Lent by the Museum of Methodism and John Wesley's House
Height: 5.4 cm each cup, Diameter: 3.3 cm bowl of each cup
[Stand for communion cups] Length: 35.6 cm, Width: 14 cm, Height: 14.5 cm top of handle
Nonconformity (Sacred Silver and Stained Glass Galleries, the Victoria and Albert Museum 22/11/2005-22/11/2005)
Sacred Silver & Stained Glass, room 83
In England, Christians who chose not to conform to the doctrine, organisation or ceremony of the established church became known as Nonconformists or dissenters. To avoid persecution, many went to the new colonies in North America.
In formal terms, Nonconformity began with the 1662 Act of Uniformity, which required priests to use the Book of Common Prayer and declare allegiance to Anglican bishops. Radical clergy and congregations refused to comply. Church leaders faced imprisonment, transportation or death.
By 1700, there was greater tolerance so Nonconformism became more widespread. Its organisation differed from the Anglican church. Instead of bishops, Congregationalists were governed democratically by their members, whereas Presbyterians had elected elders. Methodism, which emerged in the 1730s, established authority in a conference of church members. Although Methodists accepted many Anglican teachings, some groups such as Baptists, Presbyterians and Independents pursued a very personal approach to religion, emphasising freedom of conscience.
In many Nonconformist churches, preaching the word of God took precedence over formal worship. Churches were centred around charismatic preachers like John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, or the Baptist leader Charles Spurgeon. However, dissenters did celebrate communion regularly. Some, like Congregationalists, took communion seated around a table. Others stood to receive it, or remained seated while church officials (deacons) distributed the bread and wine.
Nonconformist communion plate was simple in design and often made from inexpensive materials, such as pewter, glass and ceramics. The earliest pieces date from the 1640s, and cups with two handles were a standard design.
This set of cups with their stand was used in Nonconformist worship to serve the consecrated wine during communion.
Individual communion cups were probably invented by the Reverend John Jowett, a Congregational minister in Birmingham between 1895 and 1909.With his enormous congregations of over 2000 people there were concerns about public health. Individual cups soon became fashionable throughout Nonconformist communities and they are still in use today. Methodist churches all over the world use disposable plastic cups.
England, about 1926
Electroplated nickel silver with gilt interiors
Lent by The Museum of Methodism and John
Wesley's House [04/02/2011]
The invention of individual communion cups has been attributed to the Rev. Jowett, Congregational Minister of Carrs Lane Chapel, Birmingham from 1895-1909. Pressure from his enormous congregation of over two thousand people combined with concerns about public health prompted the innovation. Individual cups became fashionable throughout nonconformist communities and are still used today. Methodist churches all over the world use disposable plastic cups.