An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Wardens of a Parish

Officers of a parish. Two wardens are typically selected to serve with members of the vestry. The wardens are generally ranked “senior” and “junior.” The mode of selection and duties of the wardens are determined by state law, diocesan canon, or parish by-laws. The senior warden is usually the primary elected lay leader of the congregation, and serves as a principal liaison between the parish and the rector. The junior warden is often given responsibility for the upkeep of the parish buildings and grounds. The senior warden typically presides at vestry meetings in the absence of the rector, and the junior warden presides at vestry meetings if both the rector and the senior warden are absent. In case of clerical vacancy, the senior warden may be the ecclesiastical authority of the parish for certain purposes. In the BCP service for the Celebration of a New Ministry (p. 559), the wardens begin the institution at the beginning of the service by addressing the bishop. They express the congregation's intent to welcome the new minister and state that the new minister has been selected in a prayerful and lawful manner. If the new minister is the rector or vicar of the congregation, a warden may present the keys of the church to the new minister during the induction ceremony. In some parishes, the senior warden is known as the “priest's warden,” and the junior warden is known as the “people's warden.” Historically, in the Church of England, one warden was named by the priest and the other chosen by the congregation.

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.