Duties & Role of a Parish Clerk

Updated March 23, 2017

According to P.H. Ditchfield in his 1907 publication "The Parish Clerk," a parish clerk should be at least 20 years old, and known to the parson as a man of honest conversation and sufficient for his reading, writing and competent skill in singing, and his functions should include "reading the lessons and epistles, singing in the choir, giving out the hymns, leading the responses, serving at the altar and other like duties, opening of the church, ringing the bell, digging graves if there be no sexton." The role of the parish clerk, as an integral part of Episcopalian churches in the United States, has, at its grassroots level, evolved somewhat during the 20th century.


Parish clerks are employed by, or are volunteers of, a regional Episcopal Church archdiocese. They assist ordained clergy in the organisation of religious services and ceremonies. They also assist the clergy in conducting services by performing readings and liturgical responses and leading the choir and singing, in the absence of a choirmaster.

Archdiocese Parish Clerk

In addition to preparing for and leading church services, a parish clerk will also keep birth, marriage and burial records and maps and plans for the churches in his parish, or church district. These records are of particular importance to historians and genealogists in performing research. He will also oversee the Parish Council and may also be responsible for accounting procedures and fundraising, and making reports to regional church bodies. Particularly in small communities, the parish clerk is known by everyone and will usually compile the local newsletter, too.

Parish Council

The mission of a parish council is similar to that of a board of directors for a corporation, in that the council must define the parish's mission and priorities and ensure that its budget is spent to effectively meet that mission through church-based activities and community projects. Parish council meetings will be called and conducted by the parish clerk. He will also liaise with government and church officials in any matters pertaining to local government that concern the local parish.

Parish Clerks

Parish clerks will also liaise with local government entities, representing the church and the parish council in any matters that may be of concern. Keen to promote and encourage community citizenship, parish councils will often be very interested in local planning and building issues, local schools and education and humanitarian and social service issues, as they relate to the area and the congregation.


Many parish clerks do not get a salary; they look upon the time they spend on the job as a gift to the church. Parish clerks for larger congregations may draw a salary, but it is dependent upon the specific responsibilities and duties of the post.

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About the Author

Helen Harvey began her writing career in 1990 and has worked in journalism, writing, copy-editing and as a consultant. She has worked for world-class news sources including Reuters and the "Daily Express." She holds a Master of Arts in mass media communications from Cambridge University in the United Kingdom.