The Office of Churchwarden

R. H. Preston Churchwarden at St. Mary's Newboro. 1919

R. H. Preston
Churchwarden at St. Mary’s Newboro. 1919

Churchwardens are lay officials in a parish church or congregation of the Anglican Communion, and usually work as a part-time volunteers.

Churchwardens have a duty to represent the laity and co-operate with the incumbent (or, in cases of vacancy, the bishop). They are expected to lead the parishioners by setting a good example and encouraging unity and peace within the parish.

Churchwardens in some parts of the Anglican Communion are legally responsible for all the property and movable goods belonging to a parish church. They have a duty under ecclesiastical law to keep an up to date terrier of the property (A land terrier is a record system for an institution’s land and property holdings) and an inventory of the valuables.

Incumbents tend to delegate day-to-day maintenance of church buildings and contents to their churchwardens.

Churchwardens’ duties and responsibilities may vary according to the customs of the parish or congregation, the canons of the diocese to which the parish belongs, the desires of the priest, and the direction of the parish board and/or the congregation as a whole.

Historically, there are two main types of wardens; the people’s warden(s) (and assistants, if any) are elected annually by the congregation as a whole (at what is called the Annual Vestry Meeting or “meeting of the parishioners”); the rector’s warden(s) (and assistants, if any), are appointed by the incumbent.

Download the Diocese of Ontario’s Churchwarden Guide