John Winder, Church Warden at St Anne, Stanley spoke at the recent Church Wardens event in Goodison Park.
John shares his thoughts with us of the rollercoaster of experiences and challenges faced during his first year of being a church warden in a parish that was undergoing a period of change.
"Just over a year ago, Emma, our vicar invited me to consider putting my name forward as a churchwarden. After careful consideration, I said, “Yes”. This was not the first time I had been asked; by this time, I had retired from my job at Royal Mail and was no longer getting up at 5:15 six days a week.
As well as being the ‘newest’ churchwarden, I have also served as a deanery synod rep on our PCC for about 12 years. About two years ago, I became Lay Chair of the PCC, just about the same time the vicar went on maternity leave. I had one ‘practice’ in the chair before she went on maternity leave. The prospect of a whole year chairing the PCC was very daunting, but with the help and encouragement of other members of the PCC, in particular , Pat, the PCC secretary, this task became a lot easier.
St Anne’s and St Paul’s then began a twelve month period during which we had tremendous support from visiting clergy. We were very grateful to them as it meant our worship could continue as ‘normal’, however, our visitors came from a variety of traditions within the Anglican church and this placed some stress upon churchwarden’s, sacristan and servers as we all sought to support our visitors and help them adjust to our tradition.
Having a vicar on maternity leave can be something of a mixed blessing. On the one hand, it’s wonderful to see young women combining priesthood and motherhood. On the other hand, some members of the parish found it very confusing to see the vicar seated at the back of church with baby and toddler rather than presiding at the Eucharist. Unlike other professions, female clergy on maternity leave are never able to completely switch off from the job; whilst on her maternity leave, Emma found herself involved in situations and making important decisions concerning the church. She coped with all these extremely well, remaining calm in the face of all adversity.
During my first year as churchwarden and during Emma’s maternity leave, the other church in our benefice, St Paul’s was closed as repairs to the fabric of the church became unsustainable due to financial constraints and health and safety issues. At St Anne’s, a large number of eggshells appeared for us to tread on. Accommodating St Paul’s said Eucharist at 9a.m on Sunday morning, meant that their service was still taking place in the Lady Chapel whilst we were preparing the church for ours at 11 a.m. Their after service tea and toast in the church hall was a temptation to our congregation as the smell of burnt toast wafted towards them as they arrived for our Eucharist, however we were happy to support them as they came to terms with the loss of their church. Eventually, service times had to change. A vote was taken and as is usual with Anglicans, compromises were made, a new joint service time of 10 o’clock was decided.
For the last year, our benefice has continued to exist as two separate PCCs. Recently, however, St Pauls have begun the process of redundancy. Whilst this is a matter for St Pauls PCC and their community, it may ultimately mean the closure of St Paul’s church as a centre for Anglican worship, a loss to the community and to me personally as we were married in St Pauls nearly 36 years ago. It will. Of course affect us all, but we strive to support each other in this, ‘new way of being together.’
As you can see, this has been a roller coaster of a year in the life of our parishes and for me personally as I became churchwarden during a time of new beginnings and upheaval."