My Heart Was Strangely Warmed

Last week I participated in Refuge, a wonderful time and space in St Simons Island, Georgia set apart for rest, renewal, and restoration. Fred McKinnon from The Worship Community did a tremendous job of creating a rich environment of worship, prayer, reflection, and community building.

While most of our sessions were held at St Simons Community Church, on Tuesday evening we went on a field trip which led us to the Wesley Gardens on Fredericka Road.  I had forgotten about the rich history of St Simons Island and the role that two brothers, John and Charles Wesley had on the spiritual climate of the island between 1733-1736. The Wesley Gardens was a beautiful setting and as we gathering around the eighteen foot high cross, Fred led us in a powerful time of spontaneous singing. We ended our song by singing together one of the great hymns of Charles Wesley (he wrote over 6,000 by the way), “O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing”

O for a thousand tongues to sing
My great Redeemer’s praise,
The glories of my God and King,
The triumphs of His grace!

My gracious Master and my God,
Assist me to proclaim,
To spread through all the earth abroad
The honors of Thy name.

Jesus! the name that charms our fears,
That bids our sorrows cease;
’Tis music in the sinner’s ears,
’Tis life, and health, and peace.

He breaks the power of canceled sin,
He sets the prisoner free;
His blood can make the foulest clean,
His blood availed for me.

Over the next couple of days, I found myself being drawn back to the Wesley Gardens – twice in fact. As I quietly sat at the foot of the cross, I recalled the heavy influence that the Wesley brothers and Methodism has had upon my life and faith. Journal in hand, I began to recount some of the formative experiences that occurred in United Methodist Churches:

  • Singing in the children’s choir at Aldersgate UM Church in Milwaukee, WI;
  • Serving as an acolyte and turning the pages for our organist, Helen Dodds at Baldwin Community UM Church;
  • Being challenged to consider ministry by one of our pastors at BCUMC, Sue Hutchins;
  • Working as a summer intern at the Murrsyville UM Church;
  • Being married to my wife Patty, cutting our teeth together in youth ministry and preaching my first sermon at BCUMC;
  • Doing my field ed work and being mentored by Rod Smith at Mars UMC;
  • Being ordained a Deacon and Probationary Member of the Western PA Conference in the Chapel at Grove City College;
  • Serving my first full-time appointment and loving the people at the Chippewa UM Church.

In the midst of this reflective space, I discovered, to use a Wesleyan phrase that “my heart was strangely warmed” and I experienced a profound sense of appreciation and gratitude for the people and communities that helped shape my faith.

What faith traditions have been formative in your journey and when is the last time you took the time and space to thank God for the people and communities that have invested in you?

Stay connected…

My thanks to Chris at Chris Moncus Photography for this amazing image. You can see more of his brilliant pictures from Refuge here.



  1. Maggie Cook says:

    I, too, have been deeply stirred by that evening. I find myself going back to it, again and again. The overall deep peace that was drawn out of us that night; the group ringing harmony of spirit; a swirling rainbow of beauty. I think it is one of the reasons we keep texting and talking and watching for each other’s posts. Something special was created, something wonderful and heavenly. I know I am loath to let it go.

    • Maggie – your words beautifully capture both the spirit and the Spirit of the evening. And the good news is that in the Spirit we do not need to let it ago. Surely the presence of the Lord was in that place and my soul knows it well!


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