GIVEN its title, this book is surprisingly delightful. The subtitle makes this clear: How to thrive being a churchwarden. The key word is “thrive”. Matthew Clements, with years of solid experience, gives an abundance of practical advice about how to do the job well. By his style of telling stories, packed with insight, understanding, and humour, he makes it sound even enjoyable.
In all the years that I was a parish priest and then an archdeacon, I would have loved to have this book to thrust into the hands of a new churchwarden or someone considering standing for election. Clements tells it as it is. But, behind all the lists, filling out forms, duties, and building worries, he shows how the churchwarden is a key person in offering warmth, welcome, compassion, and integrity — the best of lay leadership in the Church of England
As Clements paints the portrait, even with the times of annoyance, frustration, and anger, he still evokes the churchwarden as an answer to Bishop Edward King’s call for more “homely English Saints”. Clements sees a deep spirituality in the churchwarden doing ordinary things consistently well. If I were to commission an icon of a churchwarden, I would send the iconographer Clements’s story of himself in a heavy rain, in a safe place on the church roof, with one hand holding an umbrella over his head and the other with a long stick clearing the gutters. Of such as these is the Kingdom of God: doing things for others, doing things for Christ.
The book is filled with pithy good advice, for example: “always address the cause of a problem, not the symptom.” He goes through all the fundamental responsibilities, the relationship with the Vicar and the leadership team, security, safeguarding, money, meetings, and buildings. Lots of valuable detail. All these topics are made alive by his own stories, which he uses as examples. But he is clear about the goals — to make the church a place of welcome and a place that is loved.
The last two chapters are a brilliant conclusion: next to last is “Things I Have Disliked or Done Wrong”, and the final chapter is “Things I Have Done Right”. For Clements, the disliked and wrong often centred on others’ not appreciating the enormous amount of work done by a churchwarden; and for things done right it is the realisation that the work is done for God.
The Ven. Dr Lyle Dennen is a former Archdeacon of Hackney.
Rotas, Rules and Rectors: How to thrive being a churchwarden
Church Times Bookshop £9