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A vestry is a storage room in or attached to a church or synagogue. A vestry is also an administrative committee of a church.

Architectural vestry

A vestry is a room within or attached to a church which is used to store vestments and other items used in worship. It is usually of sufficient size to allow those using vestments to change into them, and thus in Englandmarker and elsewhere was often used for meetings dealing with the administration of the local parish. In Welshmarker chapels it is often the location of a tea served to the congregation, particularly family members, after a funeral, when the congregation returns to the chapel after the burial or cremation.

American Jewish synagogues also contain such storage areas, though only some congregations use the term "vestry.

Administrative vestry

In England, from the 16th century until the 19th century, vestry was also the standard term for what would today usually be called a parochial church council. Vestries were commonly responsible not only for the ecclesiastical affairs of the parish but such items of lay business as the local administration of the Poor Law. From 1837 the provision of poor law was no longer the direct responsibility of the vestry, but came under elected boards of guardians for single parishes or poor law unions. In the London area civil vestries were incorporated by the Metropolis Management Act 1855, distinct from the ecclesiastical vestries. A system of elected rural parish council and urban district councils was established in 1894, replacing the vestries for all administrative purposes.

Vestries were either open vestries or select vestries, although in practice the division was somewhat blurred. Open vestries were rather like today's parish meetings, while select vestries acted more like the pre-Municipal Corporations Act 1835 borough councils.

In some provinces of the Anglican Communion, the term "vestry" continues to be used for a body of lay members elected by the congregation or parish to run the secular business of the parish. Some provinces of the church may also have provision for appointment of members by the rector or bishop. The vestry may have additional functions, including selection of the rector of the church. The rector is usually an ex officio member of the vestry and may chair its meetings. The leading lay members of the vestry are generally the wardens.


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