Emerging chapels ought to develop their own character depending on the local congregation or class from whence they formed. Here is an example of our chapel-in-formation. It’s a copy of olden ‘church methodism’ with proper Anglican distinctives, i.e., ‘anglo-methodist’. Visit Littlewood Memorial United Episcopal Chapel for abridged information.
Littlewood Memorial UE Chapel
The chapel grew from the Bartlett’s home ministry, aka. Queen Anna’s Oratory which began in 2012. A year later our family moved from San Jose’s Rosegarden to nearby Fremont’s Glenmoor neighborhood. With a larger residence, the Oratory more or less assumed the form of a private ‘chapel’ or ‘good room’ (sometimes called ‘prochapel’, see explanation below). We are now an associated congregation of the UECNA, having a vote at both District and National Conventions, as well as giving the UE a physical presence in our locality of California, the Bay Area. Though our worship calls upon friends and family– focusing on regular catechism and holy living– we wish to connect all ranks and stations of people to goodly worship– thus, promoting the American prayer book, metered psalms, and even class meetings.
Eventually, we’d like to form a wider fellowship probably composed of two or three households covenanted together. These homes would provide the basis for a ‘circuit’, or cluster, of lay-led chapels, family-circles, and classes for the Bay Area, gradually leaving ours behind as one among many. Our primary wish isn’t necessarily planting churches but helping private societies use the prayer book, conduct class meetings, and offer venues for services among small, domestic assemblies. This is why denominational affiliation isn’t our foremost concern despite obvious advantages of historic liturgy and episcopal ordination. Nonetheless, our particular household occasionally affords Holy Communion and Evening Prayer for those wanting a stronger-connexion to Anglicanism, namely, by the UECNA.
Since families are “little congregations” in-themselves, worship at home has a ‘church aspect’– though reduced to its natural and most rudimentary part. Indeed, there is a long history of house Oratories in England, including those used in domestic rooms (like parlors) for private worship. A brief sketch of home chapels in the 18th-century can be read here (Jacobs, p. 93, 98-101) as well as their occasional use by High Churchmen here (Overton, p. 281-284).
To be considered a “chapel”, UE canons require regular prayer between two or three people. Some insist a chapel belong to a religious community, which we accomplished Oct. 2019 with the Primitive Methodists-UE West. Among all the assorted and variegated terms, we find ‘chapel-in-formation’ most accurate, but usually just call ourselves, by convention, a ‘fellowship’. We’ve tried to meme the term ‘prochapel’, but that gets little traction. However, we are a technically ‘chapel’, using ‘fellowship’ interchangeably.
Regardless, Littlewood UE imitates the pattern of 17th- & 18th-century Oratories, deferring to the national church and remaining non-sacramental. For example, many religious societies scheduled their weekly fellowship outside church hours, thereby, demonstrating loyalty to the established Church. Eventually, many of these religious societies found their way into the United Societies of the Reverend Mr. John Wesley, more or less adopting and streamlining their rules with Wesley’s discipline.
It ought to be recalled Mr. John Wesley was indeed an Anglican minister, and late-Oxford fellow, who never wished his United societies to leave the Church of England but remain a leaven of Societies within the Church. Indeed, Mr. Wesley warned his people,
We do not call ourselves Methodists at all. That we call ourselves members of the Church of England is certain. Such we ever were, and such we are to this day.” And, “We, by such a separation should not only throw away the peculiar glory God has given us, but should act in contradiction to that very end which we believe God hath raised us up,.. (so] the first message of all our preachers is to the lost sheep of the Church of England.”
Methodists who yielded church hours and administration of the sacraments to the national Church were called “Old Planners“. Old-Planners were tenacious about their Societies remaining an auxiliary rather than a substitute to the Church of England. When the Methodists finally separated, after Mr. Wesley’s death, Old-Planners left the methodist movement, gradually returning to their parishes. Another term for methodists who refused to adopt churchly aspects is “Primitive”– meaning they not only desired themselves as a leaven but were zealous for gifts among lay-people. We see ourselves in both traditions but, nonetheless, committed to society.
Consequently, on weekdays we do Family Prayer (p. 587-600) while Evening Prayer (p. 21-34) is reserved for Sunday afternoon. This arrangement allows friends and family to attend their respective denominations within the Church God while keeping an evangelical-Anglican fellowship with us. Family Prayer dates back to the older Stuart and Hanoverian religious societies that combined extempore prayer, bible paraphrases, pre-written private prayers, and hymns with fixed portions from the BCP. In fact, the Wesleys called these mixed liturgies, where a number of homes participated together, ‘enlarged family prayer’. Eventually, this kind of piety found its way enshrined within the American book.
The revision of the American BCP not only settled certain questions about private worship, with forms like family prayer, but it better reconciled other Protestants to the liturgy by introducing rather generous rubrics. Liberal revision(s) between 1789 to 1928 typically permitted a wider choice of readings, added catechetical material, and limited repetition for the sake of improving congregational instruction. Themes of flexibility and brevity were peculiar to the American Prayer Book– as testified in the Longer Preface. Though stimulated by the English bishops under William III, these principles became influential in the United States, with the 1928 Book being the end of a line of revisions that incorporated broad Evangelical concern without breaching American ties to Britain’s Long-Reformation.
Despite this apparent strength, the future of the American 1928 BCP remains dependent on its adoption by younger families. We encourage our friends and family to use the Prayer Book at home if not at a local Anglican Church. Parents (& especially grandparents) ought to use the 1928 BCP with generational eyes, purposely bequeathing it to their children’s children by the same design for holiness contained in the BCP, inspiring religious societies mentioned above.
“For where two or three come together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Matthew 18:20 ASV