(Spectator) Ursula Buchan–A churchwarden’s lament

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 ­centuries-old ritual and partly with how to raise £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?

Read it all.


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5 comments on “(Spectator) Ursula Buchan–A churchwarden’s lament

  1. Terry Tee says:

    Beautifully written, and a gentle depiction of the valiant few who so often fight to keep our nation’s churches open. I mourned quietly, though, at her assertion that she and her fellow church warden avoid even light-touch evangelism, believing themselves to be no better than others. I wanted to say to her: ‘but that is precisely why you evangelise. You can say to them, I too have known struggle and disappointment; I have let down others and myself. And in all this God has given me strength, and a sense of forgiveness, so that I can start again and go forward trusting in his help.’ Evangelism doesn’t mean that you are better than others, it means, in fact, learning that you are like everybody else,

  2. Jeremy Bonner says:

    I’m glad you started this thread off, Terry. I was afraid that someone was going to leap in immediately decrying the limitations of establishmentarianism.

  3. montanan says:

    Terry Tee – your point above is excellent. While the article is written well, thoughtfully and with grace, this bothered me:
    [blockquote]We need to reassure these people that a belief in every syllable of the Creed is not the price of admission to their church: there are plenty of honest doubters in the pews already.[/blockquote]
    I fully understand drawing people in that they might come to belief and learn to have faith; however, it has been such an excuse in TEC (and, I assume, other Western/Northern AC churches) that one can ‘cross one’s fingers’ while uttering the Creeds….

    On that topic, [url=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IUQcCvX2MKk]here[/url] is a wonderful spot.

  4. Teatime2 says:

    So well-written! I felt as if I was reading the musings of an Anthony Trollope character. I’m pleased that one reads hope in between the sighs. At least, I did.

  5. MichaelA says:

    Good point Fr. Tee. It is a long article and clearly written from the heart. But therein lies the problem – there is no mention of any concern for souls at all. It just doesn’t appear to be an issue that this warden thinks about. The impression she gives is that she is committed to the church because it is a part of British history, and for no other reason. If that is the case, then in the long run her church will likely be better off with a different warden.