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Established 1999
A Wesleyan-Anglican Church in Boise, Idaho

Pilgrimages

An English Pilgrimage

Entry 1 | Entry 2 | Entry 3 | Entry 4 | Entry 5 | Entry 6 | Entries 7-9 | Entry 10 | Entry 11 | Entry 12 | Entry 13 | Entry 15 | Entry 16 | Entry 17 | Entry 19 | Entry 20 | Entry 21 | Entry 24 |

Entry 5, Saturday, First Week of Advent:
Bristol: Near St. James Churchyard, in the Horsefair

Give grace, O heavenly Father, to all the Ministers of your Gospel, that they may both by their life and doctrine set forth your true and lively word, and rightly and duly administer your holy Sacraments.

Bristol: Intermittent rain, constant Wesley-but you have to search! In what is now downtown Bristol's prime shopping area, the casual observer could walk right on by, and not see Wesley's "New Room" for the shops.

Corridor in shopping center, leading from the street back to the New Room in Bristol, with the statue of John Wesley on his horse.
Corridor in shopping center, leading from the street back to the New Room in Bristol, with the statue of John Wesley on his horse.

Being anything but casual about Wesley, however, our determined explorers find the passageway between two shops, that leads back to the New Room, built on land "near St. James Churchyard, in the Horsefair," as he reported in his Journal for May 9, 1739. Three days later, the first stone was laid.

Now the New Room is surrounded, practically, by a shopping center. The little buildings and its garden have a simple beauty, however, as some harried shoppers discover. When the grounds are entered from one end, a statue of Charles Wesley greets with the engraving, "O let me commend my Saviour to you." At the other end, near the stable for the preachers' horses, is a statue of John Wesley, mounted on his horse.

The New Room remains much as it was when John and Charles Wesley were there-but not entirely: it then had benches rather than pews, and the 1761 Snetzler organ was brought in as part of the 1930 restoration of the New Room.

It would be easy to indulge in a Methodist sentimentality about the place and its memorabilia, but that would be to miss its real significance-or, at least, what Wesley regarded as the New Room's purpose. As I said, "(Y)ou have to search," if you're really to find the New Room.

Interior of the "New Room", with preaching pulpit elevated above the reading table, both in the center front, and with the post-Wesley pews.
Interior of the "New Room", with preaching pulpit elevated above the reading table, both in the center front, and with the post-Wesley pews.

If you want to find it, don't think of it merely as the first purpose-built Methodist meeting place; think of the purpose for which it was built-which was not as a church for worship or as a chapel for preaching, but as a meeting place for the Methodist Society. Even after preaching began at the New Room, services were not scheduled at an hour that would prevent the Methodists from receiving Communion at the nearby St. James Parish Church.

So, if you are to see the New Room through Wesley's eyes, you must see the New Room in pair with St. James.

And so, we do.

Built in the 11th century and Bristol's oldest church, St. James was where Charles Wesley and his family worshiped regularly (it's near their home at No. 4 Charles Street), and where John Wesley worshiped when he was in Bristol. They went to the New Room for fellowship and edification, especially encouragement to engage in deeds of charity.

The five children of Charles and Sally Wesley who died while the family resided in Bristol were interred at St. James. Their sons were baptized there, and they spent their formative years under the joint influence of the New Room and St. James.

Daniel Flores, curator of the Charles Wesley Heritage Centre, gives generously of his time for a thorough tour of No. 4 Charles Street (including the medicinal-herb garden, now restored to a typical 18th-century form) and to lead us through St. James, which is now a Little Brothers of Nazareth ministry among the poor and the drug-addicted.

Then we are off to Bristol Cathedral for choral evensong. Bristol Cathedral is regarded as a "new" cathedral, because it has been one only since 1542! For its first 400 years before that, it was an Augustinian Abbey. Charles Wesley's son Charles, Jr., made a guest appearance as solo organist in this cathedral. Samuel, Charles Wesley's other surviving son, was a celebrated extempore organist. He edited works of J. S. Bach, and, with Mendelssohn, is credited with introducing Bach's works to England.

And so, evensong, sung, traditionally, by men and boys, the latter with their pie-crust ruffles around their necks. One rank of boys faces each other across the chancel, with a rank of men behind each row of boys. A white candle in glass on a pedestal lights each chorister's place.

I am lost in the experience and think, "I could be in England!" Then I realize, "Hey, I am in England!"

Evensong, whether sung by practiced singers as in Bristol Cathedral or by a lay congregation such as at Epworth Chapel on the Green, is a wholly or partly sung version of the Evening Prayers service, such as the one John Wesley adapted from The Book of Common Prayer for use by the Methodists in North America.

If one searches, one can find the whole picture: worship with Word and Table (Holy Communion); the church at prayer morning and evening; regular evangelism, fellowship, accountability and acts of mercy; and personal Bible reading and prayer.

William Wilberforce, the tireless advocate of the abolition of the slave trade, wrote in his Family Prayers for Saturday evening, as follows:

We pray, also, for those whom we are bound to remember in our prayers. Grant them the same blessings which we ask for ourselves. Take us, and all who are dear to us, into Thy gracious keeping for the ensuing night; guard us against our great spiritual enemy; succour us in every season of temptation; and grant us this night, if it please Thee, such refreshing sleep as may fit us for the duties and services of another day, that we may rise in the morning desiring to devote Thine own day to Thy more immediate worship and service.

We ask these and all other blessings in the name and for the sake of Jesus Christ, our only Mediator and Advocate.

- Christopher

Theme Verse

Luke 1:78-79

Scripture Lessons

May 28: Acts 1:1-11, Psalm 110:1-5, Ephesians 1:15-23, Luke 24:49-53

May 21: Acts 17:22-31, Psalm 148:7-14, 1 Peter 3:8-18, John 15:1-8

Prayer Emphases

Nation: Peru

Denomination: Fellowship of Grace Brethren

Congregation: Park City Community Church, Park City, UT, and the Rev. Tracy Hausman

Ministry: Institute for Religious Freedom

Parishioners: Those living on Poplar Street

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