Robert Wolfall, Presbyter

The collect for bishops and other pastors, in commemoration of Robert Wolfall, Priest (source):

Almighty and everlasting God,
who didst call thy servant Robert Wolfall to proclaim thy glory
by a life of prayer and the zeal of a true pastor:
keep constant in faith the leaders of thy Church
and so bless thy people through their ministry
that the Church may grow into the full stature
of thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord,
who liveth and reigneth with thee,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

The Rev. Robert Wolfall was vicar of the Parish of West Harptree, Somerset, when he became chaplain to Martin Frobisher’s third Arctic expedition to Canada. On 3 September 1578, Rev’d Wolfall presided at the first recorded Holy Eucharist in what is now Canadian territory: Frobisher Bay, Baffin Island.

The service was held on the ship Anne Francis, whose captain later wrote:

Master Wolfall …. preached a godly sermon, which being ended he celebrated also a Communion upon the land …. The celebration of the divine mystery was the first sign, seal and confirmation of Christ’s name, death and passion ever known in these quarters. Master Wolfall made sermons and celebrated the Communion at sundry other times in several and sundry ships, because the whole company could never meet together at anyone place.

A few weeks later, Frobisher abandoned the hope of establishing a permanent settlement on Baffin Island and the expeditionary fleet returned home to England. Anglicans would not celebrate Holy Communion in Canada again for almost a century.

A commemoration of Robert Wolfall, written by Dr. William Cooke, Vice-President of the Toronto branch of the Prayer Book Society of Canada, is posted here. (See page 5 of pdf document.)

The Canadian Encyclopedia entry on “The First Thanksgiving in North America” is posted here.

Parish of West Hartree, Robert Wolfall Commemorative PlaqueA plaque commemorating Rev. Wolfall was recently placed on the inside wall of his parish church. The photograph was kindly sent to us by former Royal Navy Chaplain The Rev. Anthony Marks.

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