Selection and appointment, duties, handbook and more.
The office of Churchwarden has a long history, dating back to the thirteenth century, so those undertaking this office are part of a tradition of lay ministry within the Church going back some eight centuries! Some aspects of the role date from these earliest days, although the Parochial Church Council and the Diocesan Board of Finance also now share responsibilities.
The Legal Background
Since 1 January 2002, the law relating to the appointment and duties of Churchwardens has been set out in the Churchwardens Measure 2001. Each parish church is required to have two churchwardens though there are some occasional exceptions to this rule.
The Churchwardens’ duties are set out in Canon E1 of the Canons of the Church of England, and can be summarised as follows:
- To be foremost in representing the laity and co-operating with the parish priest (including a regular meeting) in the encouragement of true religion, unity and peace.
- To welcome minsters and (with their goodwill) to give out the notices, see that the registers (and burial plan) are completed, and in the absence of an authorised minister, arrange for a suitable lay person to lead Morning or Evening Prayer.
- To welcome the congregation, allocate seats, and maintain order in the church and churchyard with the help of the sidesmen.
- To supervise the collection, record it in the register and pass it on to the treasurer, and see that all fees, expenses and shares are paid.
- To provide, at the PCC’s expense, the bread and wine for Holy Communion and other requisites and registers for public worship and sacraments, and see all is ready for the services.
- To bring to the attention of the bishop or archdeacon anything that is specially well or amiss in the parish, and reply to the articles of enquiry.
- To arrange during a vacancy with the rural dean (and assistant clergy or readers) for the conduct of public worship and pastoral care, and to look after the parsonage house and garden.
- To hold in trust the moveable furnishings, plate and registers of the church, keeping an inventory of them, which should be produced at the APCM with a signed statement of its accuracy and passed on to their successors, and to act when required as trustees of parochial trusts and charities.
- To see that the quinquennial inspection is carried out, the logbook kept, faculties applied for, and a report presented at the Annual Parochial Church Meeting (this can be delegated to a fabric officer).
Although this is not an exhaustive list, it gives a flavour of what is involved in being a churchwarden, and shows that the job carries the opportunity to make a really positive contribution to church life.
Information about the selection and appointment of Churchwardens.
ELECTION OF CHURCHWARDENS
Churchwardens are chosen annually by a meeting of parishioners, which has to be held by 31 May in each year. Candidates should be nominated and seconded in writing by persons entitled to attend the meeting. Those entitled to attend include all those whose names are on the electoral roll of the parish and those residing in the parish whose names appear on the local government register of electors. The meeting is called by the minister of the parish or, if there is no minister, by the existing churchwardens. Notice of the meeting is given by displaying a notice on or near the principal door of the parish church and of every other building in the parish which is licensed for public worship. The notice should be displayed for a period including the last two Sundays before the meeting.
Candidates for churchwarden should state on the nomination paper that they are willing to serve as a churchwarden and are not disqualified from doing so. The nomination paper must be received by the minister of the parish before the meeting starts.
All election of Churchwarden paperwork is only obtained by contacting your Archdeaconry office –
- Archdeaconry of Norwich
Sophie Bell – firstname.lastname@example.org / 01603 629001
- Archdeaconry of Norfolk
Graham Cossey – email@example.com / 01953 528010
- Archdeaconry of Lynn
Ann Whittet – firstname.lastname@example.org / 01362 709200
- (a) be on the church electoral roll
- (b) be actual communicants
- (c) be aged at least 21
- (d) not be disqualified
Where a person is not qualified under (a), (b) or (c), the Bishop may permit that person to hold office if it appears to him that there are exceptional circumstances to justify this.
ADMISSION TO OFFICE
To become a churchwarden, a person chosen by the parish meeting has to be admitted to office. This takes place at a time and place set annually by the Bishop, not later than 31 July each year. The person chosen appears before the Bishop or his representative, usually the Archdeacon at the Archdeacon’s Visitation, and declares that they will faithfully and diligently perform the duties of the office and that they are not disqualified from holding the office.
Each year, Churchwardens complete a Declaration, usually at the Archdeacon’s Central Visitation. PCC Secretaries return postal copies to their Archdeacon, duly completed with the names of new Churchwardens and signed by the Chair of the APCM, prior to the annual Visitation, and the Archdeacon will have the printed forms available for signature by the Churchwardens at the Central Visitation. This will save everyone having to remember to bring their forms to the Visitation, and should make the declaration process more straightforward.
The new churchwarden continues in office for a maximum of six years or until replaced by a successor. After six successive years a new candidate must be found unless the parish meeting passes a resolution that the six year maximum is not to apply in the parish.
A churchwarden may resign only by written notice of intention sent to the Diocesan Bishop by post, which shall have effect at the end of two months, or at an earlier date determined by the Bishop after consulting the minister and the other churchwarden.
A core part of the Churchwardens’ traditional role has been to safeguard the church, both in the context of public worship and services generally and in relation to individual members of the congregation whilst they are within the church. Churchwardens may therefore have a key role in ‘safeguarding’ issues in the life of the church. The new Safeguarding and Clergy Discipline Measure 2016, approved by the General Synod in July 2015, has introduced provisions to disqualify people who have been included on a barred list (within the meaning of the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006) from acting as a Churchwarden. The new Measure also gives the Bishop power to suspend Churchwardens who have been arrested on suspicion of committing an offence mentioned Schedule 1 to the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 or is charged with such an offence without being arrested, or where the Bishop is satisfied that the Churchwarden presents a significant risk of harm to child or vulnerable adult.
A Churchwardens’ website at www.churchwardens.com gives much useful information, with links to various other web sites and written material. Useful books include:
- AN ABC FOR THE PCC (5th Ed.)
By John Pitchford. Published by Continuum, price £14.99. ISBN 978-1-90628-607-1. Practical advice and information about the legal and spiritual duties and responsibilities of PCCs. Buy
- A HANDBOOK FOR CHURCHWARDENS AND PAROCHIAL CHURCH COUNCILLORS
by Kenneth M. Macmorran and Timothy J. Briden, 2010 ed, pub Continuum Books, ISBN 978-1-4411-5474-3, price £10.99. This book provides a good general guide to churchwardens’ and PCC members’ duties and responsibilities Buy
- PRACTICAL CHURCH MANAGEMENT (2nd Ed. 2005)
By James Behrens. Published by Gracewing, price £20.00 ISBN 085-2-446-020. A very practical guide to many day to day matters, including finance, repairs, security, insurance, church meetings, child protection, services, food hygiene, data protection, copyright, employment law, charity law, VAT, etc. Buy
- THE CHURCHYARDS HANDBOOK, published by Church House publishing Buy
- YOUR CHURCH AND THE LAW
by David Parrott, published by Canterbury Press, price £14.99, ISBN 978-1-85311-927-9, includes examples of real-life issues, and answers to frequently asked questions Buy
- CHURCHWARDEN’S DECLARATION
Each year, newly elected Churchwardens complete a Declaration, usually at the Archdeacon’s Visitation – a copy can be obtained from the Archdeacon’s office and completed in advance of the Archdeacon’s Visitation. The Norwich Archdeaconry will invite PCC Secretaries to return electronic copies by email, duly completed with the names of new Churchwardens, prior to the annual Visitation, and the Archdeacon will have the printed forms available for signature by the new Churchwardens at the Visitation. Hopefully this new system will save everyone having to remember to bring their forms to the Visitation, and should make the declaration process more straightforward.