20: Susanna Wesley

2020 marks the 50th anniversary of the ordination of women in the ELCA, the 40th anniversary of women of color, and the 10th anniversary of LGBTQ+ siblings.

It’s an incredibly important marker for the ELCA, though it is only the beginning for the Church, as women are still denied ordination across the denominations and hold less than 15% of the leadership positions in the worldwide church! Therefore, in 2020, we in the Oregon Synod will highlight one woman from Christian history every week for fifty weeks. Some you may know, others you may not, but all worthy of our respect and gratitude.

#20 Susanna Wesley

Picture this: a woman, sitting in a kitchen chair, her apron pulled over her head, praying for two hours every day, at home with her ten children. Susanna Wesley was a woman who understood how to carve out time for her spiritual sustenance. She also carved out time for her children. She set up a schedule to ensure that they each received one hour alone with her every week. She homeschooled her girls the same as her boys—unheard of at the time—and ensured they all received a world-class education. She did all of this while married to a husband who actively increased her problems. She faced harassment from the neighbors (because he was an unpopular minister—locals burned the parsonage down, twice), she had to take on the management of the parsonage farm (because he refused to do farm work), she had to raise the children alone (because he was bad with money and ended up on debtors’ prison). As if that weren’t enough, 9 of her 19 children died in infancy. The focus of her husband’s attention? A treaty he was writing on the Book of Job. Yet through all this, Susanna continued to care for her children to the best of her ability, and every day, she pulled her apron over her head and took time out of her busy day, to pray. While Susanna was under the apron she was with God, and her children knew that time was sacred and not to be disturbed. Within her kitchen, she created her tabernacle. Soon her spiritual depth became known to her neighbors and she began teaching Bible classes every Sunday afternoon, eventually drawing crowds of 200 people. One of her children, Charles became a renowned hymnist. Another, John, founded Methodism.