Watch out there is a warden about!

In this Parish News Comment (Rectors Blog on our website) I hope that most month’s you find something of good interest and for Christian reflection. For many months of the year, the general theme is often set by the time of the year: January ‘A New Year and New Start’; April ‘Easter and New Life’; July/August ‘Summer Holidays; September ‘Harvest’; November ‘Remembrance’; and in December ‘Christmas’ is of course about the coming of Jesus. So after all these there are not so many months left for a free subject, but June is one of them!

So what do I have for you in this month of June? Well I thought for general interest you might like to know about the very important role of church wardens and the role of those who have just recently been elected for the year ahead: St Peter’s – Robin Andersen and Claire Alcock; Blessed Mary – Colin Russell and Jemima Trotter. Here is an extract description given by the Church of England for wardens:

“The roles and responsibilities of a churchwarden are wide and varied: as befitting an office that dates back to the 13th century, and churchwarden’s duties vary considerably according to local custom, tradition and the needs of parishes.

Churchwardens are officers of the bishop: and their loyalty is to him, whilst at the same time remembering that they are chosen by the people of the parish, so their responsibility is to the parish as a whole, not just to the church congregation.

A churchwarden offers lay leadership in the parish: keeping the Bishop and Archdeacon informed about the life of the parish; welcoming visiting clergy; working collaboratively with clergy and laity; exercising pastoral care of the clergy, especially the incumbent; leading and enabling others and helping others develop their gifts and offer their ministries…..

Churchwardens legal responsibilities are: to maintain the fabric and content of the church; to keep the inventory and terrier up to date and in a safe place; to attend visitations (meetings with an Archdeacon!); to keep up to date with relevant legislation and inform others as appropriate; to ensure the smooth running of services; to ensure that the PCC meets its financial obligations……

Churchwardens legal responsibilities with the PCC are: to exercise leadership in relation to the mission of the church; to work together with all other members in leading the church forward in prayer, worship and pastoral care; to ensure buildings are taken care of and legalities are met e.g., faculties (church planning permission!); to support the incumbent in the administration of the parish; and to ensure expenses of ministry are adequately met (very important!)”

It’s is quite a responsibility being a warden, but it is great fun too and all the wardens I have had over the last 11 years at St Peter’s and Bleesed Mary have been great office holders doing much work quietly behind the scenes as well as being present at key services and public events.

Has the role always been the same? Well you might want to give thanks that the wardens of today don’t have the same role as those of the past who had similar powers of the police today! ‘The Complete Parish Officer 1772’ outlined the role of Church Warden back in the 1700’s as follows:

1.They are not to permit any to stand idle, walk or talk in the church or churchyard2.They are to take care that no persons sit in the church with their hats on or in any other indecent manner
3.They are to ensure that persons behave themselves orderly, soberly and reverently, kneeling at prayers and standing at the belief
4.They are to ensure that none contend about places
5.They must chastise disorderly boys
6.They are to apprehend those who interrupt or disturb the minister and bring them before a justice of the peace
7.They are to ensure that any person disturbing the minister is liable to a penalty of £10 and 3 months imprisonment
(for a second offence to forfeit £20 or six months imprisonment)
(for a third offence shall forfeit all goods and chattels and be imprisoned for life)
(to disturb a congregation or misuse a teacher incurs a forfeiture of £20)
8.They shall see that the Lord’s day be duly observed9.The shall search alehouses on Sundays and if they find any person therein during divine service they are to make them pay 3s4d and also 1s for being absent from church and the master of the house shall forfeit 10s.

I understand that these powers have never actually been repealed, so you may feel that you will need to watch out if you see a Church Warden about! But don’t worry, the Good News is that since Church Parish and Local Parish responsibilities were separated, I can assure you that if you meet a warden now, you will not be told off or arrested, but will find that they are normal people and you will receive a very warm welcome to church!

The final thing you should know about Church Wardens, is that if you ever meet more than one, they are correctly referred to as a ‘Gloom of Wardens’! I’m not sure why, because being gloomy it is certainly not true of any warden I have ever known, but they have always been cheery to a person!

With my prayers for a good June Revd James Hunt

Rector of St Peter’s with Blessed Mary



6th May 2019

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