I get an early
start and arrive in Savannah after six hours. I drive
most of the length of Bay Street, past a strip of park above the
river. Near the eastern end, I turn right on Houston Street and park
just beyond Washington Square. The weather has grayed up, and I leave
the camera in the car. It’s the last Sunday of February. The
magnolias are not yet in bloom, but it’s pure joy to walk the soft
air beneath the live oaks – a world apart from a New England
winter. It’s also a pleasure to walk without the camera. Rather
than through a lens, I experience things directly – shutters on
brick, iron-work encasing stairs, crooked, overhanging, bearded
than the river front, Savannah’s 24 squares are its most notable
feature, each a haven of green beneath spreading shade trees. As I
wander from square to square, I encounter on the side of a church a
plaque commemorating John Wesley, one of the founders of the
Methodist Church. It’s misleading to associate Wesley with any
particular church building, as none yet existed when Wesley was here,
but the plaque prods me into learning something.
stayed in Savannah a little less than two years, in 1736 and 1737.
The colony was only three years old when he arrived. Of necessity, he
preached in the open air, as did most of the early Methodists. His
followers became associated with issues of social justice, such as reforming prisons and abolishing slavery. The
first of his General Rules
forming the core of Methodism admonishes his followers to do
no harm, echoing
the Buddhist concept of ahimsa,
as well as the Hippocratic Oath.
ran him out of town.
to be fair, he left town because he ran afoul of local politics –
after a disastrous love affair. As an Anglican priest, he denied
communion to the lady after she married someone else. It didn't help
that she was the niece of the most powerful man in town, the
shopkeeper for the only source of supplies, the chief magistrate –
and thoroughly crooked. Wesley denied communion because she ignored a
rule about signing up for it. She countered with a lawsuit claiming
defamation of character. In any case, Wesley sailed home rather than
fight related litigation. He would develop Methodism, not in Georgia,
but in England.
venture down to River Street, where I find some oysters and a dark