Churchwardens

What is it that Churchwardens actually do? We asked Dr Sheila Brock, who is the Rector’s Warden at Old Saint Paul’s, for her interpretation of the task.

Sheila said: “The standard definition is ‘an elected lay person chosen to represent the interests of the congregation.’ The implication is that lay people needed such representation to counter the power of the clergy! The term ‘warden’ also suggests somebody whose job it was to keep order and to ensure that rules were observed. 

“Nowadays the emphasis is on ensuring that people are made to feel welcome, that stewards are on hand to greet regulars and visitors and that all runs smoothly before, during and after services. If it is the task of the Head Server to see that things go without a hitch at the altar, then the job of the Churchwardens is to guarantee the same in the nave. The model is that of the serene swan - with legs paddling furiously below the waterline. 

“In Old Saint Paul’s the People’s Warden is elected by the congregation but the Rector’s Warden is chosen by the Rector. I don’t think there is any blueprint for a Rector’s Warden as much depends on the personalities and the relationship between the two. I sometimes describe myself as the ‘Rector’s Minder’ (even re-minder) but mainly I try to listen, to help wherever required and to advise. As I am considerably older than the Rector I can - and do - get away with the last.

“I make suggestions, discuss future plans. I am, I hope, reliable, independent and reasonably sane with a sense of humour. In our different ways, we are both passionately committed to Old Saint Paul’s, its purpose and its mission - and we also enjoy a glass of wine and a good laugh. I think I am very privileged.”


Congregants taking their seats before Mass