BRADENTON -- When Pastor Charlie Rentz preaches today, he won’t do it from a pulpit.
He’ll do so on horseback.
Just like John Wesley, a Church of England cleric and Christian theologian, who along with younger brother Charles started the Methodist movement during the 1700s in England.
Rentz, who will also wear period dress appropriate to that time -- wig included -- is re-enacting the Methodist icon as part of a heritage celebration.
It is a cluster event joining Christ United Methodist, Emmanual United Methodist and Oneco United Methodist at Braden River Methodist Church.
“Instead of doing one of his sermons, I’m going to tell the story of his life, his theology, his beliefs,” said Rentz, pastor at Emmanuel United Methodist. “He was a brilliant theologian, Methodist to the core and an extraordinary man.”
Oneco United Methodist pastor Bob Green will portray Charles Wesley, who wrote hymns.
John Wesley rode around England and engaged in “open air” preaching where he delivered 40,000 to 50,000 sermons during his lifetime. He died in 1781 in London at the age of 87.
“It’s amazing what he did when you think about it,” Rentz said. “People are visual learners and this drives home the point Wesley spent much of his life on horseback, riding from town to town.”
“This will help people understand where we came from, the roots of our church,” said Pastor John Peavey at Braden River United Methodist.
Wesley was trying to bring God’s word to the masses of England’s poor.
“It was a poverty-driven mission church,” Peavey said. “He was driven by the social disparity of the times. The ranks of poor didn’t have the opportunity to go to church and did not have access to God. They couldn’t afford to buy a seat in the Church of England, which was run by the monarchy.”
Wesley’s was a social gospel and an apolitical church.
“He was into helping the poor people, visiting prisons and hospitals, feeding the hungry,” Rentz said. “He was an Anglican cleric, but was big into social justice, preached for slaves’ rights and freedom of will.”
Wesley wanted the poor to embrace God’s grace and love.
“God is moving toward us, coming to us and seeking us,” Rentz said.
That message has been carried forth by the Methodist Church to this day.
“We still hold to the social principles that were written long ago,” Peavey said. “Treat all people as children of God. We’re all equal in his eyes.”
Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7055.
IF YOU GO
What: Methodist Heritage Celebration
When: 3 p.m. today
Where: Braden River Methodist Church, 5858 44th Ave. E., Bradenton