The Privy Council and the Position
of the Communion Table
at St. Gregory's (1633)
Gee, Henry, and William John Hardy, ed.,
Documents Illustrative of English Church History
(New York: Macmillan, 1896), 533-5.
Hanover Historical Texts Project
Scanned and proofread by Heather Haralson, May 1998.
Posted by Raluca Preotu, July 1999.
Proofread and pages added by Jonathan Perry, March 2001.
THE question of the position of the Communion Table, which had been agitated for years, came to a head in 1633. In September Bishop Williams of Lincoln ruled in a dispute at Leicester and, following a precedent set by him at Grantham, directed that the Holy Table should be placed in the chancel, and should be moved down when needed for use. Meanwhile, in the newly restored church of St. Gregory beside St. Paul's, London, the Dean and Chapter had placed the Table in the east end, setting rails before it. Five parishioners appealed, Oct. 18, to the Court of Arches. The king interfered at this stage, summoning the parties before the Privy Council with the following result. In 1635 Laud ordered Sir Nicholas Brent, his Vicar-General, to direct that the Holy Table should in all churches be moved to the east end, and be railed in.
[Transcr. Privy Council Register, Charles I, vol. ix. p. 304.]
At Whitehall, the third of November, 1633. Present: the King's most excellent majesty; Lord Archbishop of Canterbury; Lord Keeper; Lord Archbishop of York; Lord Treasurer; Lord Privy Seal; Lord Duke of Lennox; Lord High Chamberlain; Earl Marshal; Lord Chamberlain; Earl of Bridgwater; Earl of Carlisle; Lord Cottington; Mr. Treasurer; Mr. Comptroller; Mr. Secretary Coke; Mr. Secretary Windebanke.
This day was debated before his majesty, sitting in council, the question and difference which grew about the removing of the Communion table in St. Gregory's church, near the cathedral church of St. Paul, from the middle of the chancel to the upper end, there placed altar-wise, in such manner as it standeth in the said cathedral and mother church (as also in all other cathedrals, and in his [Page 534] majesty's own chapel), and as is consonant to the practice of approved antiquity: which removal and placing thereof in that sort was done by order of the Dean and Chapter of St. Paul's who are ordinaries thereof, as was avowed before his majesty by Mr. Doctor King and Mr. Doctor Montfort, two of the prebends there. Yet some few of the parishioners, being but five in number, did complain of this act by appeal to the Court of Arches, pretending that the Book of Common Prayer and the eighty-second Canon do give permission to place the Communion table where it may stand with most fitness and convenience. Now his majesty having heard a particular relation, made by the counsel of both parties, of all the carriage and proceedings in this cause, was pleased to declare his dislike of all innovation and receding from ancient constitutions, grounded upon just and warrantable reasons, especially in matters concerning ecclesiastical orders and government, knowing how easily men are drawn to affect novelties, and how soon weak judgments may in such cases be overtaken and abused. And he was also pleased to observe, that if those few parishioners might have their will, the difference thereby from the aforesaid cathedral mother church, by which all other churches depending thereon ought to be guided and directed, would be the more notorious, and give more subject of discourse and dispute that might be spared, by reason of the nearness of St. Gregory's, standing close to the wall thereof. And likewise that for so much as concerns the liberty given by the said Communion book or canon, for placing the Communion table in any church or chancel, with most convenience, that liberty is not to be understood, as if it were ever left to the discretion of the parish, much less to the particular fancy of any humorous person, but to the judgment of the ordinary, to whose place and function it doth properly belong, to give direction in that point, both for the thing itself, and for the time, when and how long, [Page 535] as he may find cause. Upon which consideration his majesty declared himself, that he well approved and confirmed the act of the said ordinary. And also gave commandment that if those few parishioners before mentioned do proceed in their said appeal, then the Dean of the Arches (who was then attending at the hearing of the cause) shall confirm the said order of the aforesaid dean and chapter.
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