Vestry Notes

Vestry Members Table

The table was taken from 2 sources.

The table from 1726-1951 was taken from Quenzel’s A History of St. George’s Parish. He added an entry only when the Vestryman began his service. If he resigned or left and was elected to the Vestry, there was another entry. He had problems due to lost records in the 19th century. He only had a list from 1847-1865 that he took from Slaughter’s history.

From 1952 to the present, all the Vestry from a particular year are included and taken from the Vestry Minutes. Thus, you can filter in a particular year and see all of them.

Origins of the Vestry

An Act of Virginia Assembly 1643 created the role of vestries – 12 members of the “most sufficient and selected men to be chosen” with two wardens. The first act of organizing a new parish was to elect the Vestry. This was one of the first democratic experiences in America along with selection of two burgesses for the House of Burgesses in Williamsburg.

Originally the word referred to the room where the priest would put on his vestments, at which time local laity would meet with him to discuss the affairs of the parish. Over time the name of the room came to signify the group of men who governed a parish because it was where they met. While the vestry meeting location has changed, the name has remained the same.

Role of the Vestry

Vestry powers were much broader in the colonial period than today’s vestry. Vestries enforced the attendance requirement. Church attendance was legally required at least once a month. With large parishes (40 miles long 5-10 wide with a main church and maybe 2 other chapels that could be difficult.

Today, the vestry of an Episcopal church has three primary responsibilities. The first two are managerial: to take care of parish finances and the parish buildings. The third is to choose individuals to fill various positions of leadership and representation: the choice of a rector, the choice of delegates to the diocesan convention, and the selection of others as the diocesan canons may stipulate. The vestry also serves as an advisory council to the rector who by church law is the parish’s chief liturgical and pastoral officer.


The vestry consists of lay members of the church elected by the congregation at the annual parish meeting. The vestry of St. George’s currently has twelve elected members. Until 1994, there were 15 members. From 1957-1963 there were also Associate Vestrymen which appear to have been a training group for the Vestry. The Vestry was male dominated until Avis F. Harris became the first woman on the Vestry in 1968.

Organization and Meetings

Each year, the vestry elects the Senior and Junior Wardens. The Senior Warden is the top lay official. Traditionally the Junior Warden has the building under his/her responsibility The remaining officers, Registrar and Treasurer, are chosen by the vestry from among the members of the vestry or the congregation at large. Vestry members normally serve a three year term and must be members in good standing of the parish.

Until 1946, there no limits to Vestry terms. Reuben Thom was on the Vestry for 52 years and was senior warden for 40 of those year. Horace B. Hall, whose family owned the drug store on the corner of Caroline and William, served 50 years. A. Wellington Wallace, the judge and originator of funds, served 42 years.

Currently, the Vestry meets monthly. In the colonial era, the Vestry met only once a year (late September to end of the year) to determine the levy or tax on parishioners to take care of the needs of the church both religious and civil.

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