Jun. 17, 2005

One Day A Woman

by Miller Williams

FRIDAY, 17 JUNE, 2005
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Poem: "One Day A Woman" by Miller Williams from Imperfect Love. © Louisiana State University Press. Reprinted with permission.

One Day A Woman

One day a woman picking peaches in Georgia
lost her hold on the earth and began to rise.
She grabbed limbs but leaves stripped off in her hands.
Some children saw her before she disappeared
into the white cloud, her limbs thrashing.
The children were disbelieved. The disappearance
was filed away with those of other women
who fell into bad hands and were soon forgotten.
Six months later a half-naked man in Kansas
working on the roof of the Methodist Church
was seen by half a dozen well-known
and highly respected citizens to move
directly upward, his tarbrush waving,
until he shrank away to a point and vanished.
Nobody who knew about the first event
knew of the second, so no connection was made.
The tarbrush fell to earth somewhere in Missouri
unnoticed among a herd of Guernsey cows.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of the African American poet James Weldon Johnson, born in Jacksonville (1871), who wrote, "Lift Every Voice and Sing."

It's the birthday of novelist John Hersey, born in Tianjin, China, in 1914.

It's the birthday of the poet Ron Padgett, born in Tulsa in 1942.

It's the birthday of the founder of Methodism, John Wesley, born in Lincolnshire, England (1703). He was saved from a fire when he was five years old, and came to believe that God had saved him for a purpose. He became an Anglican priest, and joined a religious study group. The group was nicknamed the Methodists because of their emphasis on methodical rules of living—they prayed, and they fasted according to strict schedules.

In 1735, John Wesley came to the colonies. He was the priest in a settlement in Georgia, but they didn't care for his preaching and they ran him out of town. He went back to England and traveled around the back country on horseback, preaching to all the ordinary people he came across, through England and Scotland and Ireland. He preached 42,000 sermons along the way.

He was always a member of the Anglican Church. His only idea was to create small groups within the Anglican Church to meet for prayer and Bible study. But when Methodist missionaries traveled to the United States, their ideas took hold. Their followers considered themselves members of a new church and they appointed their own bishops and ministers created their own laws, separate from those of the Church of England.

The Methodist Church became the church of many colonists on the frontier, and by 1850, the Methodist Church was the biggest denomination in the United States. A convert needed only to believe that Jesus Christ was the son of God and was everyone's personal savior. Methodists believe that all other questions about Christianity were up for discussion.

Methodists established more colleges, more hospitals, child-care facilities, and retirement homes than any other Protestant denomination. William Booth, who founded the Salvation Army, was a Methodist. Methodists started Goodwill Industries in 1902. They also started the Temperance movement. A Methodist founded the YMCA. They were a big part of the abolitionist movement and the anti-segregation movement.

Presidents Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford Hayes, William McKinley, and President George W. Bush were all Methodists, as well as Barry Goldwater, Walter Mondale, George McGovern, and Hillary Clinton.

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