|Return to HOME|
Almoner: A minister or church officer in charge of distributing money to the deserving poor. The term was not used in St Saviour parish, 'overseers of the poor' being the preferred phrase. Almoners were also important offices in the livery companies of the City of London, charged with overseeing the needs of the members.
Archdeacon: A senior cleric, responsible for administration within an archdeaconry, which is the principal subdivision of a diocese. One of an archdeacon's responsibilities is to have jurisdiction over probate matters, administered through an Archdeaconry Court.
Chaplain: Strictly speaking, a clergyman whose work is not principally with a parish or a congregation, but rather with a secular entity such as the household of a member of the nobility or monarchy, or a hospital, or the military. In our period, however, the term is used more loosely to refer to other clerical obligations as well.
Clerk: Though the word can mean simply a scholar or learned person, its primary meaning (see OED) is ecclesiastic, denoting a person ordained to the ministry or service of the church, that is, a deacon or minister. It can also refer to a layman who performs offices pertaining to churches, e.g. the parish clerk, who is the lay officer of a parish church, who has charge of the church and precincts.
Commissary: A person, lay or clerical, who has received a ‘commission’ to exercise the administrative functions of a bishop at those times when the bishop is unable to, or does not wish to, perform them. The commission expires when the bishop elects to resume those duties. A commissary's commission is administrative only, and does not permit him to perform episcopal functions such as ordinations.
Curate: A clergyman (a deacon or a minister) appointed to assist the incumbent of a parish, or to take charge of a parish temporarily during a vacancy, or while the incumbent was unable to perform his duties. Often a curate would be given a parish where the living was not good enough for a rector or vicar. He was appointed to his post by whoever had the right to nominate a clergyman for the parish in question. Once appointed, a curate could not be easily removed. The word ‘curate’ refers to the care, ‘cure’, of souls. Unlike the French curé, however, whose duties are primary, an English curate is always an assistant.
(Perpetual Curate): A minister nominated by a lay rector to serve a parish in which there was no endowed vicarage. The appointment, when licensed by a bishop, was in perpetuity (hence the name) and the incumbent could not be removed. [See Trollope's Last Chronicle of Barset for Josiah Crawley, the perpetual curate of Hogglestock.]
Deacon: A deacon is a minister-in-training, and ranks just below minister. A new cleric begins his ministerial work when he becomes a deacon, and for this he must have been accepted for some ecclesiastical post. As a deacon, the young cleric may not celebrate the Eucharist, give absolution or pronounce the blessing. Appointment as a deacon generally lasts for one year.
Incumbent: This is the term used for the clergyman who has primary administrative, pastoral, and liturgical responsibilities in a parish. An incumbent is usually referred to as the rector.
Lay Impropriator: The ‘parish’ system in England required that parish properties have owners. Before the Reformation this would have been the ‘parochianus’ or parson/rector, who was sustained by the benefice income. In time the benefice came to be considered a piece of property whose holder could discharge the spiritual responsibilities by a deputy, who was often known as the ‘vicar’. After the Reformation, ‘impropriation’ allowed for the recipient of the tithes to be a layman or secular corporation, so long as he or it provided a cleric to serve the parish and provided for his maintenance. By 1603, of a total 9,284 benefices, an estimated 3,489 were in the hands of impropriators or lay rectors [Wikipedia]. By custom, they were obliged to maintain the chancel in good repair. The daybooks from the parish of St Botolph Aldgate offer fuller information about lay impropriators.
Lay Rector: A layman who receives the tithes of a parish or in whom the rectory is vested; see Lay Impropriator.
Lecturer: One of a class of preachers in the Church of England, usually chosen by the parish and supported by voluntary contributions, whose duty consists mainly in delivering afternoon or evening lectures.
Minister: A generic term signifying any person appointed to perform a liturgical duty or other service in the church; a member of the clergy; an ordained pastor. After the example of Calvinist use, ‘minister’ was often employed in deliberate preference to priest, to imply that officiating at the commemoration of the Lord's Supper did not constitute the offering of a sacrifice. Priest and minister are used interchangeably in early editions of the Book of Common Prayer, but 'priest' never appears in the records of St Saviour parish.
Ordinary: In a diocese or jurisdiction with more than one bishop, one of them holds primary authority, and is often referred to as the ‘Ordinary’ (always with an uppercase ‘O’). The word ‘Ordinary’ perhaps refers to the person's power to decide who may be ordained.
Parson: The official designation for a salaried minister in charge of a parish.
Pastor: An informal term to designate a rector or incumbent. The Latin root means ‘shepherd’, and connotes pastoral responsibilities.
Preacher: Like minister a generic term, denoting a person whose function is to preach the gospel or to deliver sermons. Sometimes denoting a person specially licensed to preach.
Priest: An ordained clergyman who has already been a deacon, and who has both the spiritual power and the legal authority to perform the sacraments. But see minister.
Rector: A rector is the parson of a parish church whose tithes are not impropriated. He has the charge and cure of a parish, and has the parsonage and tithes. But if the tithes are impropriated, then the parson is a vicar not a rector.
Recusant: A person of sixteen years or older who declines to attend the services of the English Church. Initially the term applied only to Roman Catholics, but toward the end of Elizabeth's reign the term was broadened to include Brownists, Anabaptists, and others, after which the term 'Popish recusant' was used to distinguish a Catholic recusant from the others.
Schoolmaster: The Governors' Book of the St Saviour Free School reveals that some men who applied for the position of schoolmaster wanted to perform ministerial duties as well, but the bishop would not permit it. Some applicants clearly wanted the position of schoolmaster to be a stepping-stone to an appointment at St Saviour or elsewhere as clergymen, and some schoolmasters did leave to serve elsewhere as clergymen.
Sexton: The church officer charged with the maintenance of its buildings and the surrounding graveyards. In smaller places of worship, this office is often combined with that of verger. The word 'sexton' derives from the medieval Latin word sacristanus, 'custodian of sacred objects'. Amongst the traditional duties of the sexton in small parishes was the digging of graves the gravedigger in Hamlet refers to himself as sexton.
Verger: A person responsible for the order and upkeep of the house of worship, including the care of the church buildings, its furnishings, and sacred relics, preparations for liturgy, conduct of the laity, and grave-digging responsibilities. In this, its duties often overlapped with those of the sexton. There seems to have been no such office as 'verger' at St Saviour. The term comes from the ceremonial rod which a verger carries, a virga (Latin 'branch, staff, rod').
Vicar: From Latin vicarius, literally a substitute or place-holder. A vicar is the parson of a parish where the tithes are impropriated. As a parish minister he has the same spiritual status as a rector, holding his spiritual jurisdiction from the bishop.