So my 22 days with John are at an end a day early. It has been great, have enjoyed each study session, I held onto them like a mother with a baby.
We can be so dismissive of our church fathers, oh that was just for then. Now is the time…
but really they were living in a broken world, like we are, there was alcohol abuse, sexual abuse, thieves, murderers and rapists. There was abuse of power and the rich being horrid to the poor, there was child slavery, indentured and debentured servants with a half day off a month, there were ginhouses and factories with really bad conditions where you could die going to work.
Wesley wrote about arsenic and lead poisoning from work, and I remember the women who were poisoned by ingesting radium whilst painting luminous numbers on clocks, Eleanor Swanson tells the story in Radium Girls:
We sat at long tables side by side in a big
dusty room where we laughed and carried
on until they told us to pipe down and paint.
The running joke was how we glowed,
the handkerchiefs we sneezed into lighting
up our purses when we opened them at night,
our lips and nails, painted for our boyfriends
as a lark, simmering white as ash in a dark room.
“Would you die for science?” the reporter asked us,
Edna and me, the main ones in the papers.
Science? We mixed up glue, water and radium
powder into a glowing greenish white paint
and painted watch dials with a little
brush, one number after another, taking
one dial after another, all day long,
from the racks sitting next to our chairs.
After a few strokes, the brush lost its shape,
and our bosses told us to point it with
our lips. Was that science?
I quit the watch factory to work in a bank
and thought I’d gotten class, more money,
a better life, until I lost a tooth in back
and two in front and my jaw filled up with sores.
We sued: Edna, Katherine, Quinta, Larice and me,
but when we got to court, not one of us
could raise our arms to take the oath.
My teeth were gone by then. “Pretty Grace
Fryer,” they called me in the papers.
All of us were dying.
We heard the scientist in France, Marie
Curie, could not believe “the manner
in which we worked” and how we tasted
that pretty paint a hundred times a day.
Now, even our crumbling bones
will glow forever in the black earth.
I think of all the many people who died because of corruption and greed at the hands of the bosses, in Wesley’s day.
Slavery was still actively a business and yet today we still have slaves. We have learned nothing from history. We have not changed this earth for the better we have sat in the squalor of our ancestors and made it worse.
Every now and then a voice calls to us in the wilderness, in this case John Wesley, and he says follow Jesus, leave the world behind, yes there are rules but love is the first one.
Jesus calls to us through preachers like John Wesley for his time and ones today to come out of the quagmire that is the world, out of the darkness into the beautiful light that is God revealed to us in Christ.
The God who loves us to absolute bits and wants us to love him back.