This week in Christian history: John Wesley survives fire, pope elected, missionary born

John Wesley rescued from fire – Feb. 9, 1709

John Wesley (1703-1791), the founder of Methodism.
John Wesley (1703-1791), the founder of Methodism. | Wikimedia Commons

This week marks the anniversary of when John Wesley, the future founder of the Methodist movement, was rescued from a parsonage fire in Epworth, England, when he was a child.

John was 5 years old at the time of the fire, while his younger brother, Charles Wesley, who would later become famous in his own right for writing many hymns, was still a baby.

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The fire began in the late evening, with several family members and servants fleeing the parsonage ahead of John, who had to be rescued by neighbors who stood on each other’s shoulders to reach the upper floor where he was trapped.

According to Joe Iovino of United Methodist Communications, the parsonage fire had a profound impact on how John viewed his life later on as an adult.

“[John’s mother] Susanna sometimes referred to her Jacky as a brand plucked from the burning, a reference to Zechariah 3:2. She believed God saved her young son for a reason, a lesson Jacky learned well,” wrote Iovino in 2017.

Iovino noted that, when planning a possible epithet for himself while sick of a serious illness, John chose “Here lieth the body of John Wesley, a brand plucked out of the burning.”

“In summarizing his life, he could have talked about the Oxford Holy Club or the societies he had organized across England,” Iovino added.

“Instead, he summed up his remarkable life with the words his mom ascribed to him when he was 5. Here lieth a brand plucked from the burning; a man rescued for a purpose.”

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