The Vestry in an Episcopal Church is the legal representative of the parish regarding all matters pertaining to finances and property.

The Vestry at St. James Episcopal Church consists of twelve elected adult confirmed communicant members in good standing, known to the treasurer, who serve staggered three-year terms. All communicants in good standing are eligible to gather at the Annual Parish Meeting in November to elect vestry members.

The Episcopal Church does not have a "congregational" or "presbyterian" polity, we have an "Episcopal" polity. The word episcopal is from the Greek word episkopos, which literally means “bishop” or “overseer.” This form of church government functions with a single leader, a bishop. The Bishop is the ecclesiastical authority in the diocese. The parish rector (priest) acts on behalf of the bishop and has authority in the parish. The elected vestry holds and uses the temporal goods of the parish (property and money) in trust for the diocese.

The Rector is the ecclesiastical authority at the parish level and the chairperson of the vestry. The rector leads the monthly vestry meetings. 

The Wardens are the senior lay persons on the leadership team. The senior warden is the senior lay person on the vestry and is the lead support person for the rector. The junior warden has responsibility for church property and buildings. 

The Treasurer insures proper financial reporting to the vestry and congregation and oversees the bookkeeping and accounting procedures. 

The Clerk is the official record keeper of the vestry and can legally attest to actions and decisions carried out by the vestry. Typically, the clergy is the official signature for the church and maintains the church's seal.

The basic responsibilities of the vestry are to assist the rector in the leadership of the parish by working together to define and articulate the mission of the congregation, to act as good stewards, caring for the financial and property resources entrusted to the congregation, to support the church’s stated mission by word and deed, to select a rector, and to assist the rector in effective organization and planning. 

The rector does not work "for the vestry" and the vestry does not work "for the rector," but rather, they are "ministry partners" discerning together and carrying out the work that Jesus has given us to do at this time and in this place.

The official minutes from vestry meetings and financial statements of the parish are available in the church office for any parishioner to review. The previous month's statements can be found on the bulletin board. All meetings of the Vestry are open for anyone in the parish to attend (observe).

Anglican Tradition

Where does the term "vestry" come from? In England, the annual election of churchwardens took place in Easter week. The male parishioners gathered at the church to hear the outgoing wardens render their accounts and elect their successors. The parishioners assembled in the actual "vestry," or the room off of the chancel where the clergy and other ministers vested in robes for worship services. The assembled parishioners came to be known as the "vestry." These were open vestries and all adult male parishioners could participate. It was almost like a modern annual congregational meeting. In Virginia the parishes were very large. Therefore, it was difficult to get all the male parishioners together in a space at one time. So, they would meet only once and elect twelve of their number to serve for life. This was known as a "closed vestry." The transition to a closed vestry was completed by 1633 or 1634, when the Vestry Act was passed. It provided that “there be a vestrie held in each parish.” The current vestry evolved from this colonial pattern, but is now a leadership team of parishioners. In most parishes, the team rotates through elected members every 3 to 5 years, giving both men and women equal voice and vote.

2018 Vestry Members

  • The Rev. Ken Saunders - Rector (Chair of the Vestry)
  • Carla Bewley (2018) - Senior Warden
  • Cal Doty (2019) - Junior Warden
  • Steve Harbison (2019) - Clerk 
  • Dick Austin (2018)
  • Charlene Cureton (2018)
  • Cindy Painter (2018)
  • Donna Reid (2019)
  • Bill Smith (2019)
  • Geoff Foster (2020)
  • Conan Rudd (2020)
  • Allan Vital (2020)
  • Teda Williams (2020)
  • Doug Temple —Treasurer