EVANSVILLE, Ind. – The University of Evansville, got a new glimpse of John Wesley, founder of Methodism, as more than 100 guests crowded into a small gallery underneath Neu Chapel on Founders Day Sunday morning, Feb. 19. The occasion was to dedicate the John Wesley Gallery and Methodist Commemorative Collection.
The collection was given to the United Methodist-related university by retired UE chaplain and professor emeritus of philosophy and religion, Dr. R. Wayne Perkins and his wife, Sally. Sally earned a master’s degree from UE in 1977. The 300 piece collection – which includes paintings, prints, ceramics, plates, silverware, busts of Wesley and more – are gifts to the university from the Perkins family.
In his remarks, Perkins said, “When Wesley’s preachers came to the United States; they founded many colleges and universities – including Moores Hill College in 1854, which eventually became the University of Evansville.
“By establishing the Wesley Gallery in Neu Chapel, it is my hope that parents, students, faculty and especially United Methodist visitors to our campus will be made aware that the impetus for the founding of the University of Evansville must be traced back to John Wesley. He rightly deserves our attention and appreciation,” he said.
The collection is believed to be the world’s second largest private collection of items related to John Wesley and Methodism. Virtually all of the commemoratives were acquired in England; many are between 100 and 200 years old, with the oldest dating back to 1745.
One of the unique pieces is a ceramic bank created in the form of a Wesleyan Chapel money box and dating back to 1845. Another one-of-a-kind piece is a wooden walking stick with a bust of Wesley on its handle. Wayne said he spent more than 35 years searching for it.
During the dedication service, Perkins remarked that John Wesley was a Renaissance man. He was a scholar, priest and educator. He was multi-lingual and also studied science and medicine. His hallmark, according to Perkins, “was his ministry to the sick and poor.” He established Sunday schools so street children could learn to read. He helped educate more than 200,000 children, who used a guide written by Wesley.
In her remarks at the dedication, current Neu Chapel chaplain, the Rev. Dr. Tamara Gieselman, a former student of Perkins, said, “This room represents the legacy not only of John Wesley, but Wayne Perkins, too.”
She reminded guests that Wesley also fought his own demons, but learned how to give his life away to others. “We are here because of someone else’s generosity,” she said before praying, “I offer this room to God for dedication and prayer.”
The gallery will be open by appointment with public hours of operation to be determined. To schedule a visit, please call the Neu Chapel office at 812-488-2235.
The dedication was followed by a Founders Day worship service held in the chapel. The service featured the Edgar M. McKown Lecture, given this year by the Rev. Dr. Tex Sample, a specialist in church and society, blue-collar ministries, a storyteller, author and the Robert B. and Kathleen Rogers Professor Emeritus of Church and Society of the St. Paul School of Theology, a United Methodist seminary in Kansas City, Mo., where he taught from 1967-1999. An ordained elder in the United Methodist Church, Sample currently lives in Phoenix, Arizona.
Using Romans 12 as his text, Sample said he grew up in Brookhaven, Mississippi, learning from this father that just because everyone is doing it, Sample doesn’t need to do it. The Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Rome that we are to be transformed and we are transformed by practicing – doing things over and over. “There are things you can’t do unless you practice,” he said.
Paul gives us a full list of behaviors, we as Christians, need to practice.
Secondly, “we can’t practice as a lone ranger,” he said. “We require the community – the assembly and church,” to live a life pleasing to God. “We must bond (with each other) – practicing for your life, and who we gather together determines our bonding.”
Following Sample’s address, UE President Tom Kazee, recognized five new full professors of the university. Each was presented with a purple velvet academic tam or cap as a sign of their professorship on the EU campus.
China busts became a popular collectible of famous people in 18th century England. Pictured are several busts of John Wesley.
“John Wesley. He rightly deserves our attention and appreciation.”
– Wayne Perkins
The new John Wesley Gallery repurposed the former classroom where Professor Perkins taught classes in Bible, religion and philosophy. One of his students was the current EU Chaplain Tamara Gieselman, who learned in this same space.