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What Do Members of the Clergy Do?

Within most traditions, a new member of the clergy must be ordained by a senior clergy figure.
In the Roman Catholic tradition, a priest converts bread and water into the body and blood of Christ as part of the sacrament of communion.
In some instances, a deacon is a member of the clergy who has been ordained.
A clergyman may offer religious counseling.
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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Images By: Ryan Basilio, n/a, Biker3, Georgemuresan
  • Last Modified Date: 14 April 2014
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Members of the clergy comprise a huge population. A member of the clergy is someone is recognized and/or ordained to serve in an official capacity for a religion. When people think about the vast number of religions and sects of religions, it becomes nearly impossible to state what someone serving a religion in a recognized capacity might do, except in the broadest terms possible, while affirming there are many exceptions to the rule. Instead, it might be best to suggest some of the things that could be done.

Some of the most recognized members of the clergy run a church, parish, or religious activities in a certain location. Not only might they participate in religious services, but they could also oversee other recognized participants who might run some of the services. They might be responsible for things such as running an office, taking church collections, creating budgets, gathering new members, creating education programs, or many other things. Many times supervision extends to laypeople who might participate in church activities, and a recognized clergy member could be responsible for recruiting laypeople to fill a variety of jobs.

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The clergy member, depending on type of religious structure, may be supervised and answer to people in higher up positions. This is especially the case when several churches or religious centers have a hierarchical order. Anglican priests might need to respond to the request of Anglican bishops, and running a church could mean running it alongside a group of other churches all supervised by the bishop.

Those in the clergy may have other jobs that are less about business and more about serving their religious community. Most priests, rabbis, ministers, and imams can marry two people and certify a marriage has occurred, and there are other sacred religious duties that recognized religious figures might perform. These could include visiting the sick, baptism or circumcision, and conferring blessings of other types. Precisely what a particular religious figure might perform is highly dependent on the type of religion and clergyman.

For instance, the Catholic deacon may perform marriages and baptisms but cannot consecrate the Eucharist. He can give the Eucharist or give a sermon, but is unable to perform a full mass. The details of each clergy member’s job can become quite complicated.

In many religions, members of the clergy may or may not be married. Some churches invite women or men to serve in any church position, and others extend positions only to men. Interestingly, nuns are considered clergy, though they usually have responsibilities subservient to those granted males. Opening up the field to evaluate female clergy serving in roles as nuns, makes things different. Nuns from varying religions serve in many capacities, though they cannot serve as priests in Catholicism; they may be highly trained and work as teachers, nurses or doctors, or in other ministries to which they are called or assigned.

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Discuss this Article

anon933032
Post 1

Your article explaining clergy is very good. It would be even better if it included a little more perspective on the evangelical and/or non-denominational church clergy, as this comprises a significant portion of the American church population.

While well done, your examples and text seem heavily weighted toward the Catholic experience.

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