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What is a Sexton?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated Feb 22, 2024
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As a local church officer in many Christian traditions, the sexton is often responsible for the care and maintenance of the buildings included on the grounds of the local parish, the grounds themselves, and any graveyards that are located on the property. While the sexton does not often perform all the tasks necessary to maintain the property, the role does involve functioning as the caretaker for the facility, making sure that all essential tasks related to the upkeep are performed in a timely and competent manner.

The term sexton is thought to derive from the Anglo-Saxon word segerstein which comes from the Latin word sacristanus. Literally, sacristanus is used to designate an individual who is responsible for the care of objects that are considered to be sacred. Since many Christian traditions consecrate both the land and the buildings that are part of local parish property, the use of the word sexton is an accurate description.

While the role of the sexton has evolved over time, there are several basic tasks that will be part of the responsibilities, regardless of the size of the parish. These include the maintenance of any mechanical appliances on the property, such as kitchen equipment, air conditioning units, plumbing systems, and water pumps. Sextons also generally interact with suppliers and vendors on fire and safety equipment, pest control, cleaning contracts and kitchen supplies.

Overseeing the upkeep and care of the graveyard is also part of the basic duties in many older parishes. In many instances, the sexton will also be responsible for managing the parish calendar, and seeing to any special arrangements that are required for events that are held on the property. This may include setting up tables and chairs, handling lighting and sound equipment, and arranging the hanging of banners and tapestries for special services.

In larger parishes where more church officers are required to ensure the proper function of the facilities, the congregation may designate a group of sextons to serve as caretakers over all the necessary functions. Typically, the group of sextons will organize themselves so there is a senior sexton who helps to divide the responsibilities among the group, and also arrange for assistance among sextons when necessary.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum , Writer
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including WiseGEEK, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.

Discussion Comments

By Authordor — On Dec 19, 2013
Sacred objects have their beginnings in the early Catholic church. Often religious relics or “Holy Items” were donated to the early churches as from nobles or knights who returned from the many Christian crusades. These were often attempts to create local or regional holy places for the faithful to travel to and to raise funds for the church. Often fakes, these were symbols or artifacts from the life of Christ or his crucifixion.

Modern sacred objects vary depending upon the type and branch of religion. In the Christian faith, it is the cross, the bible and sometimes the cups and plates for used for holy communion. Other religions have similar sacred objects or texts, including the Muslim Koran and the Jewish Torah.

By StarBanobo — On Dec 18, 2013

What objects are considered sacred in the church?

Malcolm Tatum

Malcolm Tatum


Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
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