TLDR: A Senior Warden is a “rector’s warden.” He or she oversees the relationship between the rector and the parish (as represented by Vestry). Join me in welcoming Jerry to this important leadership role.
I am glad to report that Jerry Schattle as accepted the post of Senior Warden for the 2023 calendar year, which begins with the Vestry meeting in January. Jerry is a 20 year educator who has served as a paraprofessional, teacher, coach, assistant principal, and principal. Building relationships and encouraging growth in all students and staff is his primary focus. He and his wife, Misty, have been members of St. Dunstan’s for 14 years. They have two daughters, Olivia and Carsyn, who were baptized at St. Dunstan’s and who are currently acolytes. Jerry has been involved with the Dad’s group, children’s Sunday School, organizing the father/child retreat, vestry, the In His Steps ministry, and serving as an acolyte master. He is married to Misty, a librarian at Tomball ISD, who is a Sunday School Teacher and a reliable volunteer in our children and youth ministries. Jerry was part of the Search Committee who brought me to Saint Dunstan’s, and like many of us, he looks forward to helping St. Dunstan’s continue to grow spiritually, numerically, and financially.
This is what The Episcopal Church says about the senior warden, “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 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 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 (or vestry.)” (Episocpalchurch.org). At Saint Dunstan’s we follow the Church of England model, which means that the Rector chooses the Senior Warden and the Vestry chooses the Junior Warden.
The Canons of the Church present the following responsibilities for the Senior Warden:
- Meet regularly with the rector to review the life and work of the congregation, plan ahead, and anticipate and resolve problems.
- Provide leadership so the vestry can identify the mission, vision, and goals of the congregation; make and implement plans; assess programs; and celebrate achievements.
- Provide leadership in the congregation by demonstrating a consistently positive attitude that seeks to resolve problems, recognizes accomplishments, and gives thanks for those things that build community and further the mission and vision of the church.
- Be available to discuss any and all concerns with the rector and maintain confidentiality where appropriate.
- Be available to discuss any and all concerns with members of the congregation; avoid making hasty judgements; and avoid triangulation by encouraging complainants to speak directly to those involved.
- Foster understanding, forgiveness, and reconciliation, in cases where the rector, staff, or vestry is beleaguered or being overly criticized.
- Ensure that policies and procedures are in place and enforced regarding employee or volunteer misconduct; immediately take any questions, concerns, and complaints to the rector and/or appropriate authorities.
- Support the rector in taking action when employees or volunteers are charged with misconduct or inappropriate behavior.
- Take action to intervene promptly (with others as appropriate) in the event that the rector is charged with misconduct, has problems with drugs or alcohol, or is acting inappropriately, speak with the rector and the bishop.
- Petition the bishop in writing on behalf of the vestry to intervene in cases where conflict imperils the pastoral relationship between the rector and the congregation.
- Encourage the rector to take corrective steps as appropriate in cases where the rector is overworked, disregarding his or her health and well-being or the health of the rector’s family.
- Assist in the identification of persons for leadership roles and participate in inviting them to serve in those roles.
- Be prepared to assist the rector or to step in and do what is necessary (represent the congregation at community meetings, take responsibility for preparing the church for special events, advocate on behalf of the congregation, etc.)With the rector, announce the bishop’s pending visit and prepare information on the spiritual and temporal state of the congregation to be discussed during her or her visit (Title III. Canon 9, Section 5b)
- When the congregation is without a rector:
- Notify the bishop promptly and make provisions for worship services (Title III. Canon 9, Section 6d)
- Lead the congregation by ensuring that:
- The worship services, program, and pastoral care needs are being met
- The selection process for a new rector has begun
- Employee relations and communications with the diocese are maintained
- Ensure the name of the person proposed to be called as rector is submitted to the bishop thirty days before the election is to be held and deliver written notice of the election of a rector to the bishop (Title III. Canon 9, Section 3a (2&3))
- Prepare a Letter of Agreement with the proposed new rector, which outlines mutual responsibilities and is subject to the bishop’s approval. Check with your diocese for sample letters. (Title III. Canon 9, Section 3a (4)).
As you can see, this is a big responsibility and Jerry will step into big shoes, as we have been blessed by excellent Wardens. Jerry will be an excellent leader and I am looking forward to working with him. Please keep him and the church in your prayers as we continue to grow. Please call me if you have any questions,
 Richelle Thompson, ed., Vestry Resource Guide (New York, NY: Episcopal Church Foundation, Forward Movement, 2019), 74-75.