I have been looking at the list of rectors of Eversholt church, Bedfordshire, from http://bedsarchivescat.bedford.gov.uk/Details/archive/110033099. The various people listed there are each described as one of: (with dates through which this description appears)

  • clerk (1290-1702)
  • priest (1331-1493)
  • subdeacon (1227-1293)
  • rector (1374-1680)
  • capellanus (1420?-1507)
  • B.A.
  • M.A.
  • B.D.
  • A.M.

I'm guessing that BA, MA and BD are degree qualifications.

What's A.M.?

Were clerk, priest, subdeacon, rector, capellanus also forms of qualification? Or different job titles? How do these people differ? Does this indicate that they performed different jobs at Eversholt, or were these the jobs they had before they became rectors of Eversholt?


  • Did you consider Christianity Stack Excahnge? I think this is off-topic here. Commented Oct 5, 2016 at 9:47
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is not about history. Commented Oct 5, 2016 at 9:48
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    I think your question is better suited on Christianity SE or English Language and Usage. Please make sure you narrow down your question when you ask it there because your question reads a little broad.
    – Rathony
    Commented Oct 5, 2016 at 10:45
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    Why is this not about history? A historian is much more likely to understand the meaning of these terms from 500 years ago, when they were probably pretty common terms, than an expert in current Christianity in a time when the words might mean something different. Commented Oct 5, 2016 at 18:18

1 Answer 1


I'm no expert, but will attempt a partial answer - first, the educational qualifications refer to:-

BA - Bachelor of Arts

MA - Master of Arts (traditionally awarded automatically to Oxford graduates one year after graduating)

BD - Bachelor of Divinity

AM - I think another description on of MA.

A clerk would probably refer to a clerk in holy orders - there were many grades of holy orders, most men at Oxford or Cambridge would be in minor orders.

A priest is a generic term for a man (prior to modern times) who had been ordained priest by a Bishop. Only a priest could absolve sins, or consecrate the bread and wine at Mass.

A subdeacon is the lowest form of holy orders, originally to assist the deacon and serve at Mass.

A rector is somewhat different. Parish priests were entitled to tithes - one tenth of the parish produce. These were divided into greater and lesser tithes - a rector received the greater tithes and was effectively the owner of the living. (A vicar was appointed by a rector and, I think, received only the lesser tithes or a stipend.)

A capellanus is a chaplain - either employed by a great family or paid to say Masses, for example, for the souls of the dead.

Edit I think you really need to consult a good local history manual, medieval/early modern church law and practice were pretty complicated!

  • I think all these people became rector at Eversholt - Eversholt always had a rector until recently, when a "priest in charge" was appointed. So are these descriptions the qualifications the chap already had when he was appointed? And I've tried the history manuals, and I've asked the rector, and the parochial church council, and that's why I've come here! :-) And Thanks!
    – emrys57
    Commented Oct 5, 2016 at 10:18
  • Would you mind coming and posting this answer at Christianity? Commented Oct 5, 2016 at 18:20
  • @KorvinStarmast Done!
    – TheHonRose
    Commented Oct 5, 2016 at 20:17
  • love it! +1 and well done Commented Oct 5, 2016 at 20:18
    – TheHonRose
    Commented Oct 5, 2016 at 20:28

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