Posted by William Nunnelley on 2007-11-12

Charles Wesley was one of history's most prolific hymn writers, composing more than 5,000 hymns over a 50-year period in the 18th century. Among the best known are "Christ the Lord Is Risen Today" and "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing."

Wesley and his older brother, John, were co-founders of the Methodist movement in England. The sons of an Anglican minister, both studied at Christ Church, Oxford, and were ordained as Anglican clergy. But Charles is chiefly remembered for his many hymns. The Methodist hymn book of today, Hymns and Psalms, contains more than 150 Wesley compositions.

December 18 will be the 300th anniversary of Charles Wesley's birth in 1707. Coinciding with the anniversary will be the release of a new documentary film, "A Heart Set Free," about Wesley's life.

Produced and directed by veteran film maker T.N. Mohan for Samford Media Group, the 90-minute feature written by Angela Burchett will air globally on at least five cable and satellite television networks. One network, Hope Channel, will show the feature around the globe in seven languages. Other networks carrying the program include Sky Angel, SafeTV and Cornerstone.

Faith TV plans to carry the documentary later next year during the Lent season.

Mohan invested hundreds of hours filming the documentary in Great Britain and the U.S., traveling to Wesley's birthplace of Epworth, to Oxford and London to interview Wesley experts and film sites. He also filmed sites in Savannah, Ga., where Wesley visited for several months in 1735 as secretary to James Oglethorpe, founder of the colony of Georgia.

Mohan has produced more than 20 multiple award-winning fiction and documentary films including critically acclaimed features on Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor who opposed and was martyred by the Nazi regime during World War II, and Gerow Hodges, an American Red Cross official responsible for the swap of 149 Allied prisoners from German prison camps during World War II.

"Wesley was the same kind of strong, dedicated figure as some earlier subjects of my documentaries," said Mohan. "He made a great journey in his religion. His first hymn spoke of his conversion in 1738 and he continued to write hymns based on his life experiences for another 50 years.

"His was a fascinating story of dedication to his beliefs in the face of violence against him and his brother during the early years of Methodism."

Wesley died at the age of 80 in 1788.

Samford Media Group is affiliated with and has offices at Samford University, and "A Heart Set Free" is the first production completed by the group. The documentary was co-produced by Christian History Institute of Worcester, Pa., Christian Television Association of Bristol, England, and Leader Cinematographica in Italy.

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.