Our last day in England was spent at Epworth in Lincolnshire. It was the home of Samuel and Susanna Wesley. It was also where Samuel served as rector of the Epworth parish from about 1696 until his death in 1735. The Wesley family records were destroyed when the rectory at Epworth burned in 1709 but we know that Samuel and Susanna had 19 children. Unfortunately, we only know the names of 13 and only 10 of those survived infancy. These names included John and Charles Wesley, founders of the Methodist Movement.
Samuel was often away. The raising and education of the children was left to Susanna who took the responsibility very seriously. In many ways, Susanna was also a teacher and pastor to the people of Epworth. Every Sunday night she gathered the children for prayer, the reading of sermons, and to talk about religious subjects. One night when some neighbors stopped in, they were so impressed that they invited others who continued to come every Sunday night. Susanna's education and spiritual guidance of her children and the Epworth community caused many to call her the "Mother of Methodism."
Samuel, on the other hand, was not well liked in Epworth. As a result, his cattle were were sometimes poisoned and his garden knocked down. Eventually it all came to a head when one night the rectory was set ablaze. John, who was 6 or 7 at the time, almost perished in the fire but was rescued from his upper story bedroom just seconds before the roof collapsed. Thus it was declared that John was "plucked as a brand from the burning." His mother's reminding him of God's providential care in this episode certainly had an effect on Wesley's understanding of God's call in his life.
The house that you see in the picture is the one that was built to replace the house destroyed by fire. The rebuilt home was much nicer than the one which burned and served as the home, school, and community gathering place for the duration of Samuel's life and time in Epworth. At Samuel's death, Susanna moved to London and probably lived with John at the Foundry. John occassionally returned to Epworth and once when he was not allowed to preach in his father's church, instead stood on his grave to preach to the crowds that gathered.
Today, Epworth is a small village town of about 4,500 people, most of whom commute to the larger cities and towns for work. There is a very active Methodist church, Wesley Memorial, which serves the community and continues the legacy of the Wesley borthers. The church and town are often filled with Methodist pilgrims from around the world.