Sexton (office)

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A sexton is a church, congregation, or synagogue officer charged with the maintenance of its buildings and/or the surrounding graveyard. In smaller places of worship, this office is often combined with that of verger.[1] In larger buildings, such as cathedrals, a team of sextons may be employed.[2]

Historically in North America and the United Kingdom the "sexton" was sometimes a minor municipal official responsible for overseeing the town graveyard. In the United Kingdom the position still exists today, related to management of the community's graveyard, and the sexton is usually employed by the town/parish or community council.[3][4]

Origin of the name

The words "sexton" and "sacristan" both derive from the Medieval Latin word sacristanus meaning "custodian of sacred objects". "Sexton" represents the popular development of the word via the Old French "Segrestein".[5]

Duties

Amongst the traditional duties of the sexton in small parishes was the digging of graves—the gravedigger in Hamlet refers to himself as sexton, for example.[6] In modern times, grave digging is usually done by an outside contractor. The general duties of a modern sexton may include (but are not limited to):[7]

In a public cemetery, duties tend to include:

References

  1. ^ "St Thomas' Church History". Retrieved 2007-12-04. 
  2. ^ "The Episcopal Diocese of California Employment Opportunities". 2007-11-19. Retrieved 2007-12-04. 
  3. ^ "Falmouth Town Council staff list". Retrieved 2009-06-26. 
  4. ^ "Ferryhill Council job description". Retrieved 2009-06-26. 
  5. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. sexton, sacrist, sacristan, segerstein.
  6. ^ Project Gutenberg Hamlet by William Shakespeare Accessed 2007-12-04
  7. ^ "Dictionary of Occupational Titles, Fourth Edition". U.S. Department of Labor. 1991. Retrieved 2007-12-04.