A beautiful collection of Charles Wesley’s poems illuminated with fascinating commentary
May She Have a Word with You? Women as Models of How to Live in the Poems of Charles Wesley by S.T. Kimbrough Jr. (foreword by Laceye Warner) is a wonderful contribution to the history of Methodism. Charles Wesley and his brother, John, are the founders of the Methodist movement.
As a life long Methodist, I grew up singing the hymns of Charles Wesley. It doesn’t feel like Christmas until we sing “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” and no Easter would be complete without a rousing chorus of “Christ the Lord is Risen Today.” He also wrote such popular hymns as “Come Thou Traveler Unknown,” “O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing,” and “Love Divine All Loves Excelling.”
Charles Wesley is known for his hymns (he wrote over six thousand!) but he was also an accomplished poet. Although this book is relatively short, (it is less than two hundred pages), it took me over a month to read it because I found myself lingering over each beautiful poem. I savored each piece by Wesley and took my time contemplating his words.
The first section of the book focuses on Wesley’s poems about biblical women. The author includes concise and helpful notes to explain each poem and place them in historical context. I was fascinated by how Wesley could cram so much deep theology into just a few beautifully sculpted lines.
The second section of the book explores numerous poems by Wesley about women he knew in his own life. He draws parallels between their lives and the ministries of Biblical women. He also elevates their unique contributions to the world and their lasting legacies of love and selflessness. He encourages readers to be inspired by their lives.
The book also includes three examples of epitaphs by Charles Wesley. These short pieces “illustrate another form of lyrical expression” that Wesley uses in order to praise women for their “exemplary faith and their stalwart and patient forbearance of pain and suffering.” .
Wesley writes with a lyrical grace that draws the reader’s heart closer to God. There is music in his lines and I am grateful for Kimbrough’s thoughtful explanatory notes. It is remarkable that during a time in which women were viewed as property, Wesley lifts the lives of these humble and ordinary women up as examples that all people should emulate. Many of these women would be entirely lost to history if Wesley hadn’t preserved them in his verse. The poems in this book demonstrate that there has always been a place for women within the Methodist movement.
If you are a fan of Methodist history, women’s history, or enjoy faith based poetry, I encourage you to grab a copy of May She Have a Word with You? It is a beautiful collection that brings to light many of Wesley’s lesser known works and lifts up the stories of some truly amazing women.
If you’re a fan of church history, you won’t want to miss this interview with the author about a new book on women preachers in the Methodist tradition!
If you enjoy religious poetry, I highly recommend the work of Daniel Klawitter
If you’re interested in the art of memoir writing to connect to God, be sure to check out my latest book Hope for the Broken: Using Writing to Find God’s Grace