“The greatest religious problem today is how to be both a mystic and a militant; in other words how to combine the search for an expansion of inner awareness with effective social action, and how to feel one's true identity in both” Ursula K. LeGuin

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Women's Foreign Missionary Society

Eight women met on Tuesday, March 23, 1869 at Tremont Street MEC in Boston to organize the group that, after mergers with other churches, would be known as United Methodist Women. (The church and six of the eight women are pictured here.) Plans for the society began earlier that month after Mrs. Lewis Fletcher, a member of Tremont Street, heard a sermon given on March 14 by Rev. William Butler at St. John's MEC on the experiences he and his wife, Clementina, had as missionaries in India over the past decade. Mrs. Fletcher met with Mrs. Butler and also with Mrs. Lois Parker, who had also served as a missionary with her husband, Rev. Edwin Parker.

They sent out notices to the twenty-eight Methodist Episcopal Churches in Boston inviting the women to take part in creating an organization to support foreign mission work. Because of extremely bad weather only eight were able to attend, but those that did attend persevered, writing a constitution and nominating a slate of officers with Mrs. Osman C. Baker as president. Dues were a dollar a year, or two cents a week -- "two cents and a prayer" as it came to be known, “for the purpose of engaging and uniting the efforts of the women of the Church in sending out and supporting female missionaries, native Christian teachers and Bible women in foreign lands.”

On the twentieth anniversary of its founding, the Women's Foreign Missionary Society dedicated eight stained glass windows in honor of the eight women, and in following years windows honoring the first missionaries sent that fall, Isabella Thoburn and Dr Clara Swaim were added, along with those honoring the first eleven WFMS units.

Church membership decreased over the years, and in the 1970s the building was sold to New Hope Baptist Church but it is still maintained as a site of Methodist history and visitors are welcome. In 2004 the Annual Meeting of the New England Conference United Methodist Women was held there, and the church was dedicated as a Historical Landmark.

Read more about the founding of the WFMS here http://www.gcah.org/research/travelers-guide/site-of-the-founding-of-the-womans-foreign-missionary-society-of-the-method

Monday, March 21, 2016

Frances Willard

Frances Willard was one of five women elected lay delegates to the Methodist Episcopal Church's General Conference of 1888, but all five were denied participation. She had attended previously in 1880 as a "fraternal delegate" representing the Women's Christian Temperance Union, of which she was president. Although grudging allowed to speak, instead she gave her written message to a male colleague to read because of the contentious debate at the conference over female clergy with Anna Howard Shaw and Anna Oliver denied ordination and preaching licenses of all women revoked.
Miss Willard was a co-founder of WCTU and its president from 1979 until her death in 1898. Under her leadership the organization broadened its purpose to include women's suffrage as well as prison reform and creation of child labor laws.
Read more about her here  http://search.credoreference.com/content/topic/willard_frances_elizabeth_caroline_1839_1898

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Mary Evans Thorne

Mrs. Thorne was the first female class leader in colonial American Methodism. She joined the church around 1770 in Philadelphia and within two years "had three classes and two Methodist bands meeting weekly under her tutelage" while supporting herself by teaching and taking in sewing. When the British took over the Methodist chapel, she held meetings in her home.
She married British sea captain Samuel Parker in 1778 and sailed with him to England. The couple lived in London and later Yorkshire where he served as church steward and she continued to be a class leader. He suffered a number of financial setbacks, including the loss of ships, and they were impoverished by 1798. He died sometime after 1813 and she returned to Philadelphia.
This is a comprehensive biography of Mrs. Thorne, written in 1884 by George Lybrand, which include a letter of appeal she set to Thomas Coke and Adam Clark in 1813 http://www.historicstgeorges.org/…/5%20Mary%20Thorn,%20Firs…
(Also of interest is this description of early class meetings and band meetingshttp://wesleyanaccent.seedbed.com/…/kevin-watson-the-metho…/ )

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Mary Fletcher

Mary Bosanquet Fletcher (1739 - 1815) was an early Methodist class leader and lay preacher as well as being a close friend of John Wesley, who wrote to her saying that she had an "exceptional call" to preach. In 1763 she and Sarah Ryan opened a home in Leytonstone, England that served as a church, school, orphanage, hospital, and halfway house for the most destitute of London. She married John Fletcher, a Church of England pastor who sympathized with the Methodist movement and was considered to be the successor to John Wesley until his death in 1785.

Sarah Crosby

Sarah Crosby (1729 - 1804) was a class leader in Leeds when at a meeting in 1761 around 200 people were in attendance instead of the usual thirty or so. Since discussion would be impossible in a class that size, she led a hymn, prayed, and began to give her testimony. Later she wrote to John Wesley explaining what she had done, and he replied: I think you have not gone too far. You could not well do less. I apprehend all you can do more is, when you meet again, to tell them simply, "You lay me under a great difficulty. The Methodists do not allow of women preachers; neither do I take upon me any such character. But I will just nakedly tell you what is in my heart."

Georgia Harkness

Georgia Harkness (1891 - 1974) was one of the first and one of the most prominent female theologians in the United States, as well as the first to serve as a full professor at a theological seminary (Garrett Bible Institute in 1939). She was a fourth-generation Methodist, with her great-grandfather being ousted from the Quakers for marrying a "worldly" woman who refused to stop wearing a red coat after they married.
Dr. Harkness graduated from Cornell University in 1912 with a BA in philosophy and taught high school for several years becoming one of the first students at the newly-formed Boston University School of Religious Education and Social Service where she earned an MA and PhD in Philosophy of Religion. (She had been denied admission to BU's Divinity School because of her gender).
She was active in early ecumenical movements, including an international lecture tour sponsored by the British YWCA where her experiences in post-World War I Germany strengthened her pacifist beliefs. After the second World War she participated in the World Council of Churches, and at one meeting of this organization she heatedly debated Karl Barth on the role of women in ordained ministry. (She herself had been ordained a local deacon in 1926 and a local elder in 1938, and was a leader in the fight for full clergy rights for women in the Methodist church.)

Friday, March 11, 2016

Barbara Heck

Barbara Heck (1734 - 1804) was instrumental in founding the first Methodist Societies in both the United States and Canada, as well as designing the chapel that eventually became New York City's John Street United Methodist Church.
She was of German descent, born to parents who were part of a group of over 100 Protestant families who fled first to the Netherlands and then to County Limerick, Ireland where she was born. She converted to Methodism after hearing John Wesley preach (he made eight trips to Ireland and spoke fluent German.)
In 1760 she and her husband, Paul, emigrated to New York City, where she soon became alarmed that the Methodist community there had grown spiritually careless without a pastor. She organized services led at first by her cousin Philip Embury, who had been a Local Preacher in Ireland, and then by Captain Thomas Webb, regimental commander of the British forces at Albany.
The Hecks were Loyalists to the British Crown and during the Revolutionary War they fled to Camden and to Salem in northern New York, and then to Montreal and later Brockville, Quebec, founding Methodist Societies in all these communities.
Read more about Barbara Heck herehttp://victoriaunitedchurch.tripod.com/id1.html

Lydia Sexton

Lydia Sexton (1799 - 1894) of the United Brethren Church was the first woman in any predecessor of the UMC to be licensed to preach when her application was approved by the Illinois Annual Conference in 1851.
She was born in New Jersey where her father was a Baptist minister but spent most of her adult life in the Midwest where she was widowed twice before marrying Joseph Sexton in 1829. Soon afterward she joined the UBC, eventually becoming a traveling evangelist throughout the region. At age 70 she also became the first female chaplain of the Kansas State Prison, developing a class system with nearly 100 members.
In her autobiography published in 1882 she wrote "I never preached at a place without having the satisfaction to learn that they desired me to return. I mention this only as a matter of encouragement to some of my sisters who feel that they have a call to the ministry. Do your whole duty, and look to God for help."
She is also the great-great-great aunt of current North Texas Conference East District Superintendent Vic Casad. Read Dr. Casad's reflections on his aunt here http://www.northtexasumc.org/…/message-from-vic-casad-febru…

Clementina Butler

Rev. William and Clementina Butler became two of the first missionaries of the Methodist Episcopal Church when they were sent to India in 1856. They arrived shortly before the Sapoy Mutiny and were forced into hiding for eight months. When they returned to their post in Bareilly their first priority was to found a home for the children orphaned during the fighting.
When the Butlers returned to Boston in 1864, Mrs. Butler raising money and support for their mission work. When another missionary couple returned in 1864 she was joined in her efforts by Lois Parker, they began recruiting women's groups for help in their work, forming foreign missionary societies first in the Congregational Church in 1868 and in the MEC the following year.
It was Mrs. Butler and Mrs. Parker who called for the meeting at Tremont Street MEC on March 23, 1869 where the Women's Foreign Missionary Society was begun. She was an officer for many years and her daughter, also named Clementina, continued her work by writing and publishing material for mission education.
The orphanage the Butlers founded is still a GBGM-supported organization! Read more about it here http://www.umcmission.org/…/Search-for-Pro…/Projects/3021561

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Helenor Davisson

On August 24, 1866 Helenor Alter Davisson was ordained a deacon in the Methodist Protestant Church, making her the the first Methodist woman to be ordained, sixteen years before Anna Howard Shaw of the Methodist Episcopal Church. (When the MPC split off from the MEC in 1828 it did not retain the ban on female clergy, although it was reinstated in 1871.)
She was born in Pennsylvania on January 24, 1823 to Rev. John Alter and Charity VanAusdall Alter. The family moved westward to Jasper County, Indiana in 1835, and her mother died two years later leaving 14-year-old Helenor to raise her seven younger siblings and run the family sawmill. A church history in Remington, Indiana lists her and her father as circuit riders in the 1840s, and they also founded a church at Alder's Grove, a group of walnut trees behind their home.
This and one other church building, as well as their home and their graves were dedicated in 2014 as the Helenor Alter Davisson Cluster of United Methodist Sites. Read more about the dedication and Rev. Davisson's life here http://gcsrw.org/Portals/4/helenor%20davisson.pdf

Lucy Webb Hayes

The Woman's Home Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church was founded in 1880 when Jennie Hartzell traveled from New Orleans to Cincinnati to ask the General Conference to send missionaries and teachers to her area. She was referred to church women of the area and met with fifty of them at Trinity Church "to confer together concerning the organization of a society having for its purpose the amelioration of the conditions of the freed-women of the South." The purpose of the group was expanded to address needs of the entire population, and First Lady Lucy Webb Hayes was chosen as the first president of the WHMS.
Although at first she considered her role to be a figurehead because of her prominence, she quickly became involved during the last year of her husband's term of office and continued to serve the society until her death in 1889. She used her experience gained from trips to the South and the West to identify problems to be addressed, as well as seeing the need to serve the increasing immigrant population. She was especially aware of the need to provide services for women, saying "America is the cradle of the future for all the world. Elevate woman, and you lift up the home; exalt the home and you lift up the nation." Equally important, she was able to use her diplomatic skills learned as a Washington hostess to prevent friction between the Home and Foreign Missionary Societies in competition over funding.
Both President and Mrs. Hayes were life-long Methodists and even though she became known as "Lemonade Lucy" it was actually his decision not to serve alcohol at state functions in the White House. They attended Foundry MEC while in Washington and held Sunday evening services for the Cabinet and Congress, during which she led the singing. She also started the custom of the Easter Egg Roll on the White House lawn.
This is an excellent article on Mrs. Hayes by her biographer, Emily Apt Geer:http://www.rbhayes.org/…/Hayes_Historical_Journal/womens_ho…

Susanna Wesley

Welcome to Women's History Month! Who better to start with than Susanna Wesley about whom biographer Susan Pellow said, “…although she never preached a sermon or published a book or founded a church, (she) is known as the Mother of Methodism. Why? Because two of her sons, John Wesley and Charles Wesley, as children consciously or unconsciously will, applied the example and teachings and circumstances of their home life.”
She was born on January 20, 1669, the last of 25 children born to Dr. Samuel Annesley and Mary White Annesley. Her father was a dissenting clergyman who had left the Church of England, and Samuel Wesley. whom she married in 1888 shortly after Wesley's ordination, was the son of one of his colleagues. Samuel, like Susanna, had left his father's church for the Anglican church. In 1696 he was sent to the Epworth charge where he remained most of his career.
The couple had 19 children although only ten lived past infancy. She taught all the children herself, beginning with learning the alphabet on the day after their fifth birthday and progressing through Latin and Greek.
She also took charge of the children's spiritual training, and when Samuel was on an extended stay in London she disapproved of the substitute pastor he had chosen preaching only on repayment of debt and began having Sunday afternoon services at home which the children, singing hymns and reading a sermon written by her husband or her father. Others began attending the services until there were about 200 people present and very few at the morning service. Samuel asked her to stop having the services, saying it was scandalous, but she refused to do so.
Politically she was a supporter of King James I, and also refused to say "Amen" when Samuel prayed for William of Orange during family prayers. The couple separated about a year over this but reconciled in 1702 when Queen Anne ascended to the throne.
Although none of her writing was published during her lifetime, she wrote many commentaries and meditations for her own use and was an avid correspondent. Eight quotes are given here http://www.azquotes.com/author/25221-Susanna_Wesley