Elie Messervy

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Elie Messervy ( -1626) was a Rector of St Peter controversially appointed by Governor Sir John Peyton.

He was the son of Helier Messervy, Constable of St Clement, and grandson of Richard Messervy, Jurat.

Controversial appointment

His importance lies in the fact that his nomination as Rector of St Peter was the first step in the overthrow of the Presbyterian regime in Jersey. Under Elizabeth, and for the first part of James I's reign, successive Governors had been content to appoint to Rectories only those recommended by the Presbyterian Colloquy, the quarterly meeting of ministers and elders.

Sir John Peyton decided to challenge this custom. When St Peter's Rectory was vacant in 1613, without waiting for the Colloquy to meet he appointed Elie Messervy, the first student whom the Don Baudains had supported at Oxford. But Messervy, before he left the university, had been episcopally ordained by the Bishop of Oxford, and the Colloquy refused to receive him, unless he would sign the Calvinist Book of Ecclesiastical Discipline.

This he refused to do, and appealed to the Privy Council, who wrote:

"The King's Majesty, having out of his Princely care settled the Churches in his dominions in uniformity of government, as hath particularly appeared in reducing Scotland to the ancient custom used in the Church since the time of the Apostles, and finding that only the Churches of Jersey and Guernsey are not yet established with that government, His purpose was to order some course for the redress of those things that are loose and unsettled there,which, while His Majesty had in consideration, there hath been offered an occasion by a petition presented in the name of Elias Messervy, student in the University of Oxford, admitted into Holy Orders after the manner of the Church of England, who was presented by the Governor to a benefice, but cannot obtain the approbation of the Ministers of the Colloquy to be admitted thereunto, unless he take upon him a calling after the Rite received among them, and so relinquish that he hath attained by his ordination in England."

Privy Council's order

The Council therefore ordered the island:

"to make choice of able and sufficient persons, as well of those that embrace the present ecclesiastical government as of such as dislike it, and to send them over hither, furnished with such reasons as they have for strengthening their part, to settle a conformity according to the government of the Church of England or to dispense therewithal and to tolerate another form".

When the delegates, of whom Messervy was one, had arrived and been heard, the Council ordered Messervy to be at once admitted to his benefice "there peaceably to exercise the form used in the Church of England".

The matter was eventually settled by a compromise. The Colloquy minutes say that on 15 July 1614 he received the right hand of fellowship after agreeing to the request made to him by the elders of St Peter not to make any change in the services, ie to continue to use the Huguenot Prayer Book.

The wider result of this Inquiry was the restoration in 1620 of the Anglican system and the reappointment of a Dean. According to Jean Herault, the Bailiff, this would have been done sooner, "had it not been for the vaunts of Elie Messervy of the power the Dean would have to the prejudice of the people's liberties".

In 1614 Messervy added to his duties those of Chaplain of Elizabeth Castle. He married in 1617 Marie Balleine of St Peter, and had two daughters, Marguerite and Marie. He died of plague on 7 October 1626, and was buried in St Peter.

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