Church officers

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Vicar or Rector what is the difference?

Historically Churches were supported by tithes (taxes) levied on the agricultural output of the parish. These were divided into greater tithes levied on wheat, hay and wood, and lesser tithes levied on the remainder. A rector received both greater and lesser tithes, a vicar the lesser tithes only. This latter was because the parish had been attached to a monastery, which was overseen by the rector, to which the vicar acted as deputy. Most parishes in England and Wales retain the historical title for their parish priest, but the distinctions between the titles is now only historical.



Each parish elects two Churchwardens annually. Their role is to represent the lay people and work closely with the Vicar (or Rector) and PCC in all aspects of church life. Their main tasks involve the upkeep of the Church building and its contents. However they often undertake a variety other activities, including leading worship and pastoral care. Churchwardens hold a key to the church and are entitled to access at any time. In an interregnum (the time between a priest leaving and another coming) Churchwardens share overall responsibility for the church and its worship with the Rural Dean.

Lay Reader:

Lay Readers are lay people who have been authorised by the diocesan bishop to read some parts of a service of worship. They are members of the congregation called to preach or lead services, but not called to full-time ministry.

Lay Elder:

Lay Elders are unique to Suffolk. They are people chosen by the local church and authorised by the diocesan bishop to work primarily in the area of pastoral care and/or leading worship. There is no limit to the number of Lay Elders, and anyone who is baptised, confirmed and a regular communicant member of the local church may be considered for the role.