In the document below, we have brought together some information about the role and what it entails. We hope it contains enough information to help you in your thinking about whether to take this on.
You may have seen others fulfilling this role in various different ways, and might see these as being a hard act to follow! To help you, we are delighted to be able to include thoughts on the role from two experienced churchwardens who will give you an insight into what it is like doing the job.
Information for those considering the role of churchwarden can be found in this new leaflet from the Diocese of Oxford. The information is designed to help people who are considering the role of churchwarden. If that’s you, or someone you know, we hope and pray that this leaflet is helpful in discerning God’s call to serve church and community in this way.
What is the process?
Once you have decided to offer yourself as a Churchwarden in your benefice, you will need to be nominated by two members of your PCC. There is a Churchwarden nomination form for this which should be presented at the Vestry meeting usually held at the same time as the APCM, and then kept by the PCC Secretary for PCC files. This document is not needed by the Archdeacons office.
Once appointed you will need to be sworn into this role at a Visitation Service held usually in May or June, following the Annual Parochial Church Meetings (APCM). It is preferable that you attend your relevant Deanery/Archdeaconry Visitation Service but if this is not possible you may attend another Visitation service within your Archdeaconry or even another Archdeaconry to be sworn in. If, in exceptional circumstances, you are unable to attend ANY of these services, you can be sworn in privately by the Area Dean or Archdeacon.
You will need to complete a Churchwardens declaration form prior to the Visitation service and either send this to your Area Dean administrator, or Archdeaconry Office, or bring it to the relevant service. This signed declaration confirms that you are taking up this official post and that you are not disqualified from doing so under any conditions of the Churchwardens Measure 2001. This declaration also gives us permission to use and store your data under GDPR regulations, and we use this to ensure we have your correct details in the Diocesan Contact Management System (CMS), for relevant Diocesan mailings to Churchwardens.
The Visitation Service is a formal service with legal elements, but it is also a time to celebrate the role and work of all Churchwardens and a time for social interaction with fellow Churchwardens, the Area Deans and your Archdeacon or Associate Archdeacon.
The role of a Churchwarden
Churchwardens have important legal responsibilities, but the office also has a vital spiritual, pastoral and missional dimension – the duty is to be foremost among the laity in the life and mission of the Church in the parish.
Churchwardens are some of the most senior lay leaders of the church and every Parish is entitled to appoint two churchwardens. They are elected in accordance with the Churchwardens Measure 2001, at the Vestry meeting at which anyone in the Parish can attend, which is usually held at the same time as the APCM.
The post of churchwarden, one of the oldest elected offices in the country dating back to the 13th Century, and their role, is governed by Canon E1 which states ‘The churchwarden shall discharge such duties as are by law and custom assigned to them; 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.’
This document on the role of churchwardens may be helpful.
Churchwardens are sworn in annually by the Archdeacon, or in the case of an Episcopal Visitation (usually every three years), by the Bishop. Visitation Services usually take place in May or June. The Visitation Service is a formal service with legal elements, but it is also a time to celebrate and give thanks for the role and work of all churchwardens and a time of fellowship with fellow Churchwardens, the Area Deans and your Archdeacon or Associate Archdeacon.
Details of annual Visitation services for each Archdeaconry can be found in the Area Sections of the website.
Useful documents are:
Churchwardens are required to assist the Archdeacon, or Area Dean, with parish inspections every three years where terrier and inventory, PCC minutes, Health and Safety policies, and safeguarding policies are inspected as well as the interior and exterior condition of the church building and grounds.
A checklist of what is covered on the inspection can be found here, a guidance note on the Church Registry (terrier and inventory) can be found here and a blank Church Register can be found here. The Church Care website has useful information on how to look after your church and churchyard and the Ecclesiastical Insurance website is also a very useful source of information.
Faculties and the DAC
Articles of Enquiry
These are a set of questions which give you the opportunity to help the Archdeacons to form a picture of how things are in our parishes, and what support the diocese may be able to offer. Churchwardens are responsible for completing the Articles of Enquiry each year. These are currently included in the Parish Returns. To submit your Articles of Enquiry data, please visit the Parish Returns System. If you have difficulty accessing this website, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
The Benefice in Vacancy
In any vacancy churchwardens have a key role to play. Advice for churchwardens during a vacancy can be found on each Archdeaconry’s Area page and there is a presentation on vacancies in the training section below. Further information can be provided by your Parish Development Adviser or the Bishop’s or Archdeacon’s office.
Tools and Training for churchwardens
Due to the pandemic all training dates in 2020 were cancelled and many planned for 2021 have been delayed. We have therefore put together a suite of online training resources, which we hope you will find of interest.
For Oxford and Dorchester area churchwardens we plan to hold a joint training session, in person, on Saturday 6th November, in Abingdon. More details will be provided in due course. The usual pattern for training in these areas tends to include the following sessions which we hope to reintroduce from 2022, alongside the online training:
- Training for New Churchwardens (on a weekday evening)
- Refresher training for Churchwardens – with speakers on certain aspects of the role (on a weekday evening)
- Training morning for Churchwardens – with a keynote speaker, and individual workshops in different aspects of the role (on a Saturday)
There are a number of books which may help you in your role as churchwarden. One is called Rotas, Rules and Rectors by Matthew Clements. For further information and to order, please visit http://www.beingachurchwarden.com/
The excellent Guide to experiencing God’s presence in your church building gives guidance, advice and sample text to enable you to create a guide for visitors to your church outside service times. Order your free copy from Church House by emailing email@example.com or download from the diocesan website.
Details on the Churchwarden’s Yearbook 2021 can be found here.
“Churchwardens – A Survival Guide” by Dudley & Rounding (SPCK)
“Practical Church Management” by Behrens (Gracewing)
“A Handbook for Churchwardens and Parochial Church Councillors” by MacMorran & Briden (Continuum)
“An ABC for the PCC” by Pitchford (Bloomsbury)