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Graphic Organizer: "The Role of the Vestry"

The Church Vestry

The parish was a well-defined geographical area created by the General Assembly to serve as a unit of local government for both the church and state. In charge of both civil and ecclesiastical affairs was a group of twelve of the "best Gentlemen of the Country," who were at first elected for life and then became a self-perpetuating group in that when vacancies occurred they appointed men of their own choice to fill the vacancies. The church vestry was the smallest unit of government in Virginia and came closest to the people. The vestry publicly announced all governmental proclamations and laws concerning servants, slaves and morals, and kept the official record of births and deaths. They apportioned shares of tithes (taxes) to support the church and the minister's salary. They also supported orphaned children and the poor, and apprenticed orphaned children to local craftsmen. Their ecclesiastical duties consisted of erecting and maintaining the church buildings and chapels. They also engaged and appointed church wardens, parish clerks, sextons, and other church officials, including the rector of the church.

List the different responsibilities of an eighteenth-century Vestry.




What do the responsibilities of a Vestry tell you about life in the eighteenth century?




Why is it important that the Vestry select the best possible person to be rector of the Church?




If you were a member of the Vestry, what qualifications would you want your new rector to possess?