Newbury, Massachusetts. First Church. Ecclesiastical council meeting minutes, 1669-1670.
This collection is a copy of the minutes of the ecclesiastical council meeting in 1699 and 1670, in Newbury, Massachusetts to determine the proposal brought forward by the Newbury First Congregational Church (founded 1635). Ecclesiastical councils are when a local parish or church turns outside the local community for help in determining answers to problems facing the church. Typically these involve the ordaining new ministers through examination by the council or questions of orthodoxy. Ecclesiastical councils in the 17th century were made of Congregational ministers/pastors, and happened relatively infrequently due to the effort of gathering enough ministers to form the council. As with today, ecclesiastical councils of the 17th century lacked any real or hard authority and the local parish was able to reject the council’s findings without any serious consequences, although they rarely did.
The council in Newbury during 1669-1670 was called to advise church at Newbury on changing their church governance. Typically Congregational churches were governed by a body called the Council of Elders, a form of republican representation. Elders were usually prominent members of the church, were usually landowners, and were wealthy. Newbury First was interested in moving to a more democratic system of governing through popular vote by hand of all members of the church, thereby removing the elders. The response of the ecclesiastical council was overwhelmingly negative, claiming that such a process was against the Congregational way and promoted popery. Despite this, by 1683 Newbury First had no ruling elders.
Scope of Collection
Since it is a handwritten copy from 1853, it is difficult to be completely sure of the veracity of everything contained within the document, however it is important to note that approximately thirteen years after the council concluded its findings (1683) that First Church, Newbury had no recorded ruling elders. The notebook contains a written history of the town of Newbury, although a note on the first page of the minutes states that he did not use this document in writing the history as he did not have access to it at the time.
The Congregational Library and Archives also holds several sermons given at Newbury First from 1780 to 1850.
The collection only contains a single item, and arrangement the physical arrangement is displayed as so. The digital copy of the item contains 12 scan images, that are kept in the numerical order of their creation.
|Ecclesiastical Council Minutes||1669-1670, 1853 (copy)||F1|