A Sunday school teacher sparked a gun scare when she set off a firework outside her church to tell the story of Jesus's ascent into heaven.

People living near St Mary's Church in Kemp Town, Brighton, called the police when they heard what sounded like a shot as the rocket - decorated with a picture of Jesus - was fired into the air.

After the children had watched the sky fill with explosive stars, they had trooped back indoors for the next stage of teaching when the two uniformed officers walked in.

Jacalyn Boyes, 40, of Eastern Road, Brighton, said: "I quite innocently asked if I could help them and were they looking for someone?

"Just imagine my embarrassment when they told me they were looking for the culprit who had let a rocket off outside the church.

"I told the policemen why I had let the rocket off and said I hoped they were not going to arrest me.

"To my surprise, one of them said, 'Well, if you sent the rocket up to Jesus I'm sure he will find it in his heart to forgive you'.

"I'm very grateful for the understanding of the police, who decided not to arrest me this time."

Miss Boyes, who has taught at the Sunday school in St James's Street for seven years, believes her brush with the law has won her fresh "street cred" among the children.

She said: "The kids thought it was great - they thought I was really one of them."

The firework fiasco has not dimmed her enthusiasm for introducing more unusual methods to the Sunday school sessions.

She said: "I thought it would be a great idea to let off a rocket with a picture of Jesus taped to it to begin our Ascension Day theme.

"I think if you're going to teach the word of God, you should just go with whatever you feel. Whoever said going to Sunday school had to be dull?"

A Sussex Police spokesman said: "Someone thought they heard a gun go off so our officers were called and made a few inquiries.

"They discovered it was to do with the church. There was no offence. The officers just advised the Sunday school teacher."