Dick Flynn's talk on July 1, 2012
What I will talk about this morning is taken, in part, from a research paper written by Mr. Rupert Lillie about “Customs and Practices in the 1600’s.”
It starts with:
- The Forming of a Church in the 1600’s.
- Organized through the “right hand of fellowship” being extended by another church – but first,
- To start there needed to be 7 men (sometimes including the pastor) requesting organization.
- Each man, individually, was questioned about their faith and commitment to determine if they were fit to organize.
- Examinations could last a whole morning.
- If approved: A service was held with their covenant being presented and signed and the “right hand of fellowship” extended. The visiting pastor gave a sermon and prayer and then all celebrated.
- For FCW’s start.
- First request for examination they were found not ready.
- At the second request, on Oct 8, 1644, they were ready, the right hand of fellowship extended, and John Fiske was ordained first pastor.
- Church Membership.
- Had to be examined and their faith conversion was scrutinized.
- If accepted:
- Would receive full privileges and receive communion and,
- Be in the “inner circle”.
- Next outer circle were the children.
- They were considered under the covenant & discipline of the church, but excluded from communion.
- Other inhabitants – the outer ring
- They had no personal or birthright to church but,
- Colonial law required attendance at church and contribute to Pastors salary.
- FCW established a “ half way” covenant meaning,
- People still could not vote or receive communion but,
- Their children could be baptized. This would pass membership onto the next generation.
- People moving into community.
- Refused communion and baptism’s until,
- They first proved membership, in good standing, in another congregation & not be under censure or admonition.
- They also needed at least one member to vouch for them.
- Among the many things they did they preached 2 sermons on Sabbath, visited the sick, gave: medical, spiritual, personal, and legal advice.
- Depending on community salary was between $40 - $1000/year. Rev Fiske paid $40.00/year.
- A large part of that was in labor, food, grain, and other supplies.
- People were taxed to support & for non-payment they were punished or fined. Spinning bees were held.
- Pastor would also sell gifts they received at weddings, funerals and baptisms.
- Some ministers had businesses such as distillers or retailing, carpentry, or medicine.
- Most were married before coming to a church so not to offend the ladies.
- Deacons were very important officials in church and community. Among their duties,
- They would preach when pastor was absent.
- On Communion Sundays they assure only those eligible received communion.
- They also visited and prayed with the sick, in charge of church contributions, and lined out psalms.
- In early settlements they found it desirous too have women deacons because they were better at visiting the sick.
- Had authority to report and punish wrongdoers of the community and,
- Inspected taverns and reported those who were drunk or gambling.
- They had authority to arrest those doing wrong on the Sabbath or eve of Sabbath.
- Punishments could be: wraps on knuckles, older boys to sit with mother or younger boys, being sent to the parsonage or being punished in front of the congregation.
- During service they would carry a pole and wrap it 3 times to start and close worship.
- With the knobby end they would wake sleeping men and boys.
- Women were wakened with other end which had a feather.
- Each oversaw 10 families, enforcing the learning of catechism and church attendance.
- The Sabbath
- No profanity, long journeys, boat building, sports, shooting, fishing, game playing, use of tobacco near the church, or doing anything of great need was prohibited.
- Calling to church was either by drums, horn, bells, guns, and even conch shells.
- Worship lasted all day with a break for lunch.
- Communities would sometimes have a “noon or Sabbath house” to share noon meals between sermons and get warm by fireplace. If not they would go to a members house or the tavern.
- Meals would consist of doughnuts and cold pie, pork and peas or brown bread and cheese.
- Seating in earliest days:
- Married men and women sitting near center and,
- Women and girls on the left and
- Men and boys on right. Later...
- Single women sat on sides and,
- Single men in back and,
- Salves sat in gallery and.
- Elderly and hard of hearing invited up front.
- Seating was done by a seating committee.
- Anyone sitting in wrong seat was fined.
- At the end of service the men would leave first to protect women from dangers.
- The only songs sung in early church were the Psalms.
- Singing was by “lining out” by deacons which was done to long after the Revolution.
- "Lining out" was by the Deacons who would read each line before it was sung.
- Questions of the Pastor
- It became customary to question pastor after sermon.
- Some say it began with Separatist churches in England with women being allowed to stand and speak.
- The Puritans modified that to men only.
- Later the questions had to be approved by deacons to help keep order.
- During worship people were chastised for “going astray”.
- They did have an opportunity to defend themselves against the charges which,
- Sometimes very serious, or petty, even humorous and even tragic such as the witch trails.
- Being done in public feelings sometimes were hurt and anger flared.
- But because love and forgiveness were required it usually was very helpful and a positive part of the communal life.
- During prayer all would stand with arms held above their head as a way of offering.
- These prayers could sometimes last as long as 30 minutes.
As can be seen, things were not too easy or convenient back then.