Wands at the ready

BVN Article

Tuesday 01 May

On Saturday, 28th April at a special service, Rev Nat White will be licensed and installed as Team Vicar for Ashby, Braunston and Welton. The service is both a legal act and an act of worship. It marks the beginning of Nat’s ministry here and a new stage in the life of these parishes. The service is a complicated affair with a good deal of ritual and tradition. The licence granted by the Bishop sets out the responsibilities of the post. The installation is carried out by the Archdeacon and is a purely symbolic act where Nat is led to her stall (or seat) in Braunston Church. The service starts at the font, where all those baptised are asked to offer themselves afresh to God. Nat will be introduced to a number of people as part of the service as well as being handed the keys to the Church. She will be asked also to toll the bell. All sorts of superstitions are associated with this tolling. Some people take the number of tolls to indicate how long the vicar will stay. Just for the record, that didn’t bear out in Rev Sarah’s case. The service represents an exciting opportunity for the Churchwardens to brandish their staves or wands (oh yes, Harry Potter has got nothing on us!). These staves, wands or prodders, harken back to the earliest days of the Church of England when the role of Warden went beyond the keeping of the parish books and overseeing all things operational. The staves demonstrated a person’s importance or standing but also had practical purposes, including the Wardens’ now “near-obsolete” duty of keeping the peace and commanding good behaviour and decorum in the church and churchyard. Early duties of a Churchwarden involved putting a stop to rowdiness and in some cases, fining and apprehending churchgoers who were being boisterous, riotous, or indecent. On the other extreme, the Warden’s staff was also used to lightly tap parishioners to wake them during services. Never required these days of course! I can’t speak for the lovely Pat Milner, a seemingly gentle and peace loving man, but as a martial artist I have done some weapons stick training. Don’t let this put you off coming to Church though. I wasn’t very good at it. I managed to hit myself more than my opponent and ended up in a heap on the floor crying with laughter and rather bruised.  These days we Churchwardens only get to brandish our wands at occasions like this when we lead the Bishop round the Church. I promise to try really hard not to say “expelliarmus”. I am sure Pat can be relied on to clonk me lightly with his staff if I misbehave. I hope you will join us in making Nat and her husband Pete very welcome.

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