New Hampshire Glossary: Communion Tokens

Communion Tokens were used in the Presbyterian Church from the 1770s to the early 1900s.  So, unless you are an old-timer, or a collector, you probably have not heard of them.

These tokens were used to insure that “those admitted to the celebration of the sacrament were deemed worthy by the minister of their church.”  A pastor would visit with his parishioners, examine their “spirit soundness,” and then issue them a token that allowed them to partake in communion.  This tradition was common in Scotland, Canada and the United States. These tokens, or coins, were made in the shapes of a square, oval, circle, and star, and often had an impression.

There is a record regarding the “Nutfield” (Londonderry) settlement….
Communion seasons in the early days of the Nutfield settlement were held only twice a year and were occasions of great importance to the church. In 1734 Mr. Thompson had seven hundred communicants present at one season, the number including members of the church residing in other settlements and members of other churches. Communion seasons were preceded by preaching on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Thursday was observed with great strictness as a sacramental fast-day, and any violation of it was a serious matter. One church member was disciplined for spreading out hay to dry on a Thursday. The Monday following communion was a day of thanksgiving. These extra services gave rise to much preaching, requiring the aid of other ministers. Communicants from several churches, with their ministers and elders, often united in the sacrament on the Sabbath. Small pieces of metal called tokens, stamped with the initials of the churches, were distributed to prevent intruders. Long, narrow tables were spread in the aisles, and sometimes three or four sittings, arranged according to age, would be necessary, protracting the services until sunset.  These seasons were often attended with many conversions.” (page 108, “Willey’s semi-centennial book of Manchester, 1846-1896 : and Manchester edition of the Book of Nutfield : historic sketches of that part of New Hampshire comprised within the limits of the old Tyng Township, Nutfield, Harrytown, Derryfield, and Manchester, from the earliest settlements to the present time by George Franklyn Willey; Manchester, N.H.” by G.F. Willey, 1896).

Janice

*Additional Reading*

Collecting U.S. Tokens

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