Notice on a church door “Well-known carpenter seeks joiners”.
Notice in parish magazine “Adam and Eve were the only people who had not read Apple’s terms and conditions”.
These two statements were used by the Archdeacon of Buckingham, Ven. Guy Elsmore, in his address to clergy and churchwardens at a recent Visitation Service. The Archdeacon’s Visitation is a time when churchwardens give an oath to the Diocesan Registrar to say that they will carry out their duties faithfully and diligently for the current year and in accordance with the law. This service also provides an opportunity for the Archdeacon to thank the churchwardens for their time and commitment and to pass on a key message for the year ahead. This year the Archdeacon focused on service and welcome.
Churchwardens take on their duties voluntarily, giving up their time to ensure the smooth running of the church and providing support for the clergy. Many years ago when I was asked to be a churchwarden my vicar’s invitation was phrased like this: “I know you have a demanding career but it’s always good to ask a busy person to take on another task”. So, watch out if you are already busy, you may be asked to do even more! The role of churchwardens has changed over the years. At the Visitation Service we were reminded that in the past churchwardens had powers of arrest if they felt that a person was disturbing the peace of the parish. Times have changed.
Churches rely on volunteers to manage the business of the church – the Parochial Church Council, the secretary, treasurer, cleaning team, musicians, flower arrangers, those who open and lock the church, coffee makers, and welcome team etc. Archdeacon Guy stressed the importance of the welcome that people receive when they come to church. Their initial reception may influence their feelings about the church and the service. It is important that people feel comfortable in church and not being judged. The churchwardens and volunteers who help in the church do so much to establish this atmosphere of friendly worship. Humorous notices like the ones at the beginning of this article help to establish a relaxed atmosphere – and shows that Christians have a sense of humour!
Offering voluntary service in the church or in the wider community does not seem as “fashionable” today as it used to be. However, many people feel that it is important to give something back to the community - especially when we are fortunate to live in such a special community as these villages of our benefice. Service is one of the values taught at Brill school and the children are encouraged to put this into practice. One of the ways that they offer service to the community is by serving meals to the senior citizens of Brill at the monthly Lunch Club. This act of service is a real joy for everyone involved; it is a positive and friendly inter-generational event.
In his address Archdeacon Guy quoted from St Paul’s letter to the Colossians (Chapt 3 verses 12 & 14). “As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience ……. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” This list of personal qualities from St Paul are the qualities of service displayed by so many people who offer voluntary help and support within our communities. They give their time and talents willingly in love for our villages and the people who live there. Let us give thanks that so many people are prepared to commit time from their busy lives to offer service to others.