A comfortable building and welcoming atmosphere make worship more pleasant for congregants of churches, synagogues, temples or other religious building. The sexton, a lay person responsible for the care of the physical aspects of a religious building, plays an important role in maintaining both of those qualities.
Defining the Role
A sexton is a religious officer in charge of taking care of a religious building. If a sexton works for a Roman Catholic church, he may also be called a sacristan. Some cathedrals or large congregations sometimes employ an entire team of sextons to meet the extensive maintenance needs of such edifices.
Maintaining the Religious Building
The primary duty of a sexton is to act as a caretaker for a religious building. Maintenance duties of a sexton may include making minor repairs to plumbing or the building structure, hiring and supervising contractors or maintaining the electrical, safety and technical equipment. A sexton may also be responsible for the security and safety of the building.
Maintaining the Cemetery
Sextons may also be responsible for taking care of a public or private cemetery. If municipal workers perform the physical work in a cemetery, such as digging graves, a sexton may still be responsible supervising the work and upkeep of the burial grounds. This may include keeping records of burials, maintaining the overall aesthetic aspect of the cemetery and ensuring that workers follow all safety requirements.
Assisting in Religious Services
In small parishes or congregations, sextons sometimes provide assistance during religious services. This can include taking care of the vestments and vessels used during the service, ushering congregants to their seats or ringing the church bells to announce the beginning or the end of a service.