As priest, the Rector, always held a special position. The Rector himself might be respected or despised, depending on his character and behaviour and background (See Robert Cordell), but he was still the priest, which automatically gave him privileges and responsibilities.
It was not uncommon during much of the Middle Ages for the village priest to be a local boy, if not from the village then from nearby, who was sent off to monastery school at seven or ten, and returned a few years later.
The Rector of St Nicholas nearly always was counted among the "better sort" of the village, even though he rarely was among the aldermen. His opinion would have been consulted. At the same time, if he were a drunkard or a fool, he may well have been disregarded in all except matters of ritual.
Sutton belonged to Chertsey Abbey. In this cases, the monastery and its abbot stood in about the same relationship to the village as an estate and its baron. That is, they represented outside authority and were not part of the village.
Other clergymen might pass through itinerant preachers, wandering holy men, a friar or two, but these likewise were outsiders to be treated with peasant wariness.
Pre-reformation Clergy in St Nicholas
Sutton may have had at different times more than one priest resident or other person in Holy Orders other than the Rector. It would be interesting to find out whether St Nicholas has other clergy serving it at times other than priests and deacons.
There is some evidence that Sutton had at one time a branch house/hall of the Abbey at Chertsey. So St Nicholas may have regularly had monks at the services.
The Council of Trent (during the counter reformation), Session 23, solemnly defines in a canon with an anathema that the Sacrament of Orders consists of both major and minor orders. If anyone says not, anathema sit.
porter, lector, exorcist, acolyte, subdeacon, deacon and priest
After induction into the clerical state through the tonsure, a seminarian could receive the first four, which were the minor orders. They consisted of:
* porter (or doorkeeper), * lector, * exorcist, and * acolyte.
Trent, then, did not consider Episcopate as a separate grade of order to priesthood. Rather, one may conclude, a priest is a bishop inhibited from exercising certain functions. But a priest has these powers latently; the bishop exercises the fulness of the priesthood.
These four were called "minor orders" because perpetual celibacy was not a requirement for them; a seminarian who quit the seminary before becoming a subdeacon could still get married. After receiving all the minor orders, a seminarian could receive the major orders (subdeacon, deacon and priest).