Susanna Wesley: Inspiring Female Preachers Today
She is known as the “Mother of Methodism.” Susanna Wesley’s example shaped her sons John and Charles in ways we can still see in the United Methodist Church today. The Rev. Jessica Moffatt brings Wesley’s story to life in Susanna’s own words to introduce women of today to this inspiring “hidden figure” of Methodism.
(The Rev. Jessica Moffatt portraying Susanna Wesley) “I was born on January 20, 1669. I was the baby of my family, the last of 25 children.”
The Rev. Jessica Moffatt says her path as the first female pastor of First United Methodist Church in Tulsa was paved centuries ago by another woman of faith, Susanna Wesley.
The Rev. Jessica Moffatt, First United Methodist Church of Tulsa: “She had a sense about her own life, that she was raising children to impact the world. And if every young mom felt that way about their own children perhaps our world would end up a bit different.”
(Portraying Susanna) “I believe that a child should learn to pray as soon as a child can speak.”
With a background in opera and theater, Moffatt takes her congregation back in time.
(Singing) “O for a Thousand Tongues to sing my great redeemer's praise.”
The first sermon as Susanna was on Mother’s Day in 1985; Moffatt chose words from Mrs. Wesley’s own letters and diaries.
(Portraying Susanna) “‘Molly, be pleased to put the cat out on the front porch.’ You see, we teach our children good manners by modeling good manners ourselves.”
The Rev. Jessica Moffatt: “It was because of the way in which she ordered her own life of piety and laid that out for her children that caused Methodism to be what it is today. She had the identical education for both the boys and the girls. In her day and time that was remarkable.”
Susanna held daily Bible study in her home.
(Portraying Susanna) “In my day, I was considered a liberated woman.”
When her spouse Samuel was away preaching, Susanna held services.
The Rev. Jessica Moffatt: “First she held them just for her family and their servants. And before she knew it she had 200 people worshipping on her lawn. Her husband didn’t care for that. And he wrote a letter asking her not to. And she sent a letter back and said, ‘I believe you’re bigoted and narrow-minded.’ She stood up for herself. I do take encouragement from that, being a leader hundreds of years later.”
Moffatt says there would be no United Methodist Church today without Susanna.
The Rev. Jessica Moffatt: “I think she so poured into John and Charles that they were ready for whatever Christ was going to do in their lives. When they finally had their own conversion, they first rocked England and then rocked the rest of the world.”
(Singing) “The glories of my God and King, the triumphs of His grace.”
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The Rev. Jessica Moffatt portrays Susanna Wesley each Mother’s Day at her church, First United Methodist in Tulsa. Moffatt studied Theatre Arts at Southern Methodist University and the University of Tulsa. She earned a Masters of Divinity degree at Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta. While living in Atlanta, she was also a member of the Atlanta Opera Company.