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Beacon Street Diary blog

New Hidden Histories collection - Litchfield, CT ecclesiastical council

We are excited to share a newly digitized collection from the New England's Hidden Histories program. This month's new collection is from South Farms parish, Litchfield, Connecticut, an area of Litchfield now known as the town of Morris. The collection is small, but contains an unusually thorough account of the proceedings of an ecclesiastical council called in January 1781.

The collection documents the vote to call a council, one of the invitations issued to the participating churches of the vicinity (in this case Glastonbury, Conn.), the minutes of the meeting, the confession of Rev. George Beckwith as ordered by the council, and a final document showing the council's recognition and approval of the dissolution of the relationship between the church and Beckwith, their pastor.

Rev. George Beckwith was the first pastor settled at the South Farms parish church in Litchfield, Conn. The parish and society of South Farms were both founded in 1767 and the church gathered a year later in 1768. Beckwith, a 1766 graduate of Yale College, was called and ordained into ministry at the church in 1772. Some nine years later discord between the pastor and church had grown so much that by mutual agreement of the two parties an ecclesiastical council of the vicinage was called to seek outside wisdom. As the vote and invitation both state, the council was to hear grievances from both sides and put forth a recommendation for how the church and pastor should proceed. In the end, it was the decision of the church to sever ties with Beckwith.

Check out this collection and keep an eye on the blog for a forthcoming post on the whys and wherefores of ecclesiastical councils, particularly in the colonial time period.

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