John Wesley served as pastor of the Georgia colony in Savannah for 18 months. Rev. Enoch Hendry of Trinity United Methodist Church in Savannah remembers Wesley and the history of his church.
John and Charles Wesley left Oxford to serve as leaders of the church in the new British colony of Georgia.
The brothers embarked on the Simmonds in October 1735 and headed for the New World. They were joined by fellow Holy Club members Benjamin Ingham and Charles Delamotte. The voyage across the Atlantic contributed an important lesson to John Wesley’s life. Though the ship hit rough seas that greatly frightened Wesley, the 25 Moravian Germans on board were calm and peaceful throughout. That inner peace would be something Wesley would seek and find upon his return to England.
John Wesley arrived in Savannah in 1736. He immediately began his avowed tasks of teaching and preaching. His brother, Charles, went south to Frederica at St. Simon’s Island to minister. Disappointment and frustration hampered Wesley at almost every turn. Oglethorpe denied his plea to minister to the local Native Americans. His efforts to help his brother at Frederica failed.
Wesley held regular services in Savannah and a sort of Bible study group on Sunday afternoons, a feature he would later use in England with great effect.
Some Moravian colonists had an influential effect on Wesley, and later he closely associated himself with Moravians in London.
Wesley said of his travels to America:
I went to America, to convert the Indians; but Oh, who shall convert me Who, what is he that will deliver me from this evil heart of unbelief I have a fair summer religion. I can talk well; nay, and believe myself, when no danger is near. But let death look me in the face, and my spirit is troubled. Nor can I say, “To die is gain.”
John Wesley left Georgia and returned to England in December 1737. Charles had returned earlier.
You will find interesting content about Wesley and his time in Georgia at the following links.
John Wesley’s Time in Georgia | Wesley – New Georgia Encyclopedia | Wesley – William Carey University | John Wesley’s big impact on America – Christianity.com | Georgia Missionary Experience – Wesley Center Online
In 1976, the United Methodist Church declared the site of their founder’s American ministry a National Historic Landmark.