Gifts From a Queen

A quick Google search of "communion sets gifted by Queen Anne" shows that this was a common practice of her's. Her reign of Great Britain and the colonies lasted from 1707 until her death in 1714 at the age of 49. She gifted these communion sets to many churches in the colonies to gain their favor. Imagine if you will your church seeing a beautiful silver and pewter communion set arriving from England, from the Queen herself! There must have been quite a lot of excitement in Salisbury Square in Salisbury, Massachusetts Colony that day.

Queen Anne, communion set, 1st Parish Church, Salisbury, Massachusetts
Photo: Peabody Essex Museum - Salem, Massachusetts

The old church, then known as the First Parish Church of Salisbury, was according to church history "built of logs at the southern end of the Salisbury Square two years after the establishment of the colony.: It most likely wasn't known as a "church" per se as the early puritans didn't believe in having a special building dedicated as a church. Early worship was held in members homes. Later "meetinghouses" were constructed. Even today the successor to the First Parish Church is known as the East Parish Meeting House.

Photo: Peabody Essex Museum - Salem, Massachusetts
Puritanism was never an official recognized as a protestant denomination. It was more of a strictly disciplined worship and lifestyle. The early Salisbury church was most likely of the Congregational denomination as were other churches of the Massachusetts colonies. Congregational churches were official state churches funded by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts until 1833.

Photo: Peabody Essex Museum - Salem, Massachusetts
In 1723 when a new "church" was built on the site of the present day meetinghouse, at the north end of Salisbury Square. The precious communion set traveled there with the congregation.

Photo: Peabody Essex Museum - Salem, Massachusetts
According to church history:
"After visits to Salisbury by several Methodist circuit riders, among them Jesse Lee and Francis Asbury, the first Methodist Society in Salisbury was established on June 21, 1811 and a chapel was built on Lafayette Road opposite Forest Road."
Photo: East Parish United Methodist Church - circa 1865

In 1833 the two denominations voted to combine and build a new meetinghouse. In 1834 the church you see above was built, which still stands today. (below) As a child I remember an oft told tale that the pastor at the time of construction wanted the church built before winter set in. In order to motivate workers to finish the job quickly he set a cask of rum on the site to be rewarded to the men that completed the task. I find this ironic as neither denomination were accepting of the consumption of alcoholic beverages. This story could be just an urban (or rural in this case) legend.

Photo: Doug Peabody

When the 1723 structure was pulled down the church's furniture and communion set were brought to members homes for safe keeping. A lot of these items never returned to the church but instead languished in people's basements and barns for years. It wasn't until 1945 that the communion set was donated to the Essex Institute by a Miss Margaret W. Cushing. The Essex Institute is now the Peabody Essex Museum.

Photo: Wadsworth Athenaeum

The communion table you see, considered an excellent and valuable example of colonial church furniture of the period, was donated to the Wadsworth Athenaeum in Hartford Connecticut. It was built of native oak in Salisbury. The altar cloth is also in the care of the Peabody Essex Museum although it is unclear if that was gifted by Queen Anne.

Special thanks to the Peabody Essex Museum for having this collection professionally photographed for the purposes of this blog post.


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