Apparently the office of Churchwarden goes way back to the 13th Century, although the current incumbents are slightly younger than that! Originally the primary function was taking care of the Church building and its contents and frankly not a lot has changed.
Churchwardens continue to be the legal guardians of the church’s moveable goods, such as moveable furniture, plates and ornaments and are required to keep an accurate, up-to-date inventory of these items. The early wardens obviously had spare time on their hands, because over the course of time other duties were added, and Churchwardens became regarded in some respects as the local officers of the Bishop of the diocese, responsible to the Bishop for the proper carrying out of their responsibilities.
The Churchwarden should be someone who the congregation respects as a leader and who can take charge when needed. A Churchwarden may have to take a service at ten minutes notice, or deal with the press when some scandal occurs. He or she needs to guide the parish council to make the right decisions. Churchwardens should be wise, and if needed, firm. They should not be frightened when dealing with senior clergy. Churchwardens must be baptized, regular communicants who are resident in the parish or on the Electoral Roll. In addition any Churchwarden should ideally be over 21 and must consent to being appointed.
Our Churchwarden's (we have two!) are lay officials of the church. They are leading members of the parish board, which we call the Parochial Church Council (PCC). The role of Churchwarden is extremely varied but generally involves management, maintenance, and ministry. The rights and responsibilities of Churchwardens are laid down in Church Law and as with most roles within a parish, this is a voluntary (unpaid) position.
Most parishes today have two elected Churchwardens who are of equal status. Historically there were two types of warden; the People's Warden, who was elected annually by the congregation and the Rector's Warden, who was usually appointed by the priest incumbent. However, the distinction between People’s and Rector’s Warden has largely been abolished in England, and therefore our two wardens volunteered (yes really, and there was almost no physical violence involved!) and are voted in by the parishoners at the Annual Parishoners Meeting. Churchwardens serve for a fixed term (similar to a prison sentence but with no time off for good behaviour) usually between one and six years.
Whilst many of the Churchwarden's responsibilities are connected with building maintenance, such as temperature control, roof repair, seating, lighting, etc; they are also responsible for keeping order in the church, particularly during Sunday services. Churchwardens have a duty to make sure that the clergy can conduct their services and other meetings without hindrance. Visitors or newcomers must be welcomed and assisted, including guest preachers, the Archdeacon or Bishop when they visit. On the rare occasion of a major disturbance within (or immediately outside) the church, the Churchwardens take primary responsibility in dealing with the matter and have the power to arrest anyone or escort them off the premises if necessary.
And finally .................... The two Churchwardens together are usually responsible for announcing the final selection and arrival of a new incumbent priest to the parish, by reading aloud the Bishop’s official letter of appointment during the Sunday service; something the current incumbents hope not to have to do for many years to come!
We are located in the middle of Thorpe Bay, about two miles east of Southend on Sea and just a short walk from the sea front. We are easily accessible by train (Thorpe Bay station is on the main line from London Fenchurch Street) and bus (Nos 1, 7 and 9), and there is ample on-street parking around the church. The church itself is on an island site at the junction of Johnstone Road and St Augustine’s Avenue.
Our address is:
St Augustine’s Church,
St Augustine’s Avenue,
Thorpe Bay, Essex.
11th July 2020