Someone very close to me wrote a blog post recently about the fact that she is, after six years, laying down her role as Churchwarden. If you want an interesting perspective on life in church, please read Doorkeeper's post here. It is a simple post, expressed well and offers a side to parish life that many experience.
The nice thing about being "the Vicar" is that (Common Tenure allowing) we can hover around in a parish like a bad smell for decades. Because we feel called to? No; because we enjoy it and it works for us or our families to stay. Let there be no illusion there. We stay for us most of the time.
In a well run parish, this is broadly where it ends, unless the small matter of a wage or salary is brought to bear - but again, very often those people stay not because of calling, but because of economic reasons. It is our wonderful laity who step forward to do jobs around church who are called to it. They are there through that calling, with any luck take some pleasure from it, but in all cases do it in the context of their freely given spare time. This is the case for the lovely person who might polish a brass every month, who serves at the Altar on a rota-approved basis, or the kindly person who simply prays for the parish and her life. It is the same for Churchwardens too.
Churchwardens, in most parishes I think, have a tenure. That is to say that they can hold office for a given period of time, having then to relinquish it and give to the next person. This is a good thing on many levels as we all know of Wardens who were in post six or seven years after they were clinically dead. Accounts of Warden who gripped steadfast to their staffs for decades are not uncommon, and rarely accounts filled with glee and happiness.
So, dear reader, we have members of our wonderful laity who give their time freely, as a result of their sense of God's calling who - in the end - have to stop that work and give it away. Many have no choice at all in that, including Wardens.
Reading Doorkeeper's account is helpful because it reminds people like me that such transitions are not painless. When you give your all to something, it is difficult to stop if those years have been good (as they were in Doorkeeper's case). What do they do afterwards? How do they re-integrate back into parish life in a revised way after a period of holding much authority? How do they fill the many hours that they previously gave, not to the parish in question, but to God? Vicar's (myself included) preside over these moments, and I will do so this session with a Warden of my own who ran her own Interregnum. Doorkeeper's post is a timely reminder that it isn't just puffed-up priests who hurt when the job stops or has to change. We forget that to our peril and to the pain and cost to our vital lay volunteers.