Wesley Bros: Papa Don’t Preach



Most of the history you read doesn’t bode favorably for John & Charles Wesley’s father, Samuel. In fact, Susanna is the one you always hear about. And rightfully so, she raised 10 children practically by herself. She lost 9 children at childbirth or in infancy, so on top of the grief, on top of taking care of her family, she was pregnant for two decades. Susanna valued the education of women, and ensured that her seven surviving daughters would be educated before they learned to work. She had a militaristic parenting style, teaching her children to cry softly so as not to be heard, and to fear the rod, giving pretty sever beatings for minor infractions. But she made sure each of her children knew they were loved, giving each of them a special day of the week that they would have one-on-one time with her.

But you never hear about Samuel. Like Papa Bear in the Berenstain Bears series, he comes across as a bit of a buffoon in the history books. He wrote bizarre poetry (read his first book at this link), made strong political statements that didn’t go over well in his uneducated parish, and was terrible with money. I can see how John and Charles might have developed a passion for poetry and writing from their father. I can see how John’s terrible relationship fails were bred from watching his father always put his work first. I can see how Samuel characterizes the man who obsesses over his work and hobbies to the detriment of his relationships.

I think of Samuel and Susanna Wesley’s history as a cautionary tale to marriages today, especially clergy marriages. It is easy for the clergy to think that his or her vocation is of such utmost importance that the family will always come second. I see this happening in myself, as a clergy guy writing an obscure comic in my extracurricular time, wondering how much like Samuel Wesley I might really be. It doesn’t matter what your job is, or how important you think your hobby is for your well-being, if you have a family, I hope you will learn from the weird tale of Samuel and Susanna that one of the best things you can do with your life is to pay attention to your family. If you are a pastor, male or female, your job is not more important than your family. Make sure your church knows that. And live in such a way that your family knows it.

Good luck.

Charlie Baber

Rev. Charlie Baber is author and illustrator of the weekly web comic: Wesley Bros. When he isn’t finding new ways to mash-up church history with modern culture, he has actual responsibilities as a Deacon serving at Highland UMC in Raleigh, NC. Check out Charlie’s site at www.wesleybros.com.

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The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
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