Newbury, Massachusetts. First Church. Ecclesiastical council meeting minutes, 1669-1670.

Collection Information

Newbury, Mass. First Church ecclesiastical council meeting minutes, 1669-1670.


First Chuch of Newbury (Newbury, Mass.)

Coffin, Joshua, 1792-1864

Woodbridge, John, 1614-1695


1669-1670, 1853 (copy)


1 folder (0.01 cubic feet)

12 unique page images: archival TIFF, derivative JPEG & PDF

Collection ID #:


Conditions Governing Access:

Access to the physical items is restricted. Digital surrogates are to be used instead. Exceptions may be granted in cases of extenuating circumstance, at the discretion of the Librarian.

Technical Access:

To access digital user’s copies via online-interface, a java-enabled web browser is required. Internet Explorer 8.x and later, Firefox 5.x and later, Opera 12 and later, Safari 5.x and later, or any version of Google Chrome are recommended.

Copyright: Preferred Citation:

[Identification of item], in the First Church of Newbury ecclesiastical council meeting minutes, 1669-1670. RG0937. The Congregational Library & Archives, Boston, MA.



Processing information:

Collection processed by Anderson Boone, September 2014, using DACS 2nd Edition.


A copy of an ecclesiastical council meeting minutes from 1669-1670. The minutes cover the proposed change of the First Church’s governance body, from the Congregational Way of rule by elders, to a democratic member system; and the ecclesiastical council’s negative recommendation about such a change.

Acquisition Information:

Donated as gift in 1853 by Joshua Coffin.


No accruals are expected for this collection.


Historical Note

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.


Further Searches

Subject Headings

Church controversies – Congregational churches

Church controversies – Massachusetts – 1669-1770

Church records and registers – Massachusetts – Newbury – 17th century

Congregational Churches – Massachusetts - Newbury

Coffin, Joshua, 1792-1864

Ecclesiastical Council – Massachusetts

First Church of Newbury (Newbury, Mass.)

First Church of Newbury (Newbury, Mass) – History - Sources

Newbury (Mass.) - History

Woodbridge, John, 1614-1695


Related Materials

The First Parish, Newbury, Massachusetts, 1635-1935. By Eliza Adams Little and Lucretia Little IIsley (1935). 17.11.1 N45.2 FIRCN

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.



  Date Folder
Ecclesiastical Council Minutes 1669-1670, 1853 (copy) F1
    Online Interface


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