AN ENTERPRISING parish has made its churchwarden positions flexible and part-time in an effort to boost the number of young and working people taking office.
St Mary the Virgin, Davyhulme, in the diocese of Manchester, has launched a programme, Wardenshare, in which not just two churchwardens are elected, but two deputies as well.
In addition, older and more experienced former churchwardens offer mentoring advice and cover some weekday responsibilities.
As a result, St Mary’s regularly elects churchwardens who have school-age children and jobs, and who previously would not have been able to fulfil the duties associated with the position.
The Vicar of St Mary’s, Canon Chris Ford, said: “Wardens are often expected to be available during the day to ensure the proper maintenance of church buildings and meet with contractors. Traditional expectations do not necessarily fit with people who are working or have children at school.”
He said that the whole congregation had decided that, as the world had changed, so, too, the expectations on churchwardens should change.
“The wider congregation also recognised that, if we are to serve a Church in a different world, our expectations about the availability and the role of the churchwarden might need a greater degree of flexibility — while none the less fulfilling core duties.”
Because St Mary’s now builds up a larger pool of lay leaders — churchwardens, deputy churchwardens, and former churchwardens — more and more people from the congregation have been able to serve in lay leadership positions.
Besides creating a growing group of people with the experience of being a churchwarden, the Wardenshare project has also ensured that every generation represented in the congregation is present among the lay people who help Canon Ford to lead St Mary’s.
Angela May, a former deputy churchwarden who has now been elected churchwarden, said: “Our team of wardens complements one another and brings different gifts to the table, including becoming great friends.
“With the support of previous wardens, and our congregation, we have organised services and events to the best of our ability without the fear of not always getting it right first time.”
The innovative approach of St Mary’s has also been praised by the Bishop of Manchester, Dr David Walker, who gave the church one of his Church in a Different World Awards last year.
As detailed in the Churchwardens Measure 2001, those elected to the post are required to support the incumbent, relieve him or her of administrative tasks, resolve disputes in the congregation, encourage people in their faith, and attend services regularly.
They are also automatically members of the PCC, and must ensure that the church has proper procedures for safeguarding, recruitment, financial administration, health and safety, and a mission action plan. All moveable property owned by the parish is vested in them and must be continually accounted for.
They must also ensure that worship, pastoral care, and mission continue during any vacancy.