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So who wants to be a Church Warden?

The churchwardens are the Bishop’s lay contacts in the Parish.  They are elected annually by the parishioners at the Easter Vestry meeting which is usually combined with the Annual Parish Meeting in April.   The elected wardens are licensed by the Archdeacon at the annual Archdeacon’s Visitation which usually occurs in May.  Wardens are ex-officio members of the PCC and its Standing committee, and chair the PCC in the absence of the Vicar.  During an interregnum the care of the parish is shared by the Wardens and the Archdeacon.

Three churchwardens are customarily elected in the parish to share the work relating to two churches. Hitherto one churchwarden has had responsibility for St Paul’s. In 2015-16 it is proposed that the team of 3 rotate their presence at St Paul’s and St Mary’s on Sundays, so that one churchwarden is present at each church for the main Sunday morning service, and each Sunday one could potentially be off duty.

In addition to being a senior lay presence at the principal church services where they help with service organisation, the major day to day responsibility of wardens is the care and maintenance of the church fabric and they liaise with contractors/tradesmen for most minor work.  The church architect conducts a Quinquennial Inspection of parish buildings with particular attention to St Mary’s Parish Church.  The Wardens and PCC are then charged with implementing his recommendations for the repair of the fabric.  The Buildings sub committee, chaired by Peter Craig, supports the Churchwardens in the responsibility for the fabric of St Mary’s, reporting through Standing Committee to the PCC.

Changes and major maintenance work to the Parish Church fabric and fixed furnishings are governed by an Act of Parliament and are subject to approval by the Diocesan Chancellor, a London based barrister in our case, who acts on behalf of the Bishop.  To undertake such work the wardens and incumbent make a Faculty Application to the Chancellor which first goes to Diocesan Advisory Committee for comment and they in turn may seek the views of various Heritage Groups such as English Heritage and the Victorian Society.  The wardens are responsible for any ensuing negotiations to arrive at a position where the Chancellor is minded to issue a Faculty, after which work can proceed.  Fortunately, work on St Paul’s church and the Church Hall is easier since they are not subject to the same legislation. When work is in hand, generally a Warden will oversee what is being undertaken on behalf of the PCC.

Wardens also maintain some legal parish records: principal among these are the “Log Book” in which are recorded all significant events pertaining to the building and its grounds and also the “Terrier” in which are recorded details of all the items of value belonging to the church including their purchase or disposal.  From time to time these documents have to be made available for inspection by the Archdeacon.  It is the practice in this parish for the Wardens to make a report on fabric matters to the Annual Parochial Church Meeting.

The position of Church Warden is not a life sentence: church rules limit the time of continuous service to six years.  This means that in April there will be two vacancies!    During the last six years there have been two interregna and the need to obtain some half a dozen Faculties for significant work at St Mary’s.  Hopefully the next six years will be a little quieter.

Previous churchwardens are available for support as appropriate, especially re legal procedures such as Faculty applications.