John Wesley at Pateley Bridge

"At Pateley Bridge the vicar offered me the use of his church. Though it was more than twice as large as our preaching house, it was not near large enough to contain the congregation. How vast is the increase of the work of God, particularly in the most rugged and uncultivated places”.

So records John Wesley’s Journal entry for May 1st, 1780.

The church referred to is St. Mary's; the current Parish Church in the village was built 48 years later, so I walked further up Old Church Lane to find the site on which Mr Wesley preached. Though now ruinous and abandoned, the old St Mary’s still stands, but without a roof or glazing. It seemed strange that so hallowed a place, which once heard the words of life preached by one of the most famous preachers in history, should now be such a hollow shell. Though a balmy, June afternoon, the sky was dark with bloated rainclouds. I could not stay long; my car, parked by the entrance, was on so steep an incline that the handbrake, and its being left in reverse gear, barely held it fast.

Mr Wesley’s comment set me awondering about the state of the churches in Britain in the 2020s. Gone are the rugged old country preachers, the unlettered but earnest farmers and mechanics who loved the Lord and honoured the Bible. The woke, urban graduates who now fill the pulpits and manses may be more cultivated, but the work of God decreases on their watch. Where truth is preached, decay and death may follow.

Therefore as surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, because you have defiled my sanctuary with all your vile images and detestable practices, I myself will shave you; I will not look on you with pity or spare you. Ezekiel 5:11