Ministers and Lay Leaders

Titles on gravestones tell us about the positions individuals held in social settings, including the colony’s ministerial, military, professional and educational institutions. The attached two-page listing gives a summary of those found in the Old Cambridge Burying Ground and elsewhere. Titles.OCBG.stns

Titles for the lay and clerical ministers in colonial New England are especially revealing. They follow the four-fold ministry patter in Calvin’s Institutes, rather than the 7-fold (3 clerical +4 lay) positions in Catholic and early Anglican polity. So, “Reverand” (Rev.) is used both for an ordained preacher or teacher (two of Calvin’s categories, later conflated for churches that could only afford one pastor) while “Ruling Elder” and “Deacon” designate lay positions. The first (Ruling Elder) is similar to what is now called a President of the Congregation, while the title and function of deacons have remained somewhat the same.

In Old Cambridge, the title “Rev.” is used several times, and two individuals are identified as deacons. No-one is named as a Ruling Elder here, but there is a stone for Ruling Elder Jonas Clark in Granary, Boston.

Occasionally in Latin texts, the term pastoris is also used, as for Urian Oakes, in the ODBGround. While there is no stone here for Rev. Thomas Hooker, first named as “preacher” to the original Cambridge congregation, (because he moved with a large part of that group to found Hartford in 1637), or for his assistant, or “teacher,” Samuel Stone, those titles reflect the direct use of Calvin’s politial structures for church order in Cambridge.

Compare them with the use of the title “vicar” for John Cotton, across the river in Boston, as the attached page explains.


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