Project Canterbury

Removal of the Remains of Bishop Seabury

From The Colonial Church Chronicle and Missionary Journal, Vol. III (No. XXIX) (November, 1849), pages 197-199.

Transcribed by the Right Reverend Dr. Terry Brown
Bishop of Malaita, Church of the Province of Melanesia, 2007

[Colonial, Foreign and Home News.]

[197] CONNECTICUT.--Removal of the Remains of Bishop Seabury.--We copy from the Calendar the following account of this deeply interesting ceremonial. Dr. Seabury, it is well known, was the first Bishop of the American Church, consecrated by the Scottish Bishops in 1783.

"The solemn office of committing the remains of Bishop Seabury to their final resting-place beneath the chancel of the Church of St. James the Great, at New London, was performed on Wednesday the 12th of September, under the direction of the Monument Committee. The exhumation of the remains took place in the presence of the Committee, with several others, who took every care that they should be removed with the utmost respect and reverence. A coffin had been prepared to receive them, to which they were immediately transferred as they were taken from the grave. The venerable relics consisted of the entire skeleton of the departed Prelate, from which every other portion of the body had disappeared. The bones were in a good state of preservation; the head was uncommonly large, and not without some distinguishing characteristics, resembling those of the portraits. The sight of such a sacred memorial deeply affected the little circle of spectators who beheld in silence, and with heads instinctively uncovered. A company of brethren in the Priesthood were standing [197/198] together over the dust of him to whom they felt in common the obligations of children, and the deeper reverence of spiritual sons for a patriarch of the Church, and a sore-tried confessor of the truth of God.

The coffin in which the Bishop was buried had almost entirely decayed, so that no trace of it could be found, save now and then a particle, containing a nail, and one large fragment, set with brass nails and bearing the inscription. This fragment was of the shape of a heart, and almost as perfectly so as if it had been cut into that form on purpose. The nails enclosing the inscription had been set in that way, ornamentally, and had arrested the decay of the wood; but the symbolizing seemed so striking, that one of the beholders remarked, on the spot, that it was like finding the heart of Cranmer in the ashes of his martyrdom. The inscription was simply this:

S. S.
Æ X 67

It was sufficient to identify the remains. The X was merely an ornamental mark; but it was observed with interest, as a proper token of a Bishop of the Scottish Succession, being a perfect St. Andrew's Cross.

The grave having been completely exhausted of its contents, was immediately filled up; and the Rector, Mr. Hallam, with excellent taste has ordered the monument which covered it to be replaced, with its iron railing, and to be left as a cenotaph, with an additional record of the removal of the remains. These had been transferred to the new coffin, without any perceptible loss of any particle, and even the nails and handles of the former coffin were scrupulously enclosed. At half-past nine o'clock, a considerable number of the parishioners of St. James' had arrived at the grave, and an opportunity was afforded them of looking at the relics of their former Pastor; for although no public notice had been given of the time of the solemnity, which was intended to be private, it had become known to many, who thus expressed their deep and affectionate interest in his memory. The event has served the important purpose of reviving many anecdotes of Bishop Seabury, which were becoming obsolete, even in the places that knew him most familiarly, and cherished his memory most dearly.

The coffin, which stood upon a bier, was then covered with a pall, on which was laid a Bible and Prayer Book. In this manner it was borne by the Clergy present about a quarter of a mile, to St. James' new Church: the procession taking naturally the form of an ordinary funeral, but marked by more than ordinary solemnity. As the procession turned from the grave-yard, every eye must have been struck with the tall spire of St. James', on whose beautiful height of solid stone, the golden cross was glittering in the morning sun. It was a glorious token of the future, and a speaking record of the past; reminding all of the accumulated mercies which have been derived to the Church from the great Bishop who went down to his humble grave when she was poor indeed, but who, after fifty-three years, was thus honoured as the means of all that has made her rich, in privileges and in blessings.

The new grave had been prepared in the Crypt of St. James', directly beneath the monument, which stands in the north-east angle of the chancel. The flooring had been removed, and a sepulchre of cemented brick sunk in the earth, with stone slabs to cover it. As the bier was borne into the Crypt, Dr. Jarvis and the Rector, attired in their surplices, received it at the door; and the former began the Burial Service. The Rector read as a Lesson, the 5th chapter of the Book of Wisdom, from the 1st verse to the 17th. The coffin was deposited in the grave, by the hands of two [198/199] presbyters. The psalm Exurgat Deus (lxviii.) was recited as a thanksgiving for the perpetuation and extension of the Apostolic Succession, and the solemnities were concluded with the profession of the Nicene Creed, and by the Benediction, which was pronounced by the Rev. Dr. Jarvis.

Divine Service was then celebrated at St. James' (old Church) and a sermon was preached by the Rev. Mr. Pitkin, in which impressive mention was made of the preceding solemnities, and of the character of Bishop Seabury, as our apostle and evangelist. In the afternoon, service was again celebrated, and Dr. Seabury preached an appropriate sermon on the Resurrection of the Flesh.

Project Canterbury