Churchwardenship must be one of the strangest voluntary occupations you could imagine, since it is partly intensely practical and partly quietly spiritual. I inhabit a world of aumbries, risk assessments, blocked drains, corporals, coffee mornings, quinquennial architect’s reports, vestments, child protection policies, intercessions rotas, gluten-free wafers, ”˜open gardens’ and altar frontals. In the course of a week I may telephone an undertaker, polish the paten and chalice, write a Statement of Need in preparation for a Faculty application, deal with a query concerning property in the village owned by the diocese (of which I am perforce a trustee), check the communion wine hasn’t gone off, and assist the vicar on Sunday to serve the bread and wine, with as much reverence and discretion as I can muster.
I act as a sober usher at funerals, remove plastic flowers from grave sides and lock the church at night. I am partly preoccupied with Âcenturies-old ritual and partly with how to raise Â£15,000 a year (just to stand still, without spending anything on maintenance, let alone improvements) in a village of 265 souls. And always, at the back of my mind, are pressing anxieties about the future: how we can attract sufficient numbers of the young or youngish, who won’t write us off as a weird relict sect but who understandably look for better facilities, visual aids and a more diverse liturgy?