Church Wardens

In co-operation with the priest in charge (usually called the vicar or rector of the parish and, in cases of vacancy, the bishop), Churchwardens are generally responsible for the day-to-day functioning of the parish. These responsibilities include various aspects of administration, plant operations, and personnel. Their work is not just the maintenance of the church building, but helping the smooth running of the church. In this capacity, wardens are considered the leading lay member of the congregation, and, during the incumbency of a priest, may have varying duties and responsibilities according to the customs of the parish, the canons of the diocese to which the parish belongs, the desires of the priest, and the direction of the parish board and/or the congregation as a whole.

 

Order and Maintenance

Many of the Churchwarden's responsibilities are connected with building maintenance, such as temperature control, roof repair, seating, lighting, etc. If the parish has a Sexton, the wardens would normally consult and coordinate with him or her on these matters. Churchwardens are also responsible for carrying out (or at least organizing) an annual inspection of the church building. They hold a key to the church and are entitled to access at any time. The grounds of the church also come under the purview of the Churchwardens, and depending on the size and location of the church, the grounds may include a cemetery, gardens, driveway and/or parking lot.  In the case of St Helen’s church the churchyard is legally close as a burial place and the maintenance of the grounds are the responsibility of Northwich Town Council.

 

There are also responsibilities in connection with the Sunday services and for keeping order in the church. Churchwardens have a duty to make sure that the clergy can conduct their services and other meetings without hindrance. This requires that any visitors or newcomers are welcomed and assisted (usually by organizing sides people), that there is adequate seating, proper lighting and heating, and that all other facilities required are in place, including safety requirements. Churchwardens should be on hand to welcome guest preachers, the Archdeacon or Bishop when they visit, and offer any help as needed. On the rare occasion of a major disturbance within (or immediately outside) the church, the Churchwardens take primary responsibility in dealing with the matter and have the power to arrest anyone or escort them off the premises if necessary.

 

Reports, Meetings & Money

Churchwardens are required to respond to ‘official’ questions about the parish, and have to make various reports each year to the annual parochial meeting and to the Archdeacon. They may be trustees of some charitable trust connected with the church and are required to keep detailed records of all property, professional inspections, alterations and repairs. They are expected to attend all the meetings of the parish council and the standing committees, and should meet and pray regularly with the parish priest.

In some parishes, the Churchwardens are responsible for counting the Collection and recording the amount in the service Register, and determining (along with the parish council and Rector) how funds are to be allocated. In other, larger parishes, collection duties may be divided amongst a Sides team, Envelope Secretary and Treasurer.

 

Lay Support

In many parishes, Churchwardens have the authority to officiate at Morning and Evening Prayer if a priest or licensed lay person is unavailable. The only areas in which wardens almost always have no authority, often proscribed by canon, is music and liturgy, which is considered to be under the exclusive authority of the priest or bishop in charge of the parish. As members of other parish committees and groups, Churchwardens are often able to offer advice and assistance. Each warden will have her or his own particular areas of knowledge and interests; between them they should not only fulfill their formal duties but also deal with unexpected problems and add to the general well-being of the parish.

 

Interregnums

During an Interregnum (the time between the departure of the current rector and the arrival of a new incumbent), Churchwardens will share the overall responsibility for the church and its worship activities with the Regional or Rural Dean. They will arrange for guest preachers to take the Sunday services (and any other events) and handle their expenses.  The two Churchwardens together are usually responsible for announcing the final selection and arrival of a new incumbent to the parish, by reading aloud the Bishop’s official letter of appointment during the Sunday service.