SEXTON (an early corruption of " sacristan," properly the keeper of sacred vessels and vestments, Med. Lat. sacristanus or sacrista), a minor officer of an ecclesiastical parish. In the early church the sexton was identical with the ostiarius, or door-keeper, whose duty it was to open and shut the church at certain hours, guard the church and all it contained, and prevent the heathen and excommunicated from entering. The duties of the modern sexton are practically those of the ancient sacristan. He has the custody of the church keys, is responsible for keeping the church cjean, for the bell-ringing and lighting, and looks after the vestments and instrumenta of the church, but the duties may vary by custom in different parishes. Where his duties are confined to the care of the vestments and instrumenta the right of appointment of a sexton lies in the churchwardens; if his duties are confined to the churchyard the right of appointment is in the incumbent, and where his duties extend to both the right of appointment is jointly in the churchwardens and the incumbent. By custom, however, he may be appointed by the parishioners. He usually has a freehold in his office, and in some parishes is entitled to certain customary fees.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)