'First public sculpture' of Mother of Methodism carved in East Finchley

East Finchley Methodist Church where wood sculptor Simon O’Rouke is turning the Cypress Tree in th

A statue of 17th century female pioneer Susanna Wesley now stands at East Finchley Methodist Church sculpted by Simon O'Rourke from a Cypress tree in the garden - Credit: Polly Hancock

A 17th century feminist pioneer has been immortalised in wood at a church in East Finchley.

The giant carving of Susanna Wesley, Mother of Methodism, now stands in the front garden of the East Finchley Methodist Church in the High Road.

Organisers say it is the "first public sculpture in the world" of the Methodist matriarch.

Standing at over 20 feet tall, the Western Red Cedar has stood bare for more than four years.

Pupils from Yr 5 at Martin Primary School in East Finchley visit the garden of East Finchley Methodi

Jane Ray with year 5 pupils from Martin Primary School at East Finchley Methodist Church where wood sculptor Simon O’Rourke is turning the Cypress Tree in the garden into a statue of Susanna Wesley. - Credit: Polly Hancock

To mark the 2019 bicentennial of the church, a statue has been created by North Wales-based wood sculptor Simon O'Rourke as part of a renovation of the space.

Over the course of five days, Simon transformed "an eyesore into a new landmark" overlooking the high street.

Wood sculptor Simon O’Rouke who is turning the Cypress Tree in the garden into a sculpture with Susa

Wood sculptor Simon O’Rouke who is turning the Cypress Tree in the garden into a sculpture with Susanna Wesley on top of a carved tree and woodland trunk. - Credit: Polly Hancock

Pupils from Martin Primary School visited to watch the craftsman at work on Thursday (January 27).

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Senior church steward Jane Ray, who organised the project, said: “The bare branches looked to us like Susanna’s welcoming outstretched arms and we are excited to see Simon bringing this vision to life."

She said four years ago the tree, originally 50 metres tall, had to be cut down on safety grounds.

A 103-year-old parishioner died and bequeathed money to be spent on "something for the children" and so came Jane's idea.

Extra funds were raised by parishioners and the Heathfield Trust, a local Methodist charity.

"In the spirit of Susanna Wesley, the church’s front garden is transformed into an area for children and adults to come," Jane said.

"We've been really moved by the response from the public."

Wood sculptor Simon O'Rourke who is turning the Cypress Tree in the garden into a statue of Susanna

Wood sculptor Simon O' Rourke who is turning the Cypress Tree in the garden into a statue of Susanna Wesley. - Credit: Polly Hancock

Susanna Wesley, the last of 25 siblings, was born in 1669 and is known as the Mother of Methodism.

Although she never officially preached a sermon she was instrumental in educating and inspiring her children, believing that girls should have the same right to learn as boys.

She wrote meditations and scriptural commentaries for her own use and attracted crowds of local people to her family services on Sunday afternoons.

Her husband spent spells in jail, leaving Susanna to raise the children alone.

Among her 19 offspring were John and Charles Wesley, who founded the Methodist movement which now has approximately 80 million adherents around the world.

She was also mother to the poet Mehetabel Wesley Wright known as “Hetty”.

Pupils from Yr 5 at Martin Primary School in East Finchley visit the garden of East Finchley Methodi

Jane Ray with year 5 pupils from Martin Primary School visit the garden of East Finchley Methodist Church where wood sculptor Simon O’Rourke is turning the Cypress Tree in the garden into a statue of Susanna Wesley. - Credit: Polly Hancock