Our Background: 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 took the form of private “chapel” (sometimes called “prochapel”, see below). We are now an official congregation in the UECNA, giving the UE a presence in the Bay Area. Though our ministry is directed toward friends and family– with a focus on regular catechism and holy living– we wish to connect all ranks & stations of people to the 1928 Prayer Book, English metered-psalms, and even methodistic class meetings.
Eventually, we’d like to form a ministry-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 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 and offer venues for services among small, domestic assemblies. This is why denominational affiliation isn’t our foremost concern despite obvious preferences for common prayer and episcopal ordination. Nonetheless, we afford quarterly holy communion for those wanting a fuller-connexion to Anglicanism, namely, the UECNA.
To be considered a “chapel”, UE canons require regular prayer between two or three people. Since families are “little congregations”, worship at home is like a church, though reduced to its natural part. Furthermore, 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). Sometimes we call ourselves a ‘prochapel’ to differentiate our family circle from what is normally thought of as a special edifice or small church building. A ‘prochapel’ might also mean a ‘chapel-in-formation’ or likewise religious community.
So, Littlewood UEC imitates the pattern of 17th- & 18th-century Oratories. For example, many religious societies scheduled their weekly fellowship outside church hours, thereby, demonstrating loyalty to the national Church. Eventually, many of these religious societies found their way into the United Societies of the reverend John Wesley, more or less streamlining their organization and practices 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 methodistic societies to leave the Church of England but remain a Society 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.”
It was important for lay-Anglicans who participated in methodistic services to hold such gatherings apart from church hours and refrain from the administration of sacraments. This deference to the established Church was called the “Old Plan“, and those who followed such (like our prochapel) were “old-planners”.
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 while keeping with us an evangelical-Anglican fellowship. Family Prayer dates back 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 ‘enlarged family prayer’. Eventually this kind of piety found its way into the American book, as stated on our front page.
The revision of the American BCP not only settled certain questions about private worship with such forms like family prayer, but it better reconciled Protestants to the liturgy by introducing rather generous rubrics. Liberal revision(s) between 1789-1928 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. These principles had resilience while unity with other Protestants was wanted. Indeed, the 1928 Book was the end of a line of American revisions aspiring to persuade Evangelicals the good of common prayer without harming England’s conservative Reformation.
Despite this apparent strength, the future of the American 1928 BCP remains dependent on its adoption by younger families. We encourage our kindred– those connected to our prochapel fellowship or otherwise– to implement a ‘trustee model‘ of prayer book usage with their friends and family. Parents (& especially grandparents) ought to use the 1928 BCP with a generational eye, purposely bequeathing it to their children’s children through the same private and public holiness that the BCP repeatedly commends.
“For where two or three come together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Matthew 18:20 ASV
Our Name: “Littlewood” was the name of the first continuing Anglican bishop in California– William Elliot Littlewood. Consecrated in 1971 by the Free Protestant Episcopal Church (FPEC), Bp. Littlewood soon left the FPEC to help make the Anglican Episcopal Church of North America (AECNA) in 1972. Interestingly, Littlewood was also an elected suffragan to the early American Episcopal Church (AECUSA– now known as APA), and he probably went to the FPEC due to a mutual alignments Free Protestants had with American Anglicans at this period marked by the involvement of Bp. Joesph Pallai and the AECUSA. Incidentally, the FPEC goes back to the earliest Reformed Episcopal movement in the UK which subsequently joined the Free Church of England. Interestingly, most continuing Anglicans may trace their episcopate to either denomination– the AECNA on West Coast or AECUSA on the East– but both track back to FPEC and the Reformed Episcopalian movement in the UK.
Between 1985 to 1992 portions of the AECNA and AECUSA merged, split, and then re-affiliated several times. Cooperation regularly included Charles D. D. Doren’s UECNA, a midwest jurisdiction, and perhaps the only St. Louis church to confederate with pre-1977 continuers on a regular basis. Upon the passing of the AECNA’s second Bishop, Walter H. Adams, the AECNA dissolved, leaving the UECNA and AECUSA to pick-up remaining congregations. The continuing Anglican movement has often been criticized for its confusing array of small and competing bodies. Nonetheless, the overall trend of the 1980′s was a move toward greater unity, mainly through AECUSA and AECNA efforts, despite discord elsewhere.
A ‘constant’ with Bp. Littlewood’s pastorate was his basic commitment to “low and broad church” Anglicanism, evident in the years before the looming chaos of the St. Louis Congress. If not for Littlewood’s missionary spirit, the continuing church would not have been so visible in California as well as the entire West Coast. Thus, the memorial title of “Littlewood UE Chapel” honors William E. Littlewood’s pioneering and tireless work for continuing Episcopalians– an ethos we wish to keep.
“So then let us follow after things which make for peace, and things whereby we may edify one another.” Romans 14:19 ASV