A clergyman is generally an ordained member of a religious order who is charged with aiding in the spiritual well-being of his congregation. Members of the clergy are trained in the various rituals of their particular religion or sect and are called on to perform these rites at particular functions or specific landmark events such as birth, coming-of-age, marriage and death. Members of the clergy often are asked to teach and spread the basic concepts of their religion to their congregation or the public. Many clergymen also are spiritual counselors who aid people with personal or social problems, and they offer encouragement to the ill and those experiencing hardship.
A clergyman in the Western tradition is normally required to undergo training that results in being ordained and grants him official recognition by the church to perform the rites and teach the precepts of the church. Most clergymen become ordained by attending seminary — a school specializing in the teachings of the church that founded it — and taking certain vows and completing rites specific to the religion or sect. In modern times, many clergy also earn degrees in psychology, mental health or counseling as part of the ordination process.
Once a clergyman is ordained, he is usually assigned to a specific congregation so he can attend to the needs of its members. In most Western religious traditions, clergymen perform the ceremonies and rites related to the spiritual life of the congregation. Depending on the denomination, some of these ceremonies and rites include baptism, the administration of sacraments, marriage, circumcision, confession and funerals or last rites.
One of the main responsibilities of a clergyman is to teach the doctrine of his church. This may come in the form of preaching from a pulpit, conducting study classes or overseeing programs that teach the doctrine to the congregation’s children, such as in the case of Catholic catechism classes. Many Western religions believe in spreading their teachings through proselytizing or evangelism. Clergymen often organize and lead the programs churches utilize to spread their teachings to others.
A clergyman also is often called on to deliver encouragement or aid to those suffering from an illness or hardship. Clergymen may minister at hospitals, homes for the aged, orphanages or prisons. In many religions, clergymen oversee efforts by the church to help provide for the material needs of the elderly or the poor. Aid from the clergy sometimes comes in the form of advice or counsel. Many clergymen meet with members of their congregation to help them make decisions, overcome problems or to offer relationship counseling for marriages or parents and children.