Do you like stories?
I’m going to tell you a story about a boy who lived a long time ago:
before your Mum and Dad were born,
before your grandparents were born,
before their grandparents were born,
and probably before their grandparents were born too, because he was born just over 300 years ago.
Anyway, this boy was called John,…John Wesley. His mum used to call him, ‘Jackie’. Mr and Mrs Wesley (John’s mum and dad) had 19 children. Nine of them died when they were very little. Lots of children died in those days.
Mr Wesley was a preacher. He used to be really strict. He used to tell people off if they didn’t come to church…or if he didn’t like the way they behaved. Some people didn’t like him very much. When John was five some people got so angry with John’s daddy that one night they did something really terrible.
John was sound asleep. His brothers and sisters were asleep. They all slept in a room called the nursery. Mrs Wesley was asleep in Mr and Mrs Wesley’s bedroom. Only Mr Wesley was awake, working late in his study on next Sunday’s sermon. Suddenly, Mr Wesley heard a strange, crackling sound. Then he heard it again. He listened. It was coming from down the hallway. Do you ever get scared when you hear strange sounds in the night? I do sometimes, especially if no one else is awake. What do you think it was?
Mr Wesley listened hard, and then he saw a flicker of light and the hallway began to fill with smoke. Suddenly he realized someone had set the house on fire. He ran down the hallway, through the smoke, and woke up Mrs Wesley. They ran up the stairs to the nursery and woke up the children. They all raced back down the stairs…but the hallway ceiling was on fire. It was about to collapse. They ran to the back of the house and escaped through a burning door into the garden.
Mrs Wesley looked around and counted her children, ‘Samuel, Emily, Hetty, Nancy, Patty, Sukey, Molly, Charles... Where’s Jackie?!!’, she yelled.
John was still fast asleep in the nursery! Suddenly he woke up. He was all alone. The nursery was full of smoke. The top of the stairs was burning furiously. He climbed up onto the bedroom window.
‘Mummy! Daddy!’, he yelled. Mr Wesley ran back into the house to rescue his little boy but it was no use. He couldn’t get up the flaming stairs. ‘Fetch a ladder!’, someone yelled. ‘There’s no time!’, someone yelled back. ‘Here, someone stand on my shoulder!’, shouted a strong, tall man. He bent down and another man climbed onto his back. Suddenly the nursery roof collapsed…but the man had snatched John from the window just in time!
The neighbours were still trying to fight the fire as Mrs Wesley held her little Jackie tightly in her arms. But Mr Wesley called out to the neighbours, ‘Come neighbours let us kneel down! Let us give thanks to God! He has given me all my children; let the house go. I am rich enough!’
Mrs Wesley looked at her wee son, Jackie, and said, ‘Is this not a brand plucked out of the burning?’ John remembered her words for the rest of his life. He believed God had saved him from the fire to do something special with his life.
John Wesley grew up and became an Anglican Priest and a great preacher. John’s younger brother, Charles, wrote lots of Hymns, 6000 in fact. John rode all over Britain on his horse, telling people everywhere about God’s love for all people and how they could know God’s love and forgiveness through faith in Jesus Christ. He helped them become Jesus followers. He also helped sick people get well and helped people learn new skills and get better living and working conditions. At first he preached in churches but then he began preaching in the outdoors, to all the poor people who didn’t come to church. He said, ‘The whole world is my parish’. Many people who listened came to love God and follow Jesus. They joined little groups to support each other and to help each other follow Jesus better and. The loved to sing hymns, especially Charles’ ones. Some other people called them, ‘Methodists’. Today there are about 50 million Methodists in the world.
How long ago was John Wesley born? (about 300 years)
How many children did John and Charles’ mum and dad have? (19)
How old was John when he was rescued from the fire? (five)
Can you remember any of his brothers and sisters names? (refer to story.)
What did Mr Wesley do after John was rescued? (He told the neighbours to stop trying to save the house and to say thank you to God for saving all his children.)
What did John’s mother call him after the fire? (A brand plucked from the burning)
What effect did the fire and his mother’s words have on John? (He believed God had saved him for a special purpose.)
What did John become? (An Anglican Priest and a great preacher).
Where did he preach? (At first in churches. Later, out in the open. He said, ‘The world is my parish.’)
What did he preach about? (He preached about God’s love and forgiveness for everyone and he taught people how to follow Jesus.)
How else did he help people? (He helped sick people get well and poor people get better working conditions.)
Journey/Travel. Give out scallop shell, the Methodist symbol of journey. Talk about travel. How we get about today, how we might get about in the future. Talk about how John Wesley travelled on horseback telling people about God’s love for everyone etc. (see story for more detail)
Statues. Obtain a photo of the famous statue of John Wesley on a horse. Talk about statues in your area, what they mean to people and why people put them there. Show the statue of John Wesley and ask what it might tell us about him. Talk about how John Wesley travelled (see above).
Crowds and street preachers. Talk about crowds and how they sometimes treat people and get carried away. Ask children for examples. (Young people throwing eggs at the Santa parades. Angry crowds waiting for politicians, or pop stars or outside courtrooms. Talk about John Wesley and how he rode around the country telling people about God’s love….(etc). You wouldn’t expect that to make people angry would you? Talk about street preachers today and how people today feel about them. Lots of people didn’t like John Wesley preaching in public and they sometimes threw eggs and him, abused and heckled him and even beat him up. Talk about how we can get carried away when we are with a lot of other people and be mean to someone who is good and only trying to help.
Useful Websites: http://uccan.org/wesley/home.shtm
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