- Wikipedia:Vestryman citing
- 1. Anstice, Henry (1914). What Every Warden and Vestryman Should Know. Church literature press
- 2. Potter, Henry Codman (1890). The Offices of Warden and Vestryman. James Pott & Co.
- 3. Morison, J. (1858). The Episcopal Church of Scotland, its liturgies, communion service, and canons: Also the obligations on English clergymen to use the English office. ASIN B00088HC00
- 4. Lunan, John Jr. (1828). The Jamaica Magistrate's and Vestryman's Assistant. Jamaica: St. Jago de la Vega Gazette
- 5. Encyclopedia Virginia:Church of England
In England especially, but also in other parts of the United Kingdom, parish councils have long been a level of local government rather than being solely ecclesiastical in nature. This probably arises from the role of the Church of England as the established church and the Parish (or area served by an individual church) as the most local and immediate level of social involvement.
As these councils often met in the vestry of the local church, either for convenience or because there were no other suitable rooms available, the name became associated with the council and in some places (e.g. Camberwell in London) identified it.
A Vestry may also have had the role of supervising local (Parish) public services, such as the workhouse, administration of Poor Relief, the keeping of Parish Records (Baptisms, Deaths and Marriages) and so on. Usually the term Vestryman (as used in the UK) would denote a member of the Parish Council at a certain period in history (and is synonymous with or equivalent to a Parish Councillor) but the term may, depending on context, also signify an official (or employee) of the Parish Council although strictly, this should be in the form "Vestry man".
Based on:Encyclopedia Virginia:Church of England
The shortage of clergy in Virginia led to what historians have called the church's "laicization," or submission to lay control. Laicization functioned on at least two levels: 1) Virginia's General Assembly passed laws governing the church, and 2) local vestries oversaw the day-to-day operation of the individual parishes.
Vestries gained powers much greater than their counterparts in England, most importantly the authority to "elect and make choyce of their ministers," a right legislated by the General Assembly as early as 1643.
- often heard cases involving moral laws that would have fallen under the jurisdiction of ecclesiastical courts in England.
- The assembly routinely set clergy salaries,
- established new parishes as the colony's population grew and moved west,
- defined parish boundaries,
- set requirements for church attendance,
- defined how often ministers should preach and celebrate the Eucharist,
- instructed clergy to catechize children in their parishes,
- and delegated local authority over church matters to vestries and county courts.
- In England, that power lay with the parish patron. There, the bishop then inducted the minister into his appointed parish, or cure, which he generally held for life unless he committed serious moral offenses.
Nonetheless, clergy from England resented the power of Virginia's vestries and their refusal to induct ministers into their cures. The Reverend Morgan Godwyn denounced colonial vestries as "Plebian Juntos" and "hungry Patrons" who often preferred to hire lay readers rather than ministers because the costs were lower. Another minister complained that clergy in Virginia "have 12 Lay patrons [vestrymen] whom we must humour or run the risque of Deprivation." Because elections for vestrymen only occurred with the establishment of a new parish or the modification of an old one—and deceased members were replaced through recommendations of the sitting members—the powers of any particular vestry could rarely be challenged. The conflict between vestries and clergy was not simply between different conceptions of church government; it actually represented the construction in Virginia of a new form of church government in which local vestries shared authority with bishops in England. By the end of the seventeenth century, one could argue that the church in Virginia was English in theology and colonial in form.
- Virginia's church government did not function that way. Vestries frequently refused to induct their ministers (the colonial governor would have performed the induction) and hired their clergy on annual contracts. This practice may have originated in the seventeenth century to help vestries protect themselves from continuing the services of a poor minister. Certainly there were some clergy who were not the best of men, but the number of those ministers has been routinely overestimated.