Being Churchwarden

Recently we (Jon-the-vicar, Craig-the-curate, Sandie and I - i.e. the clergy and churchwardens), have been looking for a replacement for Sandie, whose six-year maximum term of office comes up this spring. The process has made me think quite hard about the job, what I do and don't like about it and why.

A couple of weeks ago I was having a conversation with Meriel Cumming, and something I said started with "When I stop being churchwarden…" which she interrupted with a very forceful "Don't stop!" That surprised me, to be honest. Most of the time I quite enjoy being churchwarden. It's pretty 'full-on', and can be stressful, though there are a lot of positive things about it. But I wouldn't have said I was good at it - administration (which makes up a lot of the traditional churchwarden's role) isn't really my strong suit, and I don't 'do' meetings particularly well…

As an introvert, it usually takes me some time to 'marshall my thoughts' to formulate an answer to a question. Often that means that I haven't managed to formulate my response to an issue until after the meeting - which is a bit awkward! Fortunately Jon knows that, if I've got a strong opinion, it'll follow later in an email - and he doesn't seem to mind too much!

Happily, being warden in St Tees isn't all 'admin' - in fact most of the 'stuff' wardens traditionally do, like applying for faculties (Church of England 'planning permission') or maintaining a 'terrier' (list of goods and chattels) are taken care of by our excellent admin staff, leaving the 'fun stuff' for the wardens to do.

A lot of the job is about being a 'bridge' between the clergy (and other staff) and the congregation, conveying information and opinions in both directions, pointing out problems, etc. I do seem to be quite good at being approachable, and at listening. I also try to be objective, and fair. Doesn't sound a lot does it? I suppose 'being willing' comes into it somewhere - Here am I, send me! (Isaiah 6:8, NIV), though I am well aware of my many shortcomings - as it says earlier, in Isaiah 6:5:“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”

Oddly (perhaps its odd, or perhaps not?) my thinking at the moment is concerned with positions of power, leadership, sin and redemption. I am particularly concerned by the 'speeding points' saga involving Chris Huhne and Vicky Pryce, and the ongoing sex abuse scandals surrounding the Roman Catholic Church. So, the next few entries are likely to major on these themes as I try to make sense of my own feelings on the matter.

Oh, and we have found someone willing to stand for election to the post of churchwarden, which is a relief to me! In fact it's quite exciting - I'm really looking forward to working with 'her' (whose name will, for the purposes of this blog, remain Anonymous for the time being).

Copyright Phil Hendry, 2020