Friday, August 23, 2013


It's taken me longer to get around to continuing to write about the church
conflict in Newbury than I thought it would. It's a complicated issue and as
I said in the first post in the series, my understanding of the Protestant
theological issues is woefully inadequate. My intention is to concentrate on
the part my ancestors played in the argument but I do feel the need to provide
a bit of background information.

At the head of the two factions in the Newbury church were two men: Reverend
Thomas Parker and merchant Edward Woodman. Reverend Parker had been
part of the original party of settlers who founded Newbury and his influence can
still be seen there today. The river that flows by the town is named the Parker
River in his honor, and it is believed the town itself is named after a town in
England where Rev. Parker had taught before coming to the colony. Edward
Woodman was likewise an early settler of the town and had done very well for
himself in business. The differences between the two men lay in their views
about how the church should be governed.

The Reverend Parker in the Presbyterian viewpoint, that a church was best
led most effectively by a council of church elders. This made the Newbury church
one of only two Presbyterian churches in the colony, the other being in  the town
of Hingham south of Boston. The rest of the sites practiced Congregationalism, in
which church problems and policies were dealt with by the votes of the entire
church, and Edward Woodman wanted the church to be run on this principle. The
disagreement between the two sides was so contentious that the churches of
neighboring towns as well as the colonial government tried to mediate it.

At its height, there were long-winded letters with charges and counter-charges
flying back and forth from both sides. I'm surprised that any work at all got
done on those occasions. To be honest, I don't understand a lot of the points
that were being made. So I'll stick with those instances that involve my ancestors.

I'll begin in the next post in the series about an incident involving (once again)
my ancestor William Gerrish, among others.

No comments: