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Churchwardens: A Survival Guide

Author: Martin Dudley and Virginia Rounding
Published By: SPCK (London)
Pages: 142
Price: £10.99
ISBN: 978 0 281 06092 4

Reviewed by Julian Reindorp.

Two confessions before I commend this very useful guide.  I have always been wary of giving any prospective churchwarden a guide to their role, on the basis that it would almost certainly put them off.  Second, to get round this, I have taken a leaf from some of our ecumenical partners and created a team of church leaders (seven for the main church I serve).  So we are inviting someone to come and join our team and the tasks associated with this ancient and crucial role are shared out.  We all decide who we hope will join our team.

I found this up to date guide both practical and pastoral, covering everything you would expect and more. ‘Working with an old or retiring incumbent’, after my 40 years in pastoral ministry, struck just the right note, as did advice for a vacancy - prepare the parish profile and person specification well in advance.

I looked at the fabric and faculties section and was amazed to find that among the fourteen pieces of information needed for a faculty (a form of ecclesiastical planning permission! Ed) is ‘information about bats (Do you have them?  Will the proposals affect them?  Have you taken advice from English Nature?)’.  I often wonder how inner city parishes survive all this paperwork.  A summary section on the duties of churchwardens, duties of the PCC, duties of the minister, clear and helpful, but - disturbingly - the list for the church warden is longer than the one for the minister.

This raises my concern about the role of the churchwarden.  They are not paid and we are.  I always see a couple together if we are asking one of them to be a church officer, as almost everything depends on our personal relationship and common faith.

Almost the longest chapter is ‘New tasks for the twenty first century’, not least, policies on child protection, fire precautions, disability access and of course the complaints policy and procedure (the CofE is setting aside four times as much money for this as it did last year!). There is a helpful section on fund raising and stewardship.

I particularly appreciated the last chapter: ‘When problems arise’. It gives examples of problems and possible solutions.  ‘How to pace yourself and take time off (as well as ensuring others do)’ is a section that church officer and minister need to talk over together.

With five appendices covering the essential legislation, and a good index, this is a very clear, pastoral guide to survival for both churchwarden and minister.  I will pass it around our leadership team.(Editor's note: The contents of this particular book are designed for the Church of England, and may not apply to the Church in Wales)

Julian Reindorp

Team Rector of Richmond, Surrey

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You are reading Issue 46 of Ministry Today, published in July 2009.

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