January 2009
Ministry of Wardens

The votes are in: What makes a good warden?

Vestry Papers thanks rectors from the Consortium of Endowed Episcopal Parishes for their participation in this informal survey. We asked two questions from rectors of Consortium congregations: What are five best traits in a warden? What would you like your warden(s) to know, but that is hard to articulate face-to-face?

Five best traits:

  • A generalist in church experience
  • Supportive of rector in professional role
  • Supportive of rector in his/her personal journey
  • Collaborate in decision making
  • Able to develop a friendship with rector

Would like warden to know:
I have been able to articulate this usually: I am a complete human being who is called to be an ordained minister. I have certainties and insecurities; strengths and weaknesses; generosities and pettinesses; openness and narrowness; wins and losses. All these and much more make me a whole person. I know you will treat me as such.

Leslie Smith, Interim Rector of Christ Church, Short Hills, New Jersey

Five best traits:

  • Warden is a recognized leader in the parish.
  • Warden is a supporter of rector and parish vision for mission.
  • Warden has been caught at prayer and identifies self as having a spiritual life (at whatever stage of development).
  • Warden can stand up and address the congregation with confidence.
  • Warden is fun to be with.

Would like warden to know:
That wardens have a special ministry — which I trust — to correct, challenge, encourage, and/or redirect me at any time.

Ted Copland, Rector, St. Boniface, Sarasota, Florida

Five best traits:

  • Loves God.
  • Loves the church.
  • Loves me.
  • Is well-organized.
  • Isn’t afraid to work harder than he or she ever thought they’d have to work.

Would like warden to know: I will never complain, but I work a whole lot harder and am stretched a whole lot farther than you have any idea.


Five best traits:

  • Honesty
  • Accountability
  • Hope
  • Faith
  • Courage

Would like warden to know:
I told my wardens at our biweekly meeting this week the one thing I’ve needed to share most with them — which is my greatest fear for my own ministry at St. Martin’s — and that is not being able to unlock the enormous potential of this parish. We have some disconnect between the energy, passion and love for this community and our ability to meet strategic goals.

There are some circumstantial things that have contributed to that disconnect, but there are
also questions about the whole congregational system and my role within that system. It
ended up being a really constructive and forward looking conversation as we make plans
for 2009.

I’ve generally been blessed with excellent wardens — and St. Martin’s in Providence is the
best of a good bunch. In my three years here, I’ve found them to be consistently constructive,
supportive, challenging when necessary, loving and generous.

Clare Fischer-Davies, Rector, St. Martin’s, Providence Rhode Island

Five best traits:

  • Love of God and neighbor — an exemplary Christian life and regular church attendance.
  • Committed to working in partnership with the rector — honest and open, but non-adversarial.
  • Takes initiative to make things happen and is available for regular meetings, sometimes on short notice.
  • Unflappable — not reactionary when difficult things arise — a “non-anxious presence.”
  • Good sense of humor and likes having fun! 

AND (you didn’t ask, but I’ll volunteer anyway) the five worst traits:

  • Uses role to lord it over others — loves too much the “insider” status the role gives them.
  • Likes to micromanage, does not have clear role boundaries.
  • Unavailable to rector or staff.
  • Takes no initiative to get things done — has poor organizational skills.
  • Poor at conflict management, is adversarial with rector or others

Would like warden to know:
How much I appreciate it when they think I’ve done a great job. Also (and I do try to
articulate this as often as possible) how much I absolutely love the fact that they are so
available and willing to roll up their sleeves and be involved, that they take initiative to make things happen, even though they are both otherwise very busy, responsible people. I’m
blessed to have two of the best wardens ever right now, so you asked me at a good time. I
might have had different answers under other circumstances.

Jeff Gill, Rector, Christ Church, Andover, Massachusetts

This article is part of the January 2009 Vestry Papers issue on Ministry of Wardens