The Sons of Korah
Attend an Episcopal church long enough and you’ll hear people saying things like, “So you’re on the vestry? Well, bless your heart”; or “Oh wow – you’re on the vestry? There’s a crown for you in heaven, for sure!” Add a look of surprise or concern with these statements and you’ve got the recipe for the average response to the idea of being on a vestry. What is it about serving on the vestry that causes such a reflexive response?
Protecting the worship of God
The responsibilities of vestry members are quite weighty. Vestry service can keep a person up at night and deepen their prayer life like never before. Duties that range from executing rector searches to seeing that the parish can continue to thrive for generations to come are nothing to scoff at. While the rector may be the authority in a parish, the vestry is a ministry that guards the house of God – just as did the sons of Korah in the first book of Chronicles.
1 Chronicles 9:19-22 states
Shallum son of Kore, son of Ebiasaph, son of Korah, and his kindred of his ancestral house, the Korahites, were in charge of the work of the service, guardians of the thresholds of the tent, as their ancestors had been in charge of the camp of the Lord, guardians of the entrance. And Phinehas son of Eleazar was chief over them in former times; the Lord was with him. Zechariah son of Meshelemiah was gatekeeper at the entrance of the tent of meeting. All these, who were chosen as gatekeepers at the thresholds, were two hundred twelve. They were enrolled by genealogies in their villages. David and the seer Samuel established them in their office of trust.
The Sons of Korah were entrusted with the care of the place where God’s presence dwelt with ancient Israel by guarding the tent of meeting. Not only did they guard the tent of meeting, they were also skilled warriors in King David’s army (1 Chronicles 12:6) and singers in the temple (1 Chronicles 9:33,34). They spent the night around the house of God to open it in the morning (1 Chronicles 9:27), were in charge of the chambers and the treasuries (1 Chronicles 9:26) and were responsible for baking the showbread (1 Chronicles 9:32). They were also in charge of the temple vessels and furnishings (1 Chronicles 9:28,29) and the temple oil and incense (1 Chronicles 9:29), along with composing 11 of the 150 Psalms.
Overall, the sons of Korah protected the worship of God, and protected the community that God was in covenant with. They helped ensure that both the worship and reverence of God would be upheld from generation to generation. This ministry for the Lord and the community is essentially the inheritance of today’s vestries.
Honorable and dangerous work
The duties of the sons of Korah were immense, as are those of our vestries. It is both honorable and yet dangerous work: Honorable in the fact that you are the gatekeepers of God’s house. It is a dangerous ministry, because what you decide and execute will affect the spiritual life of generations to come. Vestry members guard and govern God house, God’s worship, and God’s inheritance in the saints.
So, if you serve on the vestry or have served in the past, as believers in Christ Jesus, we say thank you. Thank you for ensuring that God is honored and adored; and thank you for guarding God’s house, so that we, as God’s children, have a place to meet the Most High.
The Rev. Nicole Foster is a Doctor of Ministry Candidate at Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry, and the founding minister and blogger/vlogger of The Hippie Theologian. She holds a Master of Divinity from Redeemer Theological Seminary and a B.A. in History from Southern Methodist University. She loves to hike, camp, make organic soap and be a beach bum as much as possible. You can follow her on Instagram and Facebook
- Top Ten Ways to Thrive as a Vestry Leader by Greg Syler, ECF Vital Practices blog, March 19, 2019
- How We Gather ’Round the Table by Brian Prior, Vestry Papers, January 2019
- There is No “I” in Team by Diane Jardine Bruce, Vestry Papers, January 2019
- Planning to Seek Light by Linda Buskirk, ECF Vital Practices blog, November 13, 2017