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The Queen's Funeral
and The Church:
A Guide to Church Job Titles

A Personal Set of Comments from Father Dane

regarding some of those titles and people you'll hear mentioned at the Funeral

Some Basic Information

Within the Church there are three orders of ministry: Bishops, Priests and Deacons.  A Bishop leads a diocese (that's an area which is like a county.)  A Priest leads a local ministry and a deacon serves a local community, usually working with one or more priests.  Dioceses are grouped together to form a Province, each province is led by an Archbishop, but archbishop isn't a separate order of ministry, it's a role to which a bishop is called.  In the Church of England there are two provinces: Canterbury (with 30 dioceses) and York (with twelve dioceses.)  The Archbishop of Canterbury is the Most Reverend & Right Honourable Justin Welby.  The Archbishop of York is the Most Reverend & Right Honourable Stephen Cottrell. 

Priests can have many different job titles: the most frequent ones are vicar and rector.  These titles have the same authority today and mean someone who is in charge of a local church or congregation.

A Dean is in charge of a Cathedral or other large church.  They're just like the vicar or rector in the local church.  The Dean of Westminster is the Very Reverend David Hoyle and the Dean of Windsor is the Right Reverend David Connor.  You don't have to be called David to be a dean!  It's just a coincidence. 

The funeral services at Westminster Abbey and St George's Chapel, Windsor will be led by the respective Dean (because it's his church) and will include a contribution by the Archbishop of Canterbury (because he leads the church nationally.) 

Most churches in a diocese are served by priests appointed by the Bishop of the area (the diocese) in which it is located. 

Some churches are not under the authority of the local bishop.

There is a category of church will comes directly under the authority of the Monarch: a church like this is called a Royal Peculiar.  In this sort of church, the appointments are made by the sovereign. 

Westminster Abbey is a Royal Peculiar and so is St George's Chapel, Windsor.  In each case, the person in charge of the church is called the Dean. 

As noted earlier, the Dean of Westminster is the Very Reverend Doctor David Hoyle.  The Dean of Windsor is the Right Reverend David Connor.  David Connor is a bishop,  and served as Bishop of Lynn in Norfolk in the 1990s.  A bishop can be appointed to any of the jobs which a priest can do.

As deans, they are supported in their work by Canons who are usually priests, but can be deacons in certain contexts.

Those Priestly Job Titles

A dean leads the ministry and worship in a cathedral or other important setting.  A cathedral is the central church of a diocese and contains the seat (in Latin: the Cathedra) of the Bishop of the diocese.  The bishop will use the Cathedral for some important services, but does so as a visitor to the Cathedral and bishops will work with the Dean on those services.

An archdeacon is concerned with certain legal and administrative functions.  In some dioceses (like ours in Rochester) the archdeacon is the principal means by which local priests are linked with the diocese, they provide a listening ear and advice. 

A rector and a vicar are the same role in today's church: they lead the local ministry in a church or other setting.  They are to pray and teach and preach and to make sure that the people of God are cared for and nurtured on a day-to-day basis.  The reason these titles are different is that many years ago a rector was one who was entitled to the income from the lands and livestock associated with the parish, whereas a vicar wasn't entitled to the income, but was paid a fixed sum out of it.  Nowadays, the two titles are interchangeable.  A vicar or rector has the right to remain in a place until they resign or retire, a priest-in-charge has a more limited term of office and doesn't have the security of tenure which a rector or vicar has. 

Individual parishes are linked with other parishes in their locality by being grouped in a deanery.  An Area Dean (sometimes called a rural dean) acts as a convenor for the clergy in a deanery.  They make sure that the clergy know what's happening in the centre of the diocese and feed back information from the parishes to the centre.

Canons are part of the staff of a cathedral or other significant church.  A canon has a special seat in the Cathedral which is just for them.  They come in two sorts: honorary canons and residentiary canons.  Honorary Canons are appointed in recognition of important service to the diocese.  If appointed an honorary canon, a priest doesn't leave their job but their title becomes the Reverend Canon. 


A Residentiary Canon is one who is on the staff of the Cathedral, helping to run it.  They, too, have a special seat in the Cathedral and the title the Reverend Canon but in their case they only have them for as long as they're on the staff there, if they move to a new job, they lose the title unless they are made an honorary canon.  Residentiary Canons can have specialist titles, too: Sub-Dean (second in command to the dean), Precentor (usually one who has a particular focus on music and worship) Succentor (helps the precentor), Chancellor (usually in charge of the education and wider learning ministry of the Cathedral) Treasurer (responsible for the fabric and finances.)  Some cathedrals have canon pastors who are responsible for the care of and welcome to worshippers and visitors and  a canon theologian who teaches the faith. 

All Those Reverends!

The Most Reverend - An Archbishop

The Right Reverend - A Bishop

(when "& Right Honourable" is added, that means they're a member of the Privy Council.

The Very Reverend - a Dean

The Venerable - an Archdeacon

The Reverend - a priest or a deacon

The Reverend Canon - someone who has their own special seat in a cathedral or other similarly significant church.

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