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What is a Churchwarden?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 21 August 2016
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The churchwarden is a role that is common in the churches that make up the Anglican Communion. Associated with the local parish or church, the churchwarden is a lay official who serves as a link between the full time ministry and the members of the parish. While the exact duties of a churchwarden may vary from one part of the Anglican Communion to another, there are a few essential characteristics that seem to be consistent with the role of this church official in just about every local parish.

Churchwardens are often charged with the responsibility of providing a good example of Christian life and living to the rest of the members of the congregation. To that end, a church warden is expected to live a life that is in harmony with the teachings of the church. In addition to exemplifying Christian living, church wardens are also responsible for actively counseling members to also seek ways to more fully implement church teachings on ethics and conduct into their lives. As part of this effort, the churchwarden will often be called upon to maintain order and proper behavior during worship services and other gatherings on the church property, including functioning as the mediator in the event of disagreements between parishioners.

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In many locations, the churchwarden usually are responsible for church property, including all the furnishings and supplies that are part of parish property. A standing inventory is maintained and periodically updated by the churchwarden, and supplied to the parish council from time to time. This stewardship over the physical resources of the parish also includes making arrangements for any repairs to buildings, or the electrical and plumbing systems of the property. Costs for maintenance of church property is recorded in a logbook, although many parishes now choose to keep electronic records as well.

In situations where the parish does not currently have a rector or priest, the churchwarden may be called upon to interact with the bishop on the spiritual state of the parish, until a new rector is appointed and installed. In some Anglican traditions, this involves the bishop designating a churchwarden as a sequestrator. Within this role, the churchwarden will ensure that worship services continue on a consistent basis, with a special focus on making sure that the parish observes the Eucharist each Sunday and on every Principal Feast. Often, the churchwarden will accomplish this by creating a rotating list of guest ministers, usually composed of retired Anglican clergy or voluntary clergy from around the diocese.

Generally, there are only a few areas where church law does not allow the churchwarden to assume responsibilities. These include the music and the liturgy, which are considered to be under the authority of the priesthood. However, in some areas of the Anglican Communion, the churchwarden may be allowed to lead morning and evening prayer in the event that a clergyperson is not available.

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