When you arrive in church, the first person you are likely to meet is a sidesperson. A sidesperson used to be called a 'sidesman'. The name is a corruption of the term 'synod's man', a title referring to prominent members of the congregation who represented the parish to the Diocesan Synod. A more meaningful term is 'welcomer'.
There are three people on duty as welcomers at Sunday’s 09.30 service. They arrive early enough to make sure everything the congregation will need is ready for them - hymn numbers on the boards (shown right), service and hymn books to hand, magazines and notices on display.
Handing out books and pew sheets as people arrive gives sidespersons the opportunity to welcome visitors or newcomers and invite them to stay for refreshments after the service. They provide all the help they need to make them feel at home in our church.
During the service, particularly if there is a baptismal party, sidespersons may need to guide visitors through communion. They also take the offertory and carry the bread and wine up to the altar, sometimes encouraging children to help. They may help latecomers or parents with young children. After the service, they put away the books and tidy up.
The duties are not onerous but they do need to arrive early, stay focused and be alert to the needs of latecomers and visitors. They can be on duty once a month or once a year but their appointment, which has to be approved by the vicar and PCC at the Annual Parochial Church Meeting, is for a year.