"We see first hand the contribution of churchwardens to the life of the Church of England in this region, and it is phenomenal. They commit their time, their talents and shoulder many responsibilities, all on a voluntary basis. They do this for the love of God, for the love of their church family and for the love of the communities in which they serve. Our churches simply couldn't operate without them and diocesan colleagues are full of admiration and gratitude for all that they do."
The Archdeacons of Auckland, Durham and Sunderland
What is a Churchwarden and what do they do?
Churchwardens are vital lay leaders. They are the Bishop’s lay officers in the parish and also the leading representatives of the people. Their task is described formally in Canon E1 as follows:
"They shall discharge such duties as are by law and custom assigned to them; they shall be foremost in representing the laity and on cooperating with the incumbent; they shall use their best endeavours by example and precept to encourage the parishioners in the practice of true religion and to promote unity and peace among them. They shall also maintain order and decency in the church and churchyard, especially during the time of divine service.”
What this means in practice is that they need to work well with the vicar, and help the whole congregation to worship and work well together. This will include:
- Supporting the vicar, trying to make sure they are released from some of the administrative tasks that will otherwise prevent them from being an inspiring spiritual leader, making sure s/he gets time off, and being a critical friend when necessary.
- Being aware of the needs of the congregation, and trying to help resolve any issues among them amicably.
- To do all this they need to be at worship regularly, make good use of their ex officio role on the PCC, and get to know the people of the church, understanding their hopes and concerns.
- Wardens will try to make sure that proper arrangements are in place for the care of the church building, health and safety, safeguarding, good administration, and good financial practices.
- Wardens have greater responsibilities and are absolutely vital leaders when a parish is in a vacancy.
It is not that they will do all the work in these areas, but – with the minister – they will have some oversight to ensure that work in these areas is being done well.
If wardens ever have serious concerns about an issue in the parish or the wellbeing – or conduct – of their minister, and if they do not think this can be resolved within the parish, they should speak to their Archdeacon.
How are Churchwardens recruited?
Church wardens are elected annually by the Annual Meeting of Parishioners Meetings (which must take place by 31st May). Their term of office is one year, and they can serve six consecutive terms.
Training for Wardens is arranged every year after the annual visitations have taken place in June. The Archdeacons PA will send out the relevant information with a date for this to take place something in July.
Hard copies of the Visitation papers will be posted during the first week in February, but are available now online:
Resources for Churchwardens
You’ll find helpful advice and resources for Churchwardens on these pages:
You can also visit the Document library and enter ‘Churchwardens’ into the search bar to find lots of documents relevant to your role, or, search for a specific document if you know what you’re looking for.