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Beacon Street Diary blog

Remembering George Whitefield

 

The people of Gloucester—the English one, not its namesake in Massachusetts—are remembering their native son, George Whitefield, in a very practical way. The St. Mary de Crypt Church, where he was baptized educated, and preached his first sermon, has undertaken an ambitious restoration project. The Discover DeCrypt project is bringing the church into the twenty-first century as a place of worship as well as community center and part of a Whitefield heritage trail.

Last fall we met Mark Jones and Richard Atkins, who came to the Library from Gloucester. They were, like George before them, traveling up and down the East Coast, tracing Whitefield’s career for a BBC radio program. What was the connection with the Congregational Library? Rev. Whitefield was not, of course, a Congregationalist, but we possess a rare portrait that hangs prominently in our reading room. And I was glad to be interviewed for their program, which aired last winter.

Both of the de Crypt buildings are very old, and as the renovations have progressed, more of their history is unfolding. Below the schoolroom floor, archeologists on site discovered remains from the fifteenth-century (maybe not old by English Gloucester standards but pretty impressive here).  The congregation also discovered a collection of Whitefield sermons from 1742, given to the church in 1899.

Projects like this one are expensive, and we are passing the word along about the renovation in hopes that some of our readers might want to contribute. US donors can give directly through the website (www.discoverdecrypt.org.uk). It’s gratifying to see George Whitefield’s home town remembering one of the most famous people of the eighteenth century in such an ambitious and thoughtful way.

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