So I’m now officially the Churchwarden for St James Finchampstead, and all the associated responsibilities that entails.
I was sworn in, along with my fellow Churchwarden at a service in St Mary Minster in Reading. Officially this wasn’t supposed to be our service, this was the service for Churchwardens in Bradfield, Newbury and Reading Deaneries – Sonning Deanery was allocated the Windsor service on Thursday, however quite apart from clashing with choir practice, Reading is a lot easier to get to after work than Windsor! We needn’t have worried though, as when they asked the Sonning Churchwardens to stand it seemed like a large number of other people had had the same idea. We spotted the wardens and clergy from California and Crowthorne, and were sat next to the group from Wargrave. Indeed we weren’t the only additions, there were wardens from Maidenhead, and we even had a lone representative from Witney Parish in the Oxford area. Interestingly the warden from Witney was Douglas Hurd – well Baron Hurd of Westwell now. He was MP for Witney until 1997 – a seat now held by David Cameron.
Anyway, the service itself was fairly straightforward consisting of two hymns, TaizÃ© style prayers accompanied by the choir of St Mary’s Thatcham, and of course the admission of Churchwardens. The formal part of the admission consists of repeating an oath read out by the Diocesan Registrar, and then is followed by the Bishop of Oxford’s Charge, which is effectively the sermon. In this Bishop John spoke about his hopes for the Diocese, using Philippians 1, 3-11 as his text. Oh and despite having a broad range of churches represented we used the modern Lord’s Prayer (as was used at the inauguration service) rather than the old cop-out of defaulting to the modified-traditional version. After the service was a chance for everybody to meet Bishop John and our fellow Churchwardens.
Bishop John’s sermon was a good one, and he had a nice mix of serious points and laughs to get his ideas over. He challenged us to make our churches welcoming and open to all which pleased me. We got a chance to chat with him after the service too, as Rev Richard has actually managed to book him twice to come to St James already, and he’s only been in the post for a matter of weeks! Having said that we’ve had Bishop Stephen along twice in the past year, so it will be nice to welcome Bishop John along too. Bishop John certainly seemed to be making a conscious effort to try and talk to as many people as possible, and when I mentioned that we would be in TaizÃ© at the same time as he and the Oxford Pilgrimage is there he said it would be good to see us at the service on the Sunday morning before they leave. All in all it was a great evening, now the hard work of being Churchwarden begins!