Duties of Churchwardens

What is a “Churchwarden”?

A Churchwarden is a lay official in a parish church, usually working as a part-time volunteer, and their duties and responsibilities may vary according to the customs of the parish or congregation.

There are normally two Churchwardens per parish church, often supported by deputies. The Churchwardens are the key people with whom the Rector liaises about the physical church building, the practicalities of running services and other issues.

Churchwardens are elected by residents of the parish, not just church members.  As such, they elected by parishioners at an annual meeting for this purpose. Churchwardens are expected to lead parishioners by setting a good example and encouraging unity and peace. They have a particular duty to maintain order and peace in the church and churchyard at all times, and especially during services.

Churchwardens are legally responsible for all the property and movable goods belonging to a parish church. They have a duty under ecclesiastical law to keep an up to date record of church property and an inventory of the valuables, and to produce these lists for inspection. Whenever churchwardens spend money to pay tradespeople for repairs etc., the wardens have to record this in a logbook which is inspected along with the inventory.

Churchwardens are also automatically members of their church PCC, and so participate in PCC meetings (see separate document on the Duties of PCC members for further details).

The official Church of England description of a churchwarden and his/her duties can be found in The Church Representation Rules 2011 at http://bit.ly/ZZfgKp and in this extract from the Canons of the Church of England found here.

How do Churchwardens operate at St Matthew’s and All Saints’?

In respect of services, our churchwardens are supported by and manage a team of deputies and/or sidespeople. Between them, they:

  • Prepare the church for worship
  • Greet people on arrival at church, hand them hymn books, help them to find a seat, etc.
  • Ensure that there is at least one of the team present at every service (mostly Sundays, but also other Holy Days, and at weddings/funerals)

The Churchwardens are supported in decisions about the maintenance of the church building by a PCC Buildings/Fabric sub-committee but are responsible for seeing that those decisions are properly implemented in accordance with church law. The Churchwardens also handle various enquires on a variety of subjects.

Churchwardens are elected annually but are generally expected to serve for five years.

Summary

Using the language of the Canons of the Church of England, the duties of Churchwardens can be summarised as follows:

  • they shall be foremost in representing the laity and in co-operating 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
  • in the churchwardens is vested the property in the plate, ornaments, and other moveable goods of the church, and they shall keep an inventory thereof which they shall revise from time to time as occasion may require
  • on going out of office they shall duly deliver to their successors any goods of the church remaining in their hands together with the said inventory, which shall be checked by their successors