Saturday, May 7, 2016

New VGEC Store

Just a few examples of what we stock in the VGEC Guild Shop

By Michael Sanchez, VGEC Board Member and Communication Committee Board Liaison

Last week the VGEC membership received an email blast about changes made to the VGEC Guild Shop. There have been some questions about why we made this change and what it means, so we thought we would take a few moments to outline what has been going on these past weeks and months.

Q: So what is the deal with the new store? The old one seemed to work just fine.

A: In 2015, we received a notice that Amazon (who hosted our old Guild Shop) would no longer be offering web store hosting services as of May 1st, 2016. For years, Amazon's web store hosting services have been helping businesses and organizations of all sizes create online stores for their products. This is a separate service from their huge Amazon.com store which is unaffected by this change. We began a search to see which web store provider would best meet our needs, and we settled on Shopify.

Q: If you switched to a new web store provider, why is the address still the same?

A: That is one of the wonderful things about the Internet! It is much like a landline telephone number: you can move to a different house, but keep the same phone number. That's what we did with the shop.vergers.org address. For some, it might have taken a couple of days for your computer to associate the shop.vergers.org address with our new "house."

Q: You redesigned the store. Why?

A: Since we had to a new service, we were not able to keep the same interface. Once our Communications & Technology Committee began migrating the store to its new home, we realized the available flexibility on how our store would look. We decided first on a simple, efficient design so you can easily place orders. Now that we have a little experience with this design in action, we will keep working over the next couple of months on enhancing the initial design.

Q: I notice that at the top of the Guild Shop, there is a pair of links that says "Log in" and Create account."  What are those?

A: Much like our old store, Shopify offers customers the convenience of creating an account that safely stores your name, address, phone number, and payment information.  If you are a frequent shopper of the Guild Shop (and we hope you are!), this is a great time-saving tool.  It is OK if you do not want to create an account with Shopify. You can still order and pay for your merchandise without a Shopify account.  Keep in mind that a Shopify account is a separate account that you'll need to create:  it has nothing to do with your VGEC Membership information. 

Q: I liked the old Guild Shop interface. Is the new store easy-to-use?

A: Yes! Customers will find that this is a very easy store to navigate: from browsing to shopping to checkout, it is a seamless process. We accept all major credit and debit cards, and for those who are concerned about security, our store uses industry standard 256-bit encryption technology.This is the same level of security that many large banks use with their online banking services. As an added bonus for the Guild Shop crew, the back end of the store is much easier to work with, which will help with adding new products and required maintenance.

Q: Is there anything else I should know about the Guild Shop?

A: We are open for business! You can visit us at shop.vergers.org and start shopping now! Be sure to register for the upcoming 2016 Annual Conference, get a new virge, find some VGEC apparel, equip yourself with a chimere, and much, much more. Our online store is the place to find what you need for your ministry. Think we should carry something? Contact Guild Shop Manager, Barry Norris at: [email protected] with your suggestions.



Click the big red button to register for the 2016 Annual Conference opening on September 22nd and running through noon on the 25th, in Spokane, Washington. The conference is the most popular and anticipated activity of the VGEC every year - please join us! Register before midnight PST on June 30 to be entered in a drawing to win a $200.00 Apple gift card.




Abstract: The Guild Shop got a facelift and a new home! VGEC Communications & Technology co-chair and Board member Michael Sanchez, answers some questions about our recent redesign of the Guild Shop.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Mike Stitt Honored with LIfetime Membership

Mike Stitt, at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, Shippensburg, PA
By Ken Holloway, VGEC News Manager, with Michael Rhodes, Immediate Past Sr. Warden, St. Andrew's, Shippensburg, PA

This great story tells itself.

It begins with a December 16, 2015 inquiry from the Senior Warden, Michael Rhodes, at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Shippensburg, PA to the VGEC Membership Committee:

Dear Membership Committee,

I hope this email finds all of you well. My name is Mike and I am the Senior Warden at St. Andrews Episcopal church in Shippensburg PA. I have a question that I hope you can help me with.

We have a wonderful verger who goes "above and beyond" for our parish! We would like to do something nice for him in return. We would like to pay 5 years of his dues. How can we do that?

Could you please let me know how I can get his dues to you? Can I charge on my CC? or can the Church send you a check for $100.00? Please let me know, we would like to present this to him at the annual meeting in January.

Our Verger is: STITT, Michael Cree, Sr.



Scott Smith, VGEC President replied the next day:

Mike,

I know Michael and this is a wonderful thing! We can definitely do the 5 year payment for $100.

We also have a Lifetime Membership which is $500 (this may be way out of the question, but I wanted to mention it to you as well). If you purchase the lifetime membership, it comes with a very nice certificate that we could make sure that you have in time to present to him.

If you would email Betty Moore on the membership committee at [email protected] she can help you with anything that you need.

Kind regards and my best to Michael,

Scott

Scott Smith, President
Vergers Guild of the Episcopal Church



Mike responded with good news:

Scott,

Thanks so much for your email.

I took this to the vestry today and they approved the $500.00 lifetime membership! I was so thrilled! Mike is such a blessing to our parish. Mike inspired me to join the vergers guild and enroll in the training course back in October. I plan to devote all of my time in the new year since my term as senior warden is coming to a close.

It will be great to present this to him at our annual meeting in January! I will make sure to send pictures, perhaps you can do a story on in for the Vergers website.

I have included Betty on this email thread. I just need to know how to get the check for $500.00 to her. I want to make sure Mike is in the dark on all this till after the annual meeting. Could you not update the directory or his account till after?

Thanks so much for all of you help and support on this!

Mike



Mike Stitt has served his parish for an extended period, as a leader during worship and as a humanitarian in serving the community with hot meals for those who need nourishment and even inspired his Senior Warden to become a verger too. Michael Rhodes sent the following paragraphs for us to publish in recognition of Mike's service to St. Andrew's:

Mike Stitt is the verger at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Shippensburg, PA. What is a verger, you say? Well, a verger is a person within the Church who assists the clergy in the worship service. The Office of verger dates back to the Middle Ages when the verger was the "Protector of the Procession." Vergers led the procession into the church, clearing the way for the procession and protecting it from vagabonds who tried to attack it. Today, in many parishes you will see a verger ceremonially leading the procession.

The Parish of St. Andrew’s honored Mike Stitt’s ministry as verger at their annual meeting on the 31st of January. The parish presented Mike with a lifetime membership in the Vergers Guild of the Episcopal Church. Mike is now one of 42 lifetime members in the Vergers Guild that boasts 1,856 active members.

Mike is the “go-to” guy for most things at St. Andrew’s. He is the first to unlock all the doors on Sunday morning and the last guy out to lock them back up. He leads the Buildings and Grounds committee that takes care of maintenance within the Church, the Parish Life Center, and the administrative offices. He also ensures that the outside grounds remain neat, weeded, and well cared for.

The community meal ministry feeds on average 70 people the first Monday of each month. This is a ministry that Mike started several years ago. The doors to the Parish Life Center open to provide a warm nourishing meal to those who need it. There are hopes to expand that ministry this year, to open the doors for a second day each month.

People have been worshiping at St. Andrews for 110 years. It was built in 1906. Mike is an avid historian, and has recorded much of that history in his weekly blog. You can find on the St. Andrew’s web site. (http://www.standrewsshippensburg.org/vergers-voice/) (This wonderful series of historical accounts now numbers 30 entries. Each is really well done and would be good models for any of our home parishes. - Ed.)

Mike is a true blessing to the parish of St. Andrew’s and of great help to the Rev. Barbara Hutchinson, Rector of St. Andrews. Mother Barbara says, “Mike does a great deal for our parish, but equally important, Mike shows our Christian values of respect for all people, seeking and serving Christ in all people, and making the love of God real to everyone who walks through our doors. We are all blessed by his presence and leadership among us.”

Mike may be only one of many vergers in the Episcopal Church, but he is Number One in our book!



Click the big red button to register for the 2016 Annual Conference opening on September 22nd and running through noon on the 25th, in Spokane, Washington. The conference is the most popular and anticipated activity of the VGEC every year - please join us! Register before midnight PST on June 30 to be entered in a drawing to win a $200.00 Apple gift card.




Abstract: A story of long, dedicated service to a 100+ year-old parish church in Pennsylvania. A story of inspired leadership. A story of a heart for humanity and heart-felt recognition of one of God's most faithful servants.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

VGEC Board Meets in Spokane for 2016 September Conference Preview

VGEC Board of Directors meeting in Spokane (L to R) Michael Sanchez, "Duke" DuTeil, Dallas Hawkins (2016 VGEC Conference Chair), Vyonne Carter-Johnson, Scott Smith, Barry Norris, Richard Parker, Cheryl Lee Cantrall

By Richard Parker, Secretary to the VGEC Board of Directors

The VGEC Board of Directors met in Spokane Washington on April 14-15 for its mid-year meeting and to review the plans for the 2016 Annual Conference. The meeting was hosted by the vergers of the Cathedral of St. John The Evangelist the host parish for the conference this year.

Cathedral Head Verger Dallas Hawkins met us at the historic Davenport Hotel in downtown Spokane on Thursday. The hotel staff told us some of the history of the building and showed us the rooms we will use during our stay in September. The hotel was built in 1914 and has been completely renovated. Attendees of the conference in September will no doubt be amazed at this historic hotel.

After the hotel tour, the board convened a business session to review the agenda for its meeting on Friday. We then walked just a few blocks to the Guilded Unicorn - an appropriately named restaurant for the Vergers Guild - for dinner. There we met and dined on extremely tasty shared small plates with vergers from the Cathedral. It was a great time of fellowship for the board and the host committee.

The board meeting was held at the Cathedral on Friday. Dallas met with the board again, and along with several members of his team, reviewed the plans for the Annual Conference. The board went over each planned event for the conference. The times for the breakout sessions were also discussed. The conference host committee has done an excellent job in organizing the entire conference. Please review the planned events in the online agenda for complete details.

Next we toured the Cathedral and the meeting rooms. Plans were finalized for the Sunday service. Our former Presiding Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori, will be our guest and keynote speaker and she will celebrate on Sunday. Dallas showed us the vesting area and the procession path. The board then enjoyed lunch served by the host committee. Most meals for the conference will be in the Great Hall of the Cathedral which is a fantastic location!

After lunch, the board met in another business session to further discuss business items. The board heard various committee reports and talked about some upcoming ideas and priorities. One significant change will be in the Guild Shop. For several years, the shop has been run on the web as an Amazon web store. Amazon has announced that they would be closing their web store system and that shopify.com was their migration partner for new web stores. So beginning in May, the Guild Shop will have a new look and a new home. Stay tuned for more news on that soon!

As the shadows lengthened and the evening approached, the board ended its business and prepared for the evening meal. Dallas and his wife Kathy along with Cathedral Verger and Sr. Warden, Bob Stevens, hosted the board in the Hawkins' condo community room for a wonderful meal and good Episcopal fellowship.

As the day concluded, the board felt very secure in the knowledge that the 2016 Annual Conference will be a great event for all who attend.

Please make your plans and reservations to be in Spokane. You will not be disappointed!



Looking forward, Terry Hughes, chair of our Annual Conference Committee sends this important update on planning for future Annual Conferences:

Have you, your church, parish or diocese ever considered hosting a Vergers Guild Annual Conference? The Annual VGEC Conference is a wonderful opportunity for learning and fellowship with fellow vergers and the Guild is always looking for new locations throughout the United States and Canada to hold the conference.

We are currently accepting inquiries or proposals for the years 2019, 2020 2021 and beyond!

The VGEC has an Annual Conference Committee and is developing a VGEC Annual Conference Planning Guide. Annual Conference committee members are available to assist you and answer any questions you may have regarding hosting a conference.

Over the past few years the conferences have been hosted in larger cities and cathedrals with much fanfare. The Guild would like to see some smaller churches and parishes apply to host a conference too. If your town or city is within reasonable distance to an international airport and if you have a church that would hold 200-250 people, a local hotel with sufficient rooms for 150 -200 people, and space to hold the general meeting, seminars and a banquet, we would love to hear from you.

Your local Tourism Board/Chamber of Commerce is a great resource for providing you with the names of local hotels and banquet facilities as well as information on local attractions for vergers and attendees to visit.

If you are interested and are attending the 2016 Annual Conference in Spokane, please approach a member the VGEC Board or you can contact Terry Hughes, chair of the Annual Conference Committee through e-mail at [email protected].



Click the big red button to register for the 2016 Annual Conference opening on September 22nd and running through noon on the 25th, in Spokane, Washington. Register by midnight PST on June 30, 2016, to be eligible for the drawing for a $ 200 Apple card! The conference is the most popular and anticipated activity of the VGEC every year - please join us!






Abstract: Your VGEC Board of Directors is working on final plans for the 2016 Annual Conference, hosted by Dallas Hawkins, committee chair, the vergers of Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Spokane, Washington and the parishes of the Diocese of Spokane. Read about the Board meeting held in Spokane this past week...and an overview on how to host a VGEC Conference at your parish.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Verger Commissioning in Hawaii

The Very Rev. Walter Brownridge, Dean of St. Andrew's Cathedral in Honolulu, with Duke DuTeil representing the VGEC after the installation of Roth Puahala as Head Verger and Ann Hansen as Assistant Verger on April 3rd.  Photo by Susan Hays
By Claude “Duke” DuTeil, VGEC Training Advisor.

On Sunday, April 3rd, two new vergers were commissioned at the Cathedral of Saint Andrew in Honolulu, Hawaii.  Roth Puahala was commissioned as Head Verger and Ann Hansen was commissioned as Assistant Verger.  Both Roth and Ann are members of the Hawaiian congregation and serve at both Hawaiian and English services at the Cathedral. They join the more than 1800 members of the Vergers Guild of the Episcopal Church serving in churches across the United States, Canada and several other countries.  Notice Roth’s verger regalia in the photo. The ceremonial tapa-like kihei (Hawaiian one-shoulder cape) that he is wearing he dyed and made himself.

I was blessed to be present and represent the Guild at this commissioning service because I was in town visiting grand kids over spring break. I also serve, along with the Dean, on the Board of Directors of a non-profit homeless ministry founded by my father in Hawaii 38 years ago.

Have you been commissioned at your congregation?  If not, talk it over with your Rector, Vicar, Dean, or Priest in Charge. The Guild has a sample commissioning service, on our website, in the Document Library, that can be used in its entirety, or you and your clergy are welcome to adapt or modify it to meet the specific circumstances and liturgical style of your congregation. The Guild can also provide a commissioning certificate to be presented to commemorate the event. A request for a commissioning certificate should be sent to either the Guild’s Membership Committee at [email protected] or the Training Advisor at [email protected]. We would need the name of the individuals being commissioned and the date of the service.  The certificate will be sent to you in a printable PDF.

Depending on the date and location of your commissioning, a member of the Board of Directors of the Guild would like to be present. Members of your board are scattered around the country and will travel modestly to attend if their schedule permits. Should a board member not be able to attend, any member of the Guild can represent the VGEC and present the commissioning certificate as a reminder of the love and support of your colleagues in the Vergers Guild of the Episcopal Church

Vergers and clergy have questioned whether an individual needs to complete the training course in order to be commissioned a verger in their congregation. Let me clear this up; you are a verger when your Rector, Vicar, Dean, or Priest in Charge says you are! The training course is a valuable tool that can help you in your ministry but it is not a requirement for being a verger. There are currently 1,891 active members in the Vergers Guild. Of those, 365 have completed the training course, becoming "Fellows of the Guild". For more information the training course, see vergers.org/training.



Click the big red button to register for the 2016 Annual Conference opening on September 22nd and running through noon on the 25th, in Spokane, Washington. The conference is the most popular and anticipated activity of the VGEC every year - please join us!




Abstract:  How does one become "commissioned" as a verger? Duke DuTeil, VGEC Training Advisor, reports on a commissioning service in Honolulu, Hawaii and details the framework for a commissioning service.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Spokane Annual Conference: Update


Former Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori will be the Keynote Speaker for the 28th Annual Conference of the Vergers' Guild of the Episcopal Church in Spokane, Washington. Photo: Magnus Aronson/IKON

By Michael Sanchez, VGEC Board Member and Dallas Hawkins, Host Committee Chair for the 2016 VGEC Annual Conference

We broke the news last week that Former Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori will be headlining as our Keynote Speaker at the VGEC 2016 Annual Conference in Spokane. Since this announcement, we decided to catch everyone up on the latest from the sure-to-be stellar Spokane conference.

The Right Rev. Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori's Keynote Address will be entitled, "Ordered for Freedom." How does the ministry of vergers offer creative possibility through setting boundaries? What does this form of leadership have to do with seasons of transition – in liturgy, ecclesial leadership, community life, and beyond? It will be a unique, thought-provoking look at our ministry through the eyes of a former Presiding Bishop, who knows vergers, and it is not to be missed!

The Very Rev. Bill Ellis, Cathedral Dean, will be speaking at a session on Friday regarding the history of the founding and building of St. John's Cathedral, the only English Gothic building in North American built during one generation. Bill Ellis is a historian by education and is looking forward to providing an interesting multi-media presentation.

Dallas wants everyone to rest assured that his team will provide reduced fare shuttle van service between the airport and hotel on Thursday, Friday, and Sunday. Pick up times will be based on flight and arrival times provided by vergers wishing to utilize this service. Final arrangements are still being made, so keep on the lookout for more details.

Vergers who wish to put on the ritz and rent a formal suit or tux at a specially arranged reduced price for the Saturday evening banquet can do so by contacting Mr. Tux with your size and other measurements. A tux will be ready for you Saturday afternoon for pick up right across the street from the hotel. Go to www.mr-tux.com or call them to place your order at (800) 678-8948. Be sure to let them know you are with the VGEC.

For those who enjoy exploring Spokane, there will be some free time during the weekend to explore downtown Spokane and some of its award winning wineries as well as the resort town of Coeur d'Alene Idaho. Detailed options will be provided.

There will be some live musical entertainment during the weekend which will be a surprise to conference attendees. You won't want to miss it!

Finally, we will offer plenty of good quality nutritious food and snack options during the conference with selections available for those with dietary restrictions and food allergies. Breakfast and snack items, coffee tea, juice and other beverage choices will be provided every day.

Dallas and his team are working on making this the best conference yet! There are still many, many details to come, but we hope that this glimpse into the outstanding work that they're doing will entice you to register now for what will be an unforgettable weekend of prayer, learning, fellowship, and fun.



Click the big red button to register for the 2016 Annual Conference opening on September 22nd and running through noon on the 25th, in Spokane, Washington. The conference is the most popular and anticipated activity of the VGEC every year - please join us!




Abstract:  2016 Annual Conference Host Committee Chair Dallas Hawkins shares with the VGEC some of the latest and greatest news from his team's preparations for the upcoming Annual Conference in Spokane.  

Friday, April 1, 2016

Ordaining a Priest from a Verger Point of View

The Right Rev. Andrew (Andy) C. Doyle, Bishop of the Diocese of Texas, ordaining the Rev. Gena Davis in 2010 as fellow clergy support her at Trinity Episcopal Church in Baytown, TX

By Eileen Brightwell Hicks, FVGEC, Trinity Episcopal Church, Baytown, Texas

I have been fortunate to serve in various capacities at three ordinations of priests during the past ten years at Trinity Episcopal Church, Baytown Texas. These are huge transitional moments in the life of priests and I felt very privileged to have been asked to use my verger skills to help facilitate the seminal services.

Previously I had attended a couple of bishop consecrations here in the Diocese of Texas but was never involved in the liturgy except to once carry our church banner in procession. There were not vested vergers at either of the liturgies that I attended but I was determined and hopeful to be a vested verger at the priest ordinations to be held back home in my parish. All three ordination services were richly rewarding in their own ways for my growth as a verger.

Trinity currently averages less than 200 worshipers attending our two Sunday services: one traditional and one with more contemporary music. As a parish we’ve been around more than 80 years. Eventually we could no longer afford a full time assistant rector so, The Reverend Nick Novak, our rector for 15 years, applied to the Diocese of Texas to join the "mentoring program," now known as the "curate program," in which the diocese pays half of the compensation package for the curate while the mentoring parish picks up the other half, with the understanding the curate will serve two years at that church.

Our three curates came to us, over time, with very different approaches for planning and executing worship. They arrived as transitional deacons from two different seminaries. Thankfully the first curate planned everything including a detailed rehearsal the day before the ordination in 2010. The Very Rev. Russ Oechsel, Archdeacon in the Diocese of Texas, ran the rehearsal and was kind enough to include me in planning the processions, seating arrangements, and many other details. I took notes, listened, and learned. The service was beautiful and seamless. The archdeacon was on top of every detail as the service unfolded. The Rev. Gena Davis spent three months that summer trying out every possible Eucharistic service. Our congregation and vergers learned much about incense, sanctus bells, and our Book of Common Prayer. It was fun for the vergers trying to keep up with her!

About two years later we welcomed our next curate, the Rev. John Soard. The Master of Ceremonies for his ordination in 2012 was a seminary friend who had his own plan for the liturgy. In fact he told me, “Once the service starts, you can’t do anything about something that goes wrong.” There was no rehearsal. I had not worked with an MC and was a bit shocked with his comment and the fact that once the entering procession started the MC nonchalantly took his place with the other presbyters. Several times things almost ground to a halt but with my previous experience I was able to anticipate those moments and help minimize the damage.

In 2014, as the ordination date was announced for curate Beccy Smith Booth, now our Assistant Priest, I offered help in planning and executing her ordination and she graciously accepted. Among other things, I created the seating chart and organized the processions for her to review. Because of all the out of town participants, we had a rehearsal two hours before the service. This ordination allowed me to take on a major role confidently and I was grateful for my previous experiences.

As stipulated by Article VIII of the Constitution of the Episcopal Church, each candidate is required to sign The  Declaration (of Conformity). The Right Rev. Andy Doyle, Bishop of Texas, always has a bit of fun with this, especially the "...obey your bishop" line. The Bishop says to the ordinand "Will you be loyal to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of Christ as this Church has received them? And will you, in accordance with the canons of this Church, obey your bishop and other ministers who may have authority over you and your work?" Answer, "I am willing and ready to do so; and I solemnly declare that I do believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God, and to contain all things necessary to salvation; and I do solemnly engage to conform to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of The Episcopal Church." The rubrics state, The Ordinand then signs the above Declaration in the sight of all present. (BCP  pp 526-527)

In 2010, as we prepared for the first ordination, there was much discussion how and where the ordinand would sign the declaration. Look around your altar area. How much horizontal space do you have? Our altar rail is about 6"wide but this declaration is a large document. The second ordinand and his MC did not believe me when I tried to coach to him about the need for a pen and a flat surface on which to sign his declaration. Just before the service started the Canon to the Ordinary provided clear guidance on the matter, and I produced the same small table we used at the first ordination and a pen from my purse. For the third ordination I told the ordinand exactly where the Bishop wanted the table and gave her a pen. She did try to re-position the table but Bishop Doyle had me move it back to the original location. This signed declaration is a very important part of any ordination and our bishop keeps his eyes on it!

Our time with the curate program is coming to a close as our rector is retiring in April. If you are lucky enough to be part of a program mentoring new priests, look forward to wonderful opportunities to explain and show them what vergers can do to help them be free to preach and teach and attend to pastoral care of the parish. I do not know what the future holds for vergers at Trinity, Baytown, but many in the congregation are looking to the vergers to keep the Sunday services “normal” as we start the process of calling a new priest. I look forward with eager anticipation to this new phase in my verger ministry. And, in a couple of years, I hope to be able to help verge at a service celebrating a new ministry.



Click the big red button to register for the 2016 Annual Conference opening on September 22nd and running through noon on the 25th, in Spokane, Washington. The conference is the most popular and anticipated activities of the VGEC every year - please join us!




Abstract: Many of us have served at an ordination. Some have taken part in a consecration service for a new Bishop. What if ordinations occurred in your parish church on a fairly frequent interval? Where would you find guidance on assisting the ordinand and attending clergy plan for the event? Eileen Brightwell Hicks, verger at Trinity Episcopal Church, Baytown, TX, became a seasoned verger/planner for ordination services in a relatively short period of time. See if what she learned may come in handy in your ministry in the future.





Friday, March 25, 2016

Re-imagining "The Way of the Cross"


By The Reverend Canon Matthew Corkern, VGEC Chaplain 

John Cassian (360-435 AD) wrote in The Conferences:
To cling always to God and to the things of God –
this must be our major effort,
this must be the road that the heart follows unswervingly.

Our ministries as vergers, sacristans and priests of the Church converge each Sunday and at the great High Feasts to heighten the senses of the witnesses participating, in the walk within the footsteps of our Blessed Lord. With mutual guidance and attendance to the perpetual mysteries and endless cyclical celebrations in The Episcopal Church and across the Anglican Communion, we journey along ‘the road that the heart follows unswervingly.’ Especially in Holy Week, we seek to invite and accompany others wishing to participate in the Storied Good News highlighted by The Way of the Cross.

About a decade ago, a colleague at the cathedral in Nashville invented a ‘Sacred Space for the City’ First Friday Series. Amazingly, this series eventually fell with the First Friday on the same date of Good Friday 2006. Undaunted, Canon Anne Stevenson planned a liturgy highlighting ‘The Way of the Cross’ with stations crafted by artists from the congregation. Since this extraordinary evening, my sense of Holy Week has never been the same. Here at Calvary Church in Summit, New Jersey, where I serve as rector – of course outside of my duties as your chaplain – I worked with our Sacristan-Verger Guild to implement a yearly remembrance of the Stations by which Jesus of Nazareth traveled to the hill of Calvary almost 2000 years ago.

Historically and theologically speaking, Pilgrims to the Holy Land from the earliest times visited the sites where, as far as they could discover, the events of the Gospels had occurred, and there were devotional processions from one to another. So a route was worked out from the supposed site of Pilate’s house to Calvary (Golgotha], and pilgrims would make stations or stopping-points to pray and sing hymns at intervals on the way. The present route developed slowly, but returning pilgrims encouraged by 14th/15th century Franciscan friars, marked out incidents experienced by Jesus on the Via Dolorosa [Way of the Cross] as he made his way towards His Crucifixion. Over the centuries, the stations were exported to churches around the world with emphasis on “reliving the Passion events not merely as acts of prayer, but of identification and imagination.” And so an art-form of plain wooden crosses or painted scenes placed along the nave, or meditation sites in the church garden developed to provide both communal and individual opportunities to walk and identify with Jesus at his most vulnerable point as a human. Consequently, regardless of place and time, “worshipers can walk themselves into Jerusalem, into the central story of Christianity.”

This Lent – indeed at the heart of Holy Week – we journey back in remembrance of Good Friday to continue the tradition of witnessing Our Lord’s death by walking his path.  The Way of the Cross – sometimes called Stations-of-the-Cross – is a simple devotion whose origins can be clearly traced to the Crusades. It consists of a spiritual retracing of the journey of Jesus to the cross and is a reflection of the customs that surround the telling of the same story in Jerusalem. Traditionally, there are fourteen stops (stations); eight based on events directly recorded in the Gospels and six (#3, 4, 6, 7, 9, and 13) on related events or pious legends.

1. Jesus is condemned to death
2. Jesus receives the cross
3. Jesus falls for the first time
4. Jesus meets his Mother
5. Simon of Cyrene is made to carry the cross
6. Veronica wipes Jesus’ face
7. Jesus falls for the second time
8. Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem
9. Jesus falls for the third time
10. Jesus is stripped
11. Jesus is nailed to the cross
12. Jesus dies on the cross
13. His body is taken down from the cross
14. Jesus’ body is laid in the tomb

Retracing my communal thoughts and personal longings that rest in a simple confluence of a First Friday and Good Friday years ago, I invited Canon Stevenson to be at Calvary Church this year as our Anglican-Leader-in-residence for the week leading to Easter Sunday. Parishioners have created their own stations of art. An ensemble of cello, oboe, flute and harpsichord led by a Cantor will create an environment to subtly allow the congregation to transcend for an hour with sacred chants interspersed with holy prayers and readings. Our holy space awaits a few hours to welcome and renew.

As we follow Jesus on His Way to Calvary, we see ourselves mirrored in Him – facing life’s dark side with images of life and love to come. I invite you this Holy Week and in the years to come, to ponder anew how The Way of the Cross might yet transform and heighten your congregations’ experiences to embrace the path of Jesus and follow unswervingly.



Click the big red button to register for the 2016 Annual Conference opening on September 22nd and running through noon on the 25th, in Spokane, Washington. The conference is the most popular and anticipated activities of the VGEC every year - please join us!




Abstract: Re-imagining "The Way of the Cross" and how deep reflection on it can transform and heighten our experience in embracing the path of Jesus and how we and our congregations can, therefore, follow it unswervingly. Our VGEC Chaplain, The Reverend Matthew Corkern, Rector at Calvery Church, Summit, N.J. leads us on Christ's path.