, mother of Ad­mi­ral Ben­son, in 1840.

The school was first char­tered as Ge­or­gia Fe­male Col­lege; the name was changed to Wes­leyan Fe­male Col­lege in 1843, when the Ge­or­gia Con­fer­ence of the Methodist Church ac­cepted the col­lege. The name was then changed to its present form in 1919.

Wes­leyan is an ac­cred­ited, pri­vately con­trolled col­lege of arts and sci­ences for women. The lib­eral arts col­lege is lo­cated on the Rivoli cam­pus, five miles from the city of Ma­con.

Many his­to­ri­ans de­light in visit­ing the li­brary of Wes­leyan, since it in­cludes the Park Col­lec­tion of Ge­or­giana and the McGre­gor Col­lec­tion of Rare Amer­i­cana.

The col­lege was named for John Wesley, founder of Method­ism, the cler­gy­man who came to the new Ge­or­gia colony as a mis­sion­ary to the Amer­i­can In­di­ans.

Born in the Ep­worth Rec­tory, Lin­colnshire, on June 28, 1703, he stud­ied at the Char­ter­house and at Christ Church, Ox­ford; then he took priestly or­ders in the Es­tab­lished Church of Eng­land and re­ceived a of Mas­ter of Arts.

Wesley was ap­pointed a teacher at Lin­coln Col­lege at Ox­ford. Fol­low­ing the ex­am­ple of his fa­ther, Samuel, also a priest in the Church, he be­came deeply de­voted to the­ol­ogy and de­vel­oped un­usual tal­ents in preach­ing.

How could he fail in this call­ing? His fa­ther, grand­fa­ther, and great-grand­fa­ther were cler­gy­men of the Church of Eng­land, and his mother’s fa­ther, Dr. Samuel An­nes­ley, was one of the most no­table min­is­ters of Lon­don.

Su­san­nah Wesley, his mother, was one of the great moth­ers of his­tory.

There were 19 chil­dren in the fam­ily of Su­san­nah Wesley. The old­est, Samuel, be­came a teacher of dis­tinc­tion and was help­ful in the ed­u­ca­tion of his two brothers, John and Charles. An ex­cel­lent scholar in He­brew, Latin, and Greek, he went on to mas­ter French and Ger­man. With this foun­da­tion, and al­most 10 years of preach­ing, teach­ing, and as­sist­ing his fa­ther in the min­istry, he be­came im­mersed in the doc­trines of the Church.

While at Lin­coln Col­lege, he joined the Holy Club; this was a turn­ing point in his life. The club in­cluded a group of stu­dents which would later be­come great church lead­ers: Charles, his brother, and Ge­orge White­field, who was to be­come the founder of the so-called Calvin­is­tic Method­ism.

A sa­cred at­mos­phere per­vaded those meet­ings. The club mem­bers ad­hered strictly and me­thod­i­cally to re­li­gious pre­cepts and prac­tices; among them, do­ing such good works as visit­ing pris­ons and nurs­ing homes for the el­derly and com­fort­ing the sick and lonely. So they earned the name which would later be­come pro­found: “Methodists,” as they were de­ri­sively called by many of their friends.

In 1735, af­ter the death of their fa­ther, John and Charles ac­cepted an in­vi­ta­tion of Gen­eral Oglethrope to go with him as chap­lains to the colony of Ge­or­gia. It was in Ge­or­gia that the first Methodist hymns were writ­ten in Amer­ica. Th­ese hymns were trans­lated from the Ger­man by John Wesley. He had heard the hymns of the Ger­man Mo­ra­vians on board the ship on his jour­ney to Amer­ica.

At Savannah and Fred­er­ica, Wesley pro­duced his first hym­nal, Col­lec­tion of Psalms and Hymns. It was pub­lished in Charleston in 1737. This was the first hymn­book to be writ­ten in Amer­ica.

Wesley’s hymns even­tu­ally be­came the main spir­i­tual and doc­tri­nal re­sources for the new move­ment which be­came Method­ism.

Wesley’s con­tri­bu­tions to re­li­gious life in Amer­ica were phe­nom­e­nal. Ge­or­gians can be proud of the in­ti­mate con­nec­tion to this man of such marked his­toric sig­nif­i­cance.

Clifford Brew­ton


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