Vicars and Vicarages

The leader (‘incumbent’) of a Church of England parish church is known as a vicar, the equivalent of a priest, and his/her title is Reverend. The role is earned after several years’ training and at least three as a curate (assistant vicar). The Bishop of a diocese (region) appoints the vicar to a vacancy. A rent-free house, called a vicarage, is traditionally a substantial part of the job’s perks.

The vicar wears a long black cassock under a shorter robe called a surplice. The cassock has a stand-up collar with a front gap by which a white insert is displayed. Over the shoulders hangs a long fabric stole, sometimes richly embroidered. The vicar may have a team of helpers covering administration, music and some of the preaching and teaching. There are also the Church Wardens and the Verger.

Centuries ago the vicar frequently lived on an upper floor of the church but after clergymen were allowed to marry post-Reformation, more comfortable accommodation was deemed necessary; hence the building of vicarages either adjacent to the church or very close by. Today, large vicarages have generally been sold off and replaced with small, modern properties, while some vicars make independent arrangements.

(Image: The Diocese of York at Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0)

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