Churchwardens are lay officials, men or women, working as part-time volunteers. They represent the laity and are responsible directly to the Diocese. They advise and assist the clergy in their work of ministry. They have to ensure that the church buildings and their contents are kept in a fit condition for services of worship and maintained as part of our heritage and are assisted in the latter by the Properties Committee.
In this parish the two churchwardens are members of the Parochial Church Council. They are elected at the Meeting of Parishioners by the parishioners, whether on the electoral roll or not, which must happen on or before 30th April. They are then sworn in and formally admitted to office by the Archdeacon, between being elected and 31st July the same year. They are also ex-officio members of the Church Standing Committee. St James’s Church has an established tradition for the election of the two churchwardens.
Churchwardens have a duty under ecclesiastical law to keep an up to date 'terrier' (from the Latin 'terra' - earth or land) of the property and an inventory of the furnishings, ornaments and valuables. These detailed records and also professional inspections, alterations and repairs must be produced for inspection when required. Although they are responsible for all the moveable things in and around the church, the vicar is responsible for the buildings themselves.
Churchwardens also have a duty to make sure that the clergy can conduct their services and other meetings without hindrance. This requires that any visitors or newcomers are welcomed and assisted, that there is adequate seating, proper lighting and heating, and that all other facilities required are in place, including safety requirements. As members of other parish committees and groups, churchwardens are often able to offer advice and assistance. Each churchwarden will have her or his own particular areas of knowledge and interests; between them they should not only fulfil their formal duties but also deal with unexpected problems and add to the general wellbeing of the parish. Churchwardens each carry a staff of office at certain services. These are wooden with brass tops as shown in the pictures above.