We are asked fairly regularly, who is the Susannah in the name of our program? It is not someone who lived in the house nor a woman that pioneered addiction recovery. But we are named after a mother who knew a little about raising children to love God.
Susanna Wesley (we used a less common spelling) was the last of 25 children born to her parents in 1669. She and her husband Samuel raised 19 children of their own, 10 that lived into adulthood. Her sons John and Charles Wesley started a movement that we now call Methodism. Thus, she is aptly named the “Mother of Methodism.”
The mother of the Wesleys was herself the daughter of a prominent Dissenting minister. Brilliant, beautiful, and strong-willed, she had a profound influence on her children and thus on the Methodist movement. When the children were small, she developed a remarkable and effective method of education and spiritual nurture. As they grew older, she wrote manuals for them on such topics as the attributes of God, the Apostles' Creed, and the Holy Spirit. John, Charles, and the other children relied on her wise counsel on matters spiritual, theological, and personal.
She once wrote in a letter,
“I look upon every soul under my charge as a talent committed to me under a trust. I am not a man nor a minister, but I spare every night to discourse with each child apart, strengthening their tiny faith in God our Savior.”
Her children knew to be quiet whenever they saw their mother throw her apron over her head – they understood this was Susanna’s private time of prayer with the Lord.
Susanna experienced much hardship in her life. She and her husband were separated for a year due to a marital dispute, and even when he returned they endured a constant financial burden. Their house was burned down twice; during one of the fires, her son, John, nearly died and had to be rescued from the second storey window. After the second fire, Susanna was forced to place her children into different homes for nearly two years while the rectory was rebuilt. During this time, the Wesley children lived under the rules of the homes they lived in. Susanna was mortified that her children began to use improper speech and play more than study.
She was the primary source of her children's education.They attended classes for six hours and on the very first day they were supposed to learn the whole of the alphabet. All the children received a very good education, learning Latin, Greek, and the classics that were traditionally taught in England at the time. She even held worship services in her home when her husband was away for a time in London on church business. It seems the substitute pastor was not teaching to her liking so the service she organized Sunday afternoons for her children grew to over 200 local townspeople.
We hold up Susanna Wesley as our model for helping women rebuild their families based on a faith in God and His ability to help us overcome adversity in this life. She demonstrated great discipline and instilled this virtue in her children. We hope to help our moms find this same discipline so they can wake up every day and choose to stay sober. We pray that our moms can not only break the bonds of addiction that imprison themselves and their families but they can teach their children a better way. Susanna Wesley’ faith in God and commitment to her family made a lasting impact not only on Methodists around the world through John and Charles, but through all her offspring raising their children Susannah’s way!
So you can see, it was a no-brainer to name our facility Susannah’s House (even with an extra h)!