By Amber Lacy
MURRELLS INLET—One South Carolina Wesley buff has a personal mission: for all South Carolina United Methodists to get to know the fathers of Methodism.
Mary Lu Norris, of Murrells Inlet, is a S.C. ambassador for Epworth by the Sea, located in St. Simons Island, and is one of the leaders for the upcoming Wesley heritage event there, Feb. 24-28.
John and Charles Wesley in Colonial Georgia: St. Simons Island and Savannah introduces and details the lives of John and Charles Wesley, the two brothers who founded Methodism.
Norris is passionate about enlisting more South Carolinians to attend the condensed workshop in February. A choral clinician, director of music and director of creative ministries, Norris has taught at Epworth by the Sea for nearly 20 years, and she uses her musical gifts to teach Charles Wesley: The Man and His Hymns as a tool for participants. The Rev. David Hansen, an expert on John Wesley, leads the study on John, while Norris focuses on Charles, often called the sweet singer of Methodism.
Norris said Charles Wesley s hymns serve as a true guide to Wesley theology.
These hymns hold the tenets of our Christian faith, and too often we sing them without fully understanding their meaning, she said. And while we are studying hymns, it gives me the perfect opportunity to demonstrate ways our United Methodist Hymnal may be more effectively used and even to set the record straight on such things as the proper use of ˜amens “ and also the fact that the hymn is not the music, but rather the text itself.
Norris is driven to spread the missions of both brothers to United Methodists, particularly those in South Carolina. Growing up in the Methodist faith, she often heard the name of John Wesley. But it was not until she herself began teaching Charles Wesley s hymns that she realized the spiritual bounty found in those texts.
Within his hymns are lessons on grace, restoration, salvation, social responsibility, faith, redemption and more “ and, of course, love, said Norris, who wants all United Methodists to know more about the men who founded the denomination.
Many know the Wesley brothers were Anglican ministers who traveled from England to the colony of Georgia in 1736.
But how much do our members really know about their time in Colonial America? Norris asked. Those trying months were just the beginning for these men, but were no doubt important in their own spiritual journeys, thus pivotal in their teachings.
From St. Simons Island s Fort Frederica to Christ Church Savannah, or from Christ Church Frederica to Wesley Square, the coastal Georgia region offers a wealth of Methodist heritage.
Our goal is that participants will gain new understanding of John and Charles and their ministries, while also experiencing personal faith journeys in the process, she added.
About the event
Meet The Wesleys is set for Feb. 24-28 at Epworth by the Sea Conference Center in St. Simons. Registration includes all meals, seminars, guided tours of significant Wesley sites around St. Simons and Savannah, lunch at a popular Savannah restaurant and the opportunity to tour the Wesley Museum. This is a C.E.U. approved event (2 credits). Program coordinator is Cynthia Doehring.
Registration forms and a detailed agenda are available from Tiffany Benson at Epworth by the Sea at 912-638-8688, from Norris at 843-651-3258 or at www.epworthbythesea.org .