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Early Church Regulations

Footnotes to Long Island History

Early Church Regulations

April 8, 1965

by

Thomas R. Bayles


In 1703, the town passed a regulation as to how people should be seated in the old town meeting house in Setauket, reading as follows:  “Whereas, there hath several rude actions happened in our church by reason of the people not being duly seated, which is much to the dishonor of God, and the discouragement of virtue, for the prevention of the like againe, it is ordered that the Inhabitants bee seated after the mannor and forme following.”

This went on to say that those who paid 40 shillings within a month to Mr. Phillips, (the minister) were to sit at the table, and that no women be permitted to sit there except “Col. Smith’s Lady, nor any women Kinde.”  the President (of the trustees) for the time being should sit in the right hand seat under the pulpit, and the clerk on the left, and the trustees in the front seat, with the Justices seated at the table, whether they paid 40 shillings within a month, number two to those who paid 15 shillings; three, 10 shillings; four, eight shillings, five, 12 shillings; six, nine shillings; seven, for the young men; eight, for the boys; nine for ministers; widows and wives, and for those women whose husbands paid 40 shillings, to sit according to their age.  Numbers 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14 for wives according to what their husbands paid; number 15 for maids, 16 for girls, and 17 free for any.  Captain Clarke and Joseph Tucker were appointed a committee to seat the people in this order.

In those early days, church bells were unknown here and their purpose was answered by the drum, which was beated in the church door on Sabbath mornings to call the worshippers together.  In 1668, we find that “Obed Seward is to beat the drum twice a Sabbath Day on the Meeting House hill.”  In 1723, the trustees agreed with Nathaniel Tooker to perform the office of “Beating the Drums on ye Lorde’s Day and sweeping the meeting house” for which he was to receive 30 shillings a year.

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