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The Life of John Wesley Part 1: A Narrow Escape

An assembly from the Culham St Gabriel archive

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)


The first in a series considering the life of John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need a leader and six readers. If possible, position the readers at various points around the room.

  • Optional: to set the scene, you could place a large Bible and a wooden cross on a table at the front of the room for the children to observe as the assembly progresses.

  • Note: sensitivity may be needed in this assembly for children who have been affected by fires.


If there is a Methodist church near your school, or if any of the children have visited or attend a local Methodist church, make reference to this as the assembly begins.

Leader: John Wesley is the founder of the Methodist Church. This assembly looks at a dramatic incident in his childhood that was to have a lasting impact on his later life.

Reader 1: Over 300 years ago, there were celebrations at the vicarage in the Lincolnshire village of Epworth. The rector of the church was Samuel Wesley, and his wife, Susanna, had just given birth to a son, John. Little did they know that their new son was to become a great teacher and religious leader who would be known throughout the world as the founder of the Methodist Church.

Reader 2: Susanna Wesley was well prepared for the birth of her new child. She already had a large family and had a reputation for being extremely well organized. Her husband, Samuel, was the vicar of Epworth, so he led all of the services in the church, baptized the children, led weddings and funerals and generally looked after all of the people in his parish. The family was known by everyone in the area. Amid great excitement, on 17 June 1703, the Wesleys son was born and he was named John.

Reader 3: In the 1700s, there were no hospitals and medicines like we have today and sometimes, newborn babies did not live for long, especially if they became sick. Samuel and Susanna were devoted to their children, but sadly some of the children had died when they were very young. However, their new baby, John, proved to be strong and healthy and his parents were delighted by him. Everyone in the village loved this new addition to the Wesley household and he soon became known to everyone as Jacky.

Reader 4: When Jacky was five years old, a dramatic event took place. One night, after Jacky and his brothers and sisters had gone to bed, their house caught fire. The old building burned furiously and the night sky was alight with the glare of the flames. Susanna, Samuel and their children all ran for their lives out of the house. The whole village came out to see what they could do to help.

Reader 5: As they huddled together in the night air watching their home ablaze, the Wesleys carefully checked that all of their children were safe. It seemed that only Susanna was slightly injured. Then, to their horror, they realized that Jacky was not with them. The flames were engulfing the whole of their house and the heat was unbearable. Susanna knew that she could not go back into the house to rescue her son. She ran round the house to where she could see his bedroom window. And there he was. He had opened the window, his face white with fear and streaked with tears as he looked out, desperately, wondering what to do.

Reader 6: Samuel shouted to his neighbours to bring a ladder, but one couldnt be found. Some of the villagers gathered under Jackys window. One man climbed on anothers shoulders and reached up until he could grab the terrified child from his bedroom window. Jacky was caught in the arms of the villagers below and everyone ran for safety. As they ran away from the burning house, they realized that they were just in time. The flames had spread through the whole building and the roof came crashing in. Samuel, together with his family and all of the neighbours, knelt down and gave thanks to God. They had all been saved from the fire.

Time for reflection

Leader: Throughout their lives, Susanna and her son, John, never forgot the events of this extraordinary night. Susanna believed that her son had been rescued for some special purpose. John, like his mother, became a faithful Christian. He travelled the country preaching and teaching that Gods love and forgiveness was for all people. John Wesley became one of the most famous Christian reformers that England has ever known.

Christians believe that each of us has a purpose in life. They believe that we are all on earth for a special reason. We are all different and there are people that only we can help and things that only we can do.

Who can we help today? What difference can we make to the lives of other people?

Dear God,
Thank you for all our carers and teachers.
Thank you for those who guide us and help us as we move through life.

May we be loving, gentle and forgiving to each other.
May we fulfil our potential and make a difference for good in our world.


‘O Lord, all the world belongs to you’ (Come and Praise, 39)

Follow-up ideas

  1. Find out more about John Wesley and the Methodist Church.

  2. Visit Wesleys Chapel in London. More information is available at:

  3. Find out about the history of the Methodist Church. More information is available at:
Publication date: July 2022   (Vol.24 No.7)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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