Posted under The Rectory Bulletin | Church History
On 20th January 1669, Mary Annesley gave birth to her twenty-fifth (and final) child. Charles II was on the throne, and the Church of England had been refounded after the rule of Cromwell, but the family worshipped in one of the many churches which existed outside of the Church of England. Yet as the child - Susannah - grew, she grew attached to the established church and, when thirteen years of age, she joined her local parish church.
Six years later, in 1688, she married a Samuel Wesley and over the course of her life she gave birth to nineteen children of her own. Tragically, nine of these died in childhood and when - aged 73 - Susannah was laid in her grave only eight of her children were still alive.
Family life was torrid. At one stage her husband stormed out for a year, and at another time he was twice imprisoned in a debtor’s jail. For all this you may (or may not) be surprised to hear he was an Anglican clergyman. Oh, and the Rectory burned down. Twice.
Susannah’s impact on the history of Christianity comes through the way she ordered her house. She brought up her children in the faith, and would hold family services where psalms were sung, and a sermon was read (either from her husband or her father). In fact, so taken was the parish with what she was doing many asked if they could come along too and at one stage over two hundred did just that.
She was also a woman of prayer, and the story goes that in order to get some peace in the bustling household she would throw her apron up over her head to pray.
Such was the influence of all this on her children that two of them - John and Charles Wesley - went on to become the founders of Methodism. Yet for all the statues of the brothers which are dotted around the country, the real roots of the movement lies in a Rectory kitchen where a mother is trying to get enough peace to pray.