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Established 1999
A Wesleyan-Anglican Church in Boise, Idaho

Pilgrimages

An English Pilgrimage

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Entry 6, Sunday, Second Week of Advent:
Bath: All Pumped Up

Hail to the Lord's anointed, King David's greater Son! Hail, in the time appointed, his reign on earth begun! He comes to break oppression, to set the captive free; to take away transgression, and rule in equity.

- verse 1, "Hail to the Lord's Anointed", James Montgomery (1771-1854).

Bath, England, an elegant spa city since Roman times, doesn't share John Wesley's priorities today any more than it did in his day-as he made quite clear to Beau Nash, who presided over the Pump Room, and therefore over who would, and who would not, be accepted in fashionable society.

In Bath as in Bristol and everywhere else, John Wesley's primary concern, after the spiritual needs of the people, was the care of, and justice for, the poor. He had little tolerance for selfishness, and that is what he saw, in spades, in the opulence of the social life centered around the Pump Room and its associated baths then newly constructed from a natural mineral hot springs where the Romans had had baths many centuries earlier.

John Wesley's reception in Bath was much more positive in one regard, because he was invited by the Countess of Huntingdon to preach in the chapel which she'd had built at her Bath home. The government severely limited the freedom to operate churches other than the established one, but any member of the aristocracy could have a chapel on their own property. Therefore, the Countess of Huntingdon acquired homes at various locations around Britain, built chapels at her homes, and invited Wesley and others to preach - and her friends to hear them. She even thoughtfully provided a private entrance and curtained room, so that the Anglican bishop could secretly hear the preacher at her home.

Lady Huntingdon and John Wesley later came to a parting of the ways, over her acceptance, and his rejection, of Calvinist doctrine, especially the Calvinist doctrine of double election - that some persons are irresistibly elected in advance by God to eternal salvation and that others are, by God's unilateral choice, unavoidably consigned by God in advance, to eternal punishment. Wesley held to the Anglican doctrine of prevenient grace, a doctrine which holds that God enables every person to choose freely his or her eternal destiny.)

We begin this Lord's Day with a service of Holy Communion at the Abbey Church of St. Peter and St. Paul in Bath. That or the nearly adjacent parish church is most likely where Wesley himself worshiped in Bath.

The service is entirely without music, and it illustrates the truth that the way really to understand what the core of worship is, is to attend some liturgical, music-free worship services. After that essence is understood, one can understand the role, placement, selection, rationale and utility of music as an aid to worship but not as itself the content of worship.

In this Communion service, there is no "music minister" or "worship leader". Indeed, for most of Christian history, there was no such function as we know it, and one wonders whether this recent innovation will turn out to be a passing one.

Lest the reader think that Anglicans are slackers when it comes to worship, I report that this service is one of six public services at the Abbey today.

The public, shared reading of the Scriptures, the people's responses, the deliberate and intentional prayers, the sharing in the Body and blood of Christ - through these the Holy Spirit mediates to us directly, exactly as the word of God promised.

We exit after the service and experience almost a spiritual whiplash - from worship around the heavenly throne, to the crowds of Christmas shoppers filling the sidewalks and spilling into the streets. It might as well have been 1770, with society being drawn, by the desire to consume fashionably, to the elite stores and to the Pump Room itself.

We, too, enjoy a fine dinner in the Pump Room, and in this regard there has been one very great advance since Wesley's day: the Pump Room, while still elegant, is within reach of a broad middle class that was pretty much unknown 230 years ago. It's no longer just an indulgence of the very wealthy; now it's an indulgence of the middle class, too. (Wesley still probably wouldn't like it, but I'm not as austere as he was.)

Now the house in Bath of the Countess of Huntingdon is a museum, as is the chapel with it. Note: Where Wesley preached is no longer a place of worship, but the Abbey still is, hundreds of years later as it had been for hundreds of years before Wesley. Wesley didn't intend to create a permanent place of worship, so that's not a great loss. What does that say, though, about the many churches that may want to continue forever but build disposably?

We view the Countess' home from the outside and then return to the Abbey for choral evensong. Joy is evident in the service, and the "visitors from over the water" are warmly welcomed.

One side of the choir, after Evensong at Bath Abbey.
One side of the choir, after Evensong at Bath Abbey.

And I think, "If John Wesley were in town now, he likely would be attending this service, too" - although, as important as he thought evening prayers to be, I don't know that he was as careful to avoid scheduling a preaching or Methodist Society meeting to conflict with Anglican evening prayers as he was to avoid a conflict with an Anglican Communion service.

Whether or not he would have been present for Evensong, he surely would have urged the people of Bath to provide equity for the poor. That message is as needed now as it was then.

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him - the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord - and he will delight in the fear of the Lord. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.
-
Isaiah 11:1-4 (NIV)

- 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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