report by Charles Belfield, President, James Monroe Chapter
26 Jun 2016 Richmond County, VA
A Celebration of the 296-year survival of a historic silver communion service was held at Farnham Episcopal Church, Richmond County, VA, on Sunday, June 26th. Queen Elizabeth gave the communion set to the church Parrish in 1700. This communion service survived the American Revolution, relocation, civil war, and fire. The two large flagons, chalice and paten were displayed and used along with the 1662 Book of Common Prayer for last Sunday’s service. Virginia SAR members Charles and Brennen Belfield participated, in Revolutionary War uniform, and took communion from the same service as their 8th, 9th, and 10th generation ancestors.
Following the revolution many Anglican churches were lost to the ravages of time, neglect and disdain since they were seen as remnants of a hated monarchy. This communion set was sold a public auction along with other property from the Farnham Church. It was bought by Colonel John Tayloe III of Mount Airy, Warsaw, and was presented to St. John’s Church in Washington D.C. in 1816. (This was the Church of the Presidents near the White House). In 1876 it was returned to the two Northern Neck Episcopal churches, Farnham of the North Farnham Parish and St. Johns Church of the Lunenburg Parish. The Belfield ancestors were members of the Lunenburg Parish. The early churches were located in upper Richmond County; the Lunenburg parish and the Farnham church located closer to Totuskey creek.
Richard Henry Lee, Francis Lightfoot Lee, the Washington family, Robert Carter 3rd and other prominent Northern Neck families, would have used this communion set.