Welcome to the Vergers Voice, the official news blog of the Vergers Guild of the Episcopal Church. Also known as the VGEC, we are located on the web at vergers.org and facebook.com/vergerguild the #1 online resources for vergers world-wide.

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Saturday, December 23, 2017

Advent 4 and Christmas Eve, Oh My!

The Advent wreath with three lighted candles juxtaposed with the Christmas trees just does not quite look right...

By Scott Smith, VGEC President and Head Sacristan, Trinity Church Wall Street, New York, [email protected]

Editor's note: While we were working on this topic, the Episcopal New Service posted, "Churches face liturgical 'conundrum' with Christmas Eve falling on Advent IV" which is a really good post, so check it out.

2006 was the most recent year the Fourth Sunday of Advent and Christmas Eve fell on the same day. In 2017 we have such a year, as we will also have in 2023, 2028, and 2034. Yes, there are nerds among us who track these things.

The gang here at the Vergers Voice blog are wondering what our membership, filled with active participants in the liturgical planning of our parishes, are doing in preparation for this particularly busy Sunday and Monday. So we asked you! We sent out a Mail Chimp email to 1,995 members. We were thrilled to hear from many of you who took the time to reply. Here's a generous sample of the replies:

From Tony J. Faught, St. Edmund's Episcopal Church, San Marino, California

Christmas is always an exciting time at Church and something I always look forward to. With Advent 4 and Christmas Eve falling on the same day, it does add to my already hectic duties. I am not only Verger of my Parish I am also LEM, Lector, Usher, Hospitality and I belong to the Bell Choir. Coordinating four services for one day is exhausting but joyous work. I am finding that the most difficult duty is trying to gather my teenage Acolytes for each service. Gathering a handful for morning services has proven to be pretty easy, gathering a full Acolyte corps for each of the 2 evening services has proven much more difficult. With perseverance I managed to complete my task with 3 adult volunteers to fill in the gaps for the late service. It will be with great pride when I see the fruits of my labor come to fruition Christmas Eve as we celebrate the birth of our Savior.

From Hank Williams, Christ Church Cathedral, Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada

We here in eastern Canada are doing probably what a great number of others are doing i.e. scaling back the number of services. We already have a weekly service at 8:00 a.m, 10:00 a.m. and 11:45 a.m. which would make Christmas eve extremely hectic with the yearly 4:00 p.m., 8:00 p.m., and 11:00 p.m. services. We will have only a 10:00 a.m. service on Christmas eve morning and the other three that evening. This will be followed by the usual 10:00 a.m. on Christmas morning. Thank goodness that Boxing Day is a statutory holiday here!

From Geoff Brown, Trinity Lime Rock in the Diocese of Connecticut

First off, instead of having our Christmas Pageant on 4 Advent we had it on 3 Advent this year. This may upset some, but attached is a photo of our acolytes heading out in the Gospel procession. You’ll note that they are not in any usual kind of vestments – these are their costumes for the pageant which follows the Gospel. It was unintentional, but I see that we managed this year to have Advent Blue vestments without spending an extra dime! Somehow the costumes, at least for these three, were at least variants on Advent Blue. (note that the altar, however, is not). We’re handling the Advent 4 – Christmas eve conundrum this year as follows: Sunday 8 AM Holy Eucharist – straight Advent 4. Sunday 10:30 AM Holy Eucharist – begins as Advent 4 with lighting the Advent wreath, but morphs into the family Christmas eve service. Altar will be white, and acolytes will be in red cassocks (pretty much their favorites, and they wear them only 3x per year: Christmas, Palm Sunday, and Pentecost) with white cottas. None of them will fit from last year, so we will have some vesting confusion. We have a seven year old as Lector and a nine year old as Epistler that day. (actually, they are both really good and expressive readers, and recognize that this is a relatively big deal so they will be prepared. Even if I have to pull up a kneeler so they can get up to the level of the lectern). Sunday 6 PM Holy Eucharist – straight Christmas Eve. We will have a lot of photos at facebook.com/trinitylimerock.

From Shirley Pardon, St. Philips in Coral Gables, Florida.

We seem to be luckier than most at St. Philips in Coral Gables, Florida.
  • The Altar Guild functions brilliantly.
  • The flowers are delivered by the local florist - already arranged.
  • Verger's only needed for one service - the late one.
  • Everything else is organized and run by the Rector.
  • Then we stand around the fountain after the midnight service, drinking champagne in the courtyard.
So no sweat at our church!!! Merry Christmas to all Vergers. I will be thinking of you all in your churches.

From Scott Smith, Trinity Church Wall Street, New York City

Of course as VGEC president I replied! So let me say that, just like everyone else, this is definitely a crammed 30 hour period. I'm not sure if I like it better having everything at the same time or not. There is something in me that says it's better to get it all over with at once, but I really should think about that feeling before I promote it. At Trinity Church, we have long decided that it is virtually impossible to adequately communicate to everyone (parishioners, staff, and most importantly in this case, the public) changes to our normal Sunday and weekday schedule of our services. So, we never even thought about reducing the number of Advent 4 services that we were having, and that gave all of our communications a well defined clarity about them. With Advent being on then we had to decide about the Christmas Pageant. Lord have mercy, this was already complicated and now it's getting worse. So at our normal 9:15am Family Service at St. Paul's Chapel on Advent 4, we plopped the Christmas Pageant there, so in fact we decided to cheat a little right from the start. Everything else we pretty much left the same. The biggest impact this has had is that Trinity Church has to stay in Advent mode until after the 11:15am service and jump to Christmas by 6pm, and St. Paul's Chapel has 8am Advent 4 in full blown Christmas decorations and continues with the pageant and the Family Christmas Eve Eucharist at 4pm and so on. This is not that interesting, so I'll stop right here! I will add that just like everyone reading this, the biggest challenge we have faced here is scheduling the 321 people for all of the 9 services that we have in the 30 hours from Advent 4 to Christmas Day. That's a lot of people! To see our online rota for that period, click HERE.

From Annette Baker, St. Gregory's Episcopal Church, Boca Raton, Florida

When sending out our schedule to everyone, I sent the following note and had a few people respond and try to help with the load:
Hello everyone, ​Below and attached is the schedule for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (Farther below, I've also attached December 24th 8am and 10am services that are Advent 4 services and were sent out previously). With so many services and so many of us traveling for the holiday, you may see on the schedule that many people are doing double, triple, or even quadruple duty. We truly appreciate your time and willingness to serve! If by chance, you aren't on the schedule and would like to serve, can you please let me know?
Also thinking about sending a note out enticing volunteers with Christmas cookies in the acolyte room between services - food seems to always attract! Another thing I asked is that the altar guild (who is also running thin) make sure and rinse all of our vessels that are used on the credence table in the piscina because with so few of us on the altar, the vergers will also have to be lay Eucharistic ministers and will be unable to clean the vessels right after the Eucharist as is normal in our service. Just a few thoughts....

From Jim Parks, St. James Marietta, Georgia

With Advent 4 and the Christmas Eve services together we will be having a total of 7 services at St.James Marietta as well as a 10:00 on Christmas morning. We always use two Vergers for our major services and usually only one during the regular services. That means on Christmas Eve I will have used a total of 11 vergers on that day plus one Christmas Day... No doubt we will all be worn out when it's over but that just comes with the territory. Just glad we are all able to serve.

From David Phillips, Christ and St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Norfolk, Virginia

We are preparing for 4th Advent for the 10:15AM service, the annual children’s pageant at 4PM, and the Christmas Eve Festal Eucharist with Beginning at 9:30 PM with the Women of the Choir singing A CEREMONY OF CAROLS, OP. 28 by Benjamin Britten (1913-1976); Barbara Chapman, harp. We have a cadre of 5 Volunteer Vergers, 4 of whom will serve in these services: 1 at 4th Advent, 2 at each of the Festal Eucharists. Brass was polished by a team of volunteers last Saturday, the Altar and Flower Guilds will be in high gear with all teams collaborating to do the changeover from 4th Advent to Christmas Eve on Sunday afternoon. College students returning for the holidays will also participate as Acolytes and Servers. We are particularly fortunate to have as our guest Presider and Preacher, The Right Reverend Doctor James B. Magness. These services will also mark the end of 50 years of service for our organ, which will be packed up and sent away for repair and rebuilding during the coming year. It is anticipated to return for Christmas Eve 2018.

From Ernie Mainland, Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Petoskey, Michigan

Ours is a small parish in northern Michigan. If we all showed up at the same time, we might have 300 souls. But it is likely that we will have no more than 150 at the largest of four services on Advent IV and Christmas Eve. A our priest is also going to a neighboring parish that has no priest, he will no doubt be totally exhausted. I am doing the Christmas Day service, ten in the morning, where we will be lucky to have a dozen folks. The liturgy is based on my great grandfather’s BCP of 1874. There will be no communion since we will be celebrating the birth of Jesus, not remembering the Last Supper. We will follow that BCP right up to the consecration paragraphs using the lectionary from the same book. The readings are appropriate for the birth, including Isaiah 9:6, Matthew 2:1 and finally John 1:1. The “sermon” will be Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s Christmas Message of 2016. We will follow the service with birthday cake and a suitable beverage. The three gifts will also be on display: gold, frankincense and myrrh.

From Donald Wertz, All Saints' Episcopal Church, Austin, Texas

We persuaded the Rector to celebrate only the first Service on Sunday to observe Advent IV so the Altar guild will have time to change hangings, arrange poinsettias, etc.

From John Whitaker, Christ Church Cathedral, Nashville, Tennessee

Our Dean has come up with a brilliant solution! The Advent IV service will be held at a special Saturday evening service, to fulfil that obligation. Sunday, the 24th will proceed as a usual Christmas Eve; that is, we will not have any of the regular Sunday morning services, but will have our customary Christmas Eve Services at 12:15 p.m., 4:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. Christmas will see our usual 10 a.m. service (very low key). This will allow the Altar Guild and Flower Guild perform their usual magic, Saturday morning. So minimum stress and change, this year! Merry Christmas!

From Bill Cox, St. John's Episcopal Church, Austin, Texas

We typically have three services on Sundays - two services in English in the morning and one in Spanish in the early afternoon. On Christmas Eve, we typically have two services - a bilingual family-oriented Eucharist in the early evening that includes a children’s pageant and a late “midnight mass” service where we pull out all the stops - full choir, additional brass and woodwind instrumentalists, congregational candles, and so forth. This upcoming Sunday, we will merge the two liturgical days by having a single service for Advent IV in the morning. After the service, we will have a simple lunch that we are using as a bribe to get people to help us decorate the church for Christmas. We switch from Sarum Blue for Advent to Celebration White for Christmas, and we break out all the poinsettias, wreaths, and other finery that have been quietly waiting in the sacristy. The evening services are as usual for Christmas Eve—a bilingual children’s pageant at 5:00 PM, Choral presentation at 10:30 PM, and the Celebration Eucharist at 11:00 PM. We then have another Eucharist on Christmas Morning; sadly this service is sparsely attended. After that, there is a slight bit of rest for the weary - at least until we prepare for the Feast of St. John the Evangelist, our namesake Saint, a few days later.

From Charles Miller, The Church of the Resurrection, Vineland, New Jersey

Being that there is no Trinity Episcopal or Saint Andrews here in Cumberland County, New Jersey, and being that the two parishes are worshiping as The Church of the Resurrection (Episcopal), the Christmas services are going to be a bit different this year. We are starting Sunday morning service as usual at 10:00 AM at our rented site in Millville, New Jersey. After that service we will set the Church up for the 10:00 PM service, then as soon as that service is over we load up and move everything to Saint Andrews in Bridgeton for the 10:00 service Christmas day. Then we load everything up and take it back to our rented Church in Millville.

From Andrew Eastman, Church of the Holy Comforter, Vienna, Virginia

At our parish (~1,800 members) we are fortunate to have six vergers, which allows us to spread the load. Our interim rector made the decision to observe Advent 4 at our Saturday 5:00 pm service this year. That allows us to focus our attention fully on the Christmas Eve liturgy on Sunday. Our vergers have been in place for a minimum of three years, with some in their position for over a decade so it is not our first Christmastide. While we can’t eliminate the stress of the season completely, we reduce it as much as possible by planning, reflecting on how we have conducted the services in previous years, and meeting as a team with the clergy, minister of music, altar guild and lay liturgist coordinator to review the liturgies in the week prior. Planning is the key. We begin in August by coordinating verger and lay liturgist schedules, then in early November we solicit acolyte volunteers from our 60+ member acolyte team. Where training is needed, we conduct it a few weeks in advance. Assignments for the service are communicated and confirmed five days in advance. Vergers and clergy meet three days in advance to review the service in detail and review assignments. Service bulletins are distributed electronically. Acolytes, lay liturgists and verger arrive 30-60 minutes in advance of the service to review what will occur. All these steps help to ensure we are prepared and hopefully have a low stress Christmas.

From Gary Mason, St. Paul's Church Englewood, New Jersey

Yes it is a busy time for all of us. We at St. Paul's Englewood NJ are having a Greening of the Church on Saturday morning. On Advent 4 we are having Morning Payer at our 8:00am and 10:30am services. At 5:00pm we are having a Jazz Mass and at 10:30 pm we will have Carols followed by a Choral Candle Lit Mass at 11:00pm.

From Corrine Hilton Hofstetter, St, Aiden's Episcopal Church, Alpharetta, Georgia

First of all, Happy Holidays to all ! May you be blessed this season! The four vergers at St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church are rejoicing with our parish the installation of The Rev. Reginald Simmons as our new Rector on December 17! Due to the recent power outage at the Altanta airport, our guest preacher could not be with us so Bp. Wright stepped up to fill in with an inspirational presentation. A great day for all involved! On behalf of Cozy Ledford, Becky Sullivan, Bob Stetcher, and myself, we hope that you will have the pleasure of meeting Fr. Reggie soon! God Bless!

From David Nolan, Christ Episcopal Church, Deposit, New York

With the season being very busy unable to get to my inbox until today. The Flower Guild has completed their work. The list is provided by the Treasurer and purchase is done thru the Lions Club which provides poinsettias. I will be assisting Altar Guild tomorrow. No Service Sunday a.m. Two services in the evening. One at 7:00 p.m. and one at 11:00 p.m. I will be multitasking at these. Verger, reader, Lay Eucharistic Minister, and thurifer. Merry Christmas and May God Bless all.

Did you know that you can submit your own story about the verger ministry for possible inclusion in the Vergers Voice blog?

We are always looking for interesting topics, ideas, and creative ways of demonstrating the power and enjoyment of being part of the fellowship of the VGEC and our ministry of service.

If you have any ideas, or if you would like to take your turn at writing a post and sharing ideas, send them to [email protected]!

Abstract: Take notes on Sunday, December 24, 2017, because we get to celebrate the 4th Sunday of Advent and Christmas Eve together again in 2023, a mere six years away. Here are how some of our fellow vergers are hoping to celebrate. Merry Christmas from the Vergers Voice!

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Advent 3, Gaudete Sunday, Joy, Rose/Pink Vestments/Candles, and Penitence: What's it all About Anyway?

When asked about Gaudete Sunday, Duke DuTeil, Training Advisor for the VGEC, replied with this!

By Various Members of the VGEC, [email protected]

As we all know, today we celebrate the Third Sunday in Advent. Did you notice that the collect of the day begins with "Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us..."? Did you know that Advent 3 is often referred to as "Stir up Sunday"? Perhaps your service of Advent 3 began with the introit "Gaudete in Domino semper, iterum dico gaudete" in Latin, translated as "Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I say rejoice!" and is often referred to as "Gaudete Sunday"? Does your advent wreath have blue or purple or white candles? Do you have a pink candle for Advent 3? Do you have a white Christ candle in the middle of the wreath? Does your parish use blue vestments in Advent? Purple? Something else? Do you have pink vestments for Advent 3? Does your parish treat the season of Advent as a penitential season similar to Lent?

OK, enough of this. We asked several members of the VGEC to chime in on some of these questions and this is the result. Enjoy! Or disagree! But please comment about your own thoughts and experiences in the provided comments section below or on Facebook at facebook.com/vergerguild.

First we wanted to point out a few resources that might be helpful to sort out our ideas about Advent if you have time. Some of this is REALLY good.
Here is what a few members and others from around the VGEC and the Episcopal Church have to say about this:

From the Rev. Walt Kindergan, Associate Chaplain of the VGEC:

I have been thinking about this for a couple of days and so I offer some thoughts. Of course, you have already looked up the standard sources for "Gaudete' (rejoice) Sunday and so you have the history and reasoning behind this observance in the middle of Advent, which I find pleasant. We don't really consider Advent so much a penitential season any longer in any case.

In my role as a priest primarily engaged in pastoral care, I have become aware almost daily lately that many people are not finding joy in this season and are not looking forward to the joy of Christmas. The sister of a friend and parishioner died just this morning in hospice care and her death will overshadow any Christmas celebrations for that family this year, and perhaps in years to come. Another parishioner is in the hospital for 21 day for chemo treatments for leukemia and will spend Christmas there, wondering what the new year will bring. Yesterday I prayed with a family I encountered on a hospital visit, who is losing their husband/son to brain cancer. There will be presents missing under their tree this year. And there are so many others stories of those who mourn, or have addictions, or feel lost, and so on. You have heard those stories too.

And yet there is joy. Henri Nouwen wrote that joy and sorrow are never separated. "If we try to avoid sorrow at all costs, we may never taste joy, and if we are suspicious of ecstasy, agony can never reach us either. Joy and sorrow are the parents of our spiritual growth." (Henri Nouwen in Bread for the Journey). Joy, unlike happiness, he wrote elsewhere, is "the experience of knowing that you are unconditionally loved and that nothing -- sickness, failure, emotional distress, oppression, war, or even death -- can take that love away." (Henri Nouwen in The Heart of Henri Nouwen: His Words of Blessing).

So, in this season of Advent, we can - we must - all find that joy in knowing we are beloved children of God and that God has sent - is sending - and will send - his Son, Jesus to us to assure us that God is only love and love wins in the end.

Hope some of this is helpful.

From "About this Service" at Trinity Church Wall Street for the Third Sunday of Advent:

In the Episcopal Church, the third Sunday of Advent is sometimes called "Gaudete Sunday" or "Rose Sunday." Gaudete is the Latin word for "rejoice," and is the first word in the appointed Introit antiphon for the day, "Rejoice in the Lord always" (Philippians 4:4). Liturgical traditions associated with this day set it apart as a particularly joyful observance among the hopeful expectancy for Jesus' arrival. Rose-colored vestments may be worn instead of the blue or purple garments used during the remainder of the season; these same colors are also reflected in the candles adorning some Advent wreaths. The rose—a flower historically associated with the Virgin Mary in Western Christian art—actually symbolizes Jesus himself in the 16th-century German carol "Lo, how a rose e'er blooming," heard in two different iterations today.

From David Jette, Retired Verger at All Saints' Episcopal Church, Peterboro, New Hampshire

I gave a class on Advent/Christmas several times and although I thought I printed out all my notes I cannot locate them. I’ve got everything else but alas no Advent! And it’s my favorite season. Oh well...

Although it isn’t properly listed this way it’s Advent 4 that is sometimes referred to as “Mary Sunday.” I think this is so because the appointed Gospel for years B and C follows the narrative of the Annunciation in B and continues in C with the Visitation-both centered on Mary. In year A we get Matthew’s narrative of the birth of Jesus, more from the point of view of Joseph. Mary’s liturgical color is usually white not rose/pink. Vestments designed for Marian feasts are often adorned with lilies. Rose Sunday or Gaudete Sunday is Advent 3-is also called “stir up Sunday” from the opening of the proper collect of the day.

The rose candle in the Advent wreath is lighted on this Sunday. Often flowers adorn the altar area on this Sunday, perhaps pink roses. I maintain (and I know this is a minority position) that unless rose vestments are worn all candles at the Advent wreath should be violet or blue.

This day can be celebrated with frequent use of the word “rejoice” in hymns. The gospels appointed continue the John the Baptist narratives. Advent is not a penitential season or a variation on Lent.  Although the song of praise, Gloria in excelsis is usually omitted perhaps the Trisagion is more appropriate during Advent rather than the Kyrie. Alleluias are retained.

If possible vestments should be not be the same worn during Lent. If Lenten array is used during Lent, violet or blue during Advent is fine. However if violet is worn during Lent, blue during Advent adds a specialness to this unique season. Advent is a season of preparation for and expectation of the coming of the messiah both in the sense of his humble birth and his second coming in triumph as redeemer and judge. The hymns and appointed lessons for Advent emphasize the latter themes and serve less so as a prelude to Christmas.

The Advent wreath is a way to mark time as we await the end of time-again an underlining theme of Advent. For me, the great Charles Wesley hymn “Come, thou long expected Jesus” sums it up: "Come, thou long expected Jesus, born to set thy people free; from our fears and sins release us, let us find our rest in thee.  Born thy people to deliver born a child and yet a king, born to reign in us forever, now thy gracious kingdom bring.  By thine own eternal Spirit, rule in all our hearts alone; by thine all sufficient merit raise us to thy glorious throne.”

Hope this helps!

From David Deutsch, verger at St. Mark's Episcopal Church, Washington, DC:

My thoughts? First, a long quote from An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church: A User-Friendly Reference for Episcopalians, Don S. Armentrout, Robert Boak Slocum, editors (2000, Church Publishing, Inc.).
Gaudete Sunday. The third Sunday of Advent in the Roman Catholic calendar of the church year. The term is derived from the Latin opening words of the introit antiphon, “Rejoice (Gaudete) in the Lord always.” The theme of the day expresses the joy of anticipation at the approach of Christmas celebration. This theme reflects a lightening of the tone of the traditional Advent observance. It was appropriate for the celebrant of the Mass to wear rose-colored vestments on this day instead of the deeper violet vestment that were typically used in Advent. This Sunday was also known as “Rose Sunday.” This custom is not required in the Episcopal Church, but it is observed by some parishes with a traditional Anglo-catholic piety. This custom is reflected by the practice of including a pink or rose-colored candle among the four candles of an Advent wreath.
I hold this up as a good solid explanation of Rose Sunday. It emphasizes a critical principle of what we do in the Episcopal church: Much of our practice of liturgy is determined by the tradition of the particular parish church:

  • Do we stand or kneel for Communion? At St. Mark’s Capitol Hill, we stand.
  • Do we use all white candles in our Advent wreath? The Washington National Cathedral uses all white.
  • Does the priest wear violet vestments for Advent or the newer trendy Sarum Blue?
  • Is Advent a penitential season at our church, or is it more a season of waiting, preparation, expectation?
  • Is there a preference for the Rite 1 liturgy

One could go on. Needless to say, tradition plays a huge role in our parish church life. This makes it interesting for the verger, who often asks the question, “What is the correct way…?” Or, perhaps more challenging, attempts to answer that question.

A quick internet search does turn up some references to the third Sunday in Advent as Mary Sunday, but it is somewhat obscure and definitely does not seem to be part of the Episcopal/Anglican tradition. But, as mentioned above, some Episcopal parish churches may have had rectors that felt it fitting to celebrate the third Sunday as Mary Sunday, and Voila! That practice becomes part of the liturgical practice for Advent.

From the Rev. Matthew Corkern, VGEC Chaplain and Rector, Calvary Episcopal Church, Summit, New Jersey:

Gaudete: a poem by Brad Reynolds, S.J.
Because Christmas is almost here,
Because dancing fits so well with music,
Because inside baby clothes are miracles: Gaudete!
Because some people love you,
Because of chocolate,
Because pain does not last forever,
Because Santa Claus is coming: Gaudete!
Because of laughter,
Because there really are angels,
Because your fingers fit your hands,
Because forgiveness is yours for the asking,
Because of children,
Because of parents: Gaudete!
Because the blind see and the lame walk: Gaudete!
Because lepers are clean and the deaf hear: Gaudete!
Because the dead will live again,
Because there is good news for the poor: Gaudete!
Because of Christmas,
Because of Jesus,
You rejoice.
From the Rev. Canon James Callaway, General Secretary, Colleges & Universities of the Anglican Communion:

In Sarum use, the liturgical color blue distinguishes Advent as its own season of expectation, complete with Alleluias. In the Parson's Handbook, Percy Dearmer cautions, "...the tendency at the present day to make another Lent of Advent is much to be depreciated." In Roman usage the third Sunday of Advent is named "Gaudete" for the first word of the Introit from Philippians which became a parallel to Laetare, the refreshment inning in Lent's penitential rigors. In our post-Vatican II lectionary, however, the focus remains on John the Baptist for a second Sunday. Perhaps a little dab of pink could cheer old timers without changing the tone too much.

From Duke DuTeil, VGEC Training Advisor and Head Verger, St. Richard's Episcopal Church, Round Rock, Texas:

Did you know that you can submit your own story about the verger ministry for possible inclusion in the Vergers Voice blog?

We are always looking for interesting topics, ideas, and creative ways of demonstrating the power and enjoyment of being part of the fellowship of the VGEC and our ministry of service.

If you have any ideas, or if you would like to take your turn at writing a post and sharing ideas, send them to [email protected]!

Abstract: Today we celebrate the Third Sunday in Advent which is also known as "Gaudete Sunday" or "Stir up Sunday." What's up with that? We try to make a little sense out of all of this with a little humor thrown in for good measure. Please leave comments on this blog here in the Vergers Voice or at facebook.com/vergerguild.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Video Blog: The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry at the VGEC Annual Conference

The Keynote Presentations by the Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church was in a word: Inspiring!

By Scott Smith, VGEC President and Head Sacristan, Trinity Church Wall Street, New York, [email protected]

For many of the 230 vergers and 274 total Annual Conference attendees in Atlanta, the Friday events led by the Most Rev. Michael B. Curry at St. Luke's Episcopal Church were the major highlights of the weekend.

Over this week of Thanksgiving, take some time to watch each of the three videos below on VergerTV, the VGEC's Youtube channel. It will be time well spent!

You can post comments at the bottom of this page. If you feel led to do so, please write an essay about what you take away from these videos and send that to [email protected]. We may use those materials to compile a follow-up blog post.

A very special "Thank You!" goes out to Hala Hess White, Director of Communications at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church for her hard work in getting these videos prepared for us. We also appreciate the help of Lorie Tola who was Conference Liaison with St. Luke's during and after the conference. Without their help, this blog post would not be possible.

Did you know that you can submit your own story about the verger ministry for possible inclusion in the Vergers Voice blog?

We are always looking for interesting topics, ideas, and creative ways of demonstrating the power and enjoyment of being part of the fellowship of the VGEC and our ministry of service.

If you have any ideas, or if you would like to take your turn at writing a post and sharing ideas, send them to [email protected]!

Abstract: This is a Video Blog from the Vergers Voice with the Most Rev. Michael B. Curry, the Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church. He was the keynote speaker for the VGEC Annual Conference in October in Atlanta. This is a MUST SEE video blog!

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Are You a Card Carrying Verger?

Duke DuTeil had old VGEC membership cards from 1996 to 1998 which influenced the new card design for 2017
By Cheryl Cantrall, Chair Membership Committee ([email protected]) and Michael Sanchez, Board Liaison, Communication and Technology Committee ([email protected])

Some of you reading this will soon become card-carrying members of VGEC. At the registration desk for the 2017 VGEC Annual Conference in Atlanta, the first batch of modern day membership cards will be presented to attendees. Other members will have their cards mailed to them as they renew, or join VGEC.

It seems like a simple change - smaller piece of paper, portable, durable, etc. but it has taken years of work by the VGEC Board, the Membership Committee, and the Communications and Technology Committee to make it happen. And like most things, the idea of membership cards is not new for VGEC. Treasurer and Training Advisor Duke DuTeil currently still has his old membership cards from the previous century! So the cards obviously have value and staying power.

According to Cheryl Cantrall, Chair of the Membership Committee, membership certificates are currently processed and distributed via mail by her. Renewing member certificates are produced on a bi-weekly basis - printed, signed, and a welcome letter is produced and signed. Then all items are packaged, addressed, and mailed, by her. As few as five or as many as fifty certificates might be mailed out at the same time. As one might imagine, this is a bit labor intensive.

The new card was designed during a recent board meeting
Michael Sanchez, Communications and Technology Committee Board Liaison, and Cheryl were asked to look into the possibility of getting membership cards produced and mailed instead of certificates. As Michael says, "We can all agree that certificates are wonderful for the first time that we receive one in the mail. But after renewing your VGEC membership for a couple of years, they tend to not be as appreciated, and they take an incredible amount of time and effort to produce and mail."

After the spring 2017 board meeting in Atlanta, Michael said the technology side of things really got started, beginning with a mock-up of what the card needed to look like. "We used the membership certificate as a guide, because we did want it to resemble that in a few ways. After lots of editing, talking, and more editing, we had something to take to the graphic designer in Portland, Oregon, who helped make our mock-up a reality."

The new card will be the UV Varnished Card with 4 color printing on the front and 1 color on the back. Initially 1,500 cards will be ordered for ongoing imaging. The cards will have the members name, FGEC following the name if appropriate to indicate that the member has completed the Training Course and is a Fellow of the Guild, "Member Since" date and expiration date. The back of the card will have the Verger's Prayer.

The new card production proof was just approved days ago!!
Cheryl added, "The beautiful part of this is that MMS, the Membership Management System of the VGEC, will automatically generate an email each week late on Sunday night that will contain the prior week's renewals and member-requested card regenerations. This email will go to the card printer located in West Palm Beach, Florida so the cards can be produced, packaged, and mailed each week to new and renewing members."

For new Lifetime Members of the VGEC, high quality signed and sealed membership certificates will continue to be printed, signed, wax sealed, and mailed. It's important to remember that all members may print their own membership certificate at any time from MMS. All new and renewing members will also receive an email containing the certificate PDF.

VGEC President Scott Smith commented, "I am really excited that we are radically simplifying this part of the membership process. It's part of the work we have been doing over the past few years to reduce the amount of manual work that goes into our volunteer jobs for the VGEC. When we are not spending our time with tactical things like printing, mailing, posting and doing repetitive manual tasks, we can focus on other more strategic (and exciting) projects that will enable us to expand and become a much better and more meaningful organization."

Even though the process of developing the new cards sounds like a very short process, it's taken VGEC quite a long time to get everything into place. The board is really proud of the work that went into this and they all hope you will enjoy being card carrying members of your Vergers Guild of the Episcopal Church!

Did you know that you can submit your own story about the verger ministry for possible inclusion in the Vergers Voice blog?

We are always looking for interesting topics, ideas, and creative ways of demonstrating the power and enjoyment of being part of the fellowship of the VGEC and our ministry of service.

If you have any ideas, or if you would like to take your turn at writing a post and sharing ideas, send them to [email protected]!

Abstract: Some of you reading this will soon become card-carrying members of VGEC! At the registration desk for the 2017 VGEC Annual Conference in Atlanta, the first batch of modern day membership cards will be presented to attendees. Other members will have their cards mailed to them as they renew, or join VGEC. The cards signify a multiyear project finally coming to fruition.

Friday, September 29, 2017

The Verger Checklist App

Manifestly on the iPad in the Sacristy of Trinity Church Wall Street

By the Rev. Deacon Hank Tuell, Trinity Church Wall Street, [email protected]

Last week, David Deutsch reviewed The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right and emphasized the importance of verger checklists and how good ones can help us to avert disasters.

I think we all have at least one story of a situation, often times embarrassing, that could have been avoided if we had been using a checklist. When I first started at Trinity Church Wall Street, as a sacristan while in seminary at GTS, I set up everything for a primary service in the historic nave. I was sure I had gotten everything setup correctly. As the priest and the server were setting the table for the Eucharist, they both suddenly had a puzzled look on their faces. They kept looking at each other and looking back at me at the credence table. I immediately knew something was wrong. Finally, the server walked over and told me the priest host was missing. Still today I have to check, double check and triple check the setup before I am comfortable that the priest host is there. Unfortunately, when I started at Trinity, we did not have checklists – it was all done by memory.

We ventured into the world of creating checklist documents for all our services not too long after that. The checklist documents were a major leap forward as they gave us the ability to work in tandem with multiple people working off the same checklist. Although this was a major step for our team, there was still one drawback: we had to return the sacristy each time to mark off the steps we completed and to check what the other sacristans had done. So, we began the search for a product that would help us advance our checklist system to the next level.

We were thrilled to find a product called Manifestly that exceeded our expectations of a shared checklist application. Manifestly was created by Philip Crawford ([email protected]) who is enthusiastic about our using his product in various church settings. We asked Philip how he got the idea to create Manifestly, and he said, "I was really excited to read The Checklist Manifesto and quickly realized that there was no one shared checklist app available out there to implement those concepts in a collaborative environment."

There are many other apps available for electronic checklists, but Manifestly's ability to schedule, notify, and share checklists with multiple sacristans, vergers, and others has been really important for us at Trinity.

We have been in the process of moving our paper checklists over to Manifestly for a few months and we have been very pleased with it. The multi-platform application gives us the ability to have multiple people working on their Android, iPhone, iPad or computer completing the tasks on the shared checklists. The product has significantly improved our productivity, especially on the tasks during the quick turnaround between services. We have also reduced the number of mistakes or missed steps.

What appears to be a very basic checklist product is actually full of very useful features. It has also allowed new staff to get up to speed quickly with our processes. For instance, we have a daily "Sacristan on Duty" checklist that encompasses all of our services for every weekday. We go from our first morning prayer service through our evening prayer or evensong service. The ability for each of us to complete different tasks throughout the day and not waste time verifying who has completed what has significantly improved our efficiency.

We have also found Manifestly indispensable for those services that happen once a year or on rare occasions. You know, the services where you spend a significant amount of time trying to remember what it was you did last year – trying to decipher what it was you meant by the description in the notes. Manifestly has the ability to attach pictures, videos and outside documents to tasks. So you don't have to try and piece together from memory how the credence table was set up last Easter. You can just look at the picture on your task.

Manifestly truly has met and exceeded all of our checklist needs and for a very small cost. You can have internal users as well as external users. You can schedule the checklist and who is assigned to them, so each member is emailed and notified that a list has been assigned.

Here are some of the features we have found most useful:
  • You can schedule lists to be assigned automatically to both internal and external users enabling staff and volunteers to work on the lists together.
  • You can import lists from Word or Excel
  • You can add notes and descriptions if steps need further clarification.
  • You can add photos, videos, and links to outside documentation. This has been very useful for services that happen less frequently such as baptisms and funerals.
  • The product is easy to use and does not require extensive training to implement.
  • The support for the product has been very responsive and a pleasure to work with.
  • The product runs on Android, iPhones, iPads, Macs, and Windows. Being able to walk around and check items off on our phones has increased accuracy and productivity.

I highly recommend Manifestly because of the versatility to handle daily, weekly and yearly scheduling. Manifestly has also increased our accuracy significantly. The days of the mental checklist has ended and I can’t tell you how much that has helped to reduce anxiety, wasted time and mistakes!

Did you know that we have a huge number of shared documents in the Vergers Document Library online? See vergers.org/resources/library.

We have a whole section of Verger Checklists in the library that you should explore.

You can also submit your own checklists to Eileen Brightwell Hicks the volunteer Document Library Manager at [email protected] for possible inclusion in the library!

The 2017 VGEC Annual Conference deadline to register is Monday, October 2, 2017. We cannot accept on-site registrations! Registration is $275.00 per person.

Abstract: How do you make checklists work in your verger ministry? Do you use a technical solution or a good old-fashioned paper checklist? The Rev. Deacon Hank Tuell of Trinity Church Wall Street, describes one technical application called Manifestly that was built as a result of the The Checklist Manifesto which we reviewed last week.

Friday, September 22, 2017

The Verger Checklist Manifesto

Good checklists can really help vergers and The Checklist Manifesto puts it all into perspective

By David Deutsch, Volunteer Verger at Washington National Cathedral, [email protected]

As I read Dr. Atul Gawande’s short but fascinating book The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right, (2009, Henry Holt and Company, New York) I knew right away why VGEC President Scott Smith asked me to write a review. This book could be extremely helpful to many vergers.

Dr. Gawande focuses on the medical profession to explain the theory behind the checklist, its application, its creation, and its difficulties in finding acceptance. But his clear intention is to raise the possibility that many people in many professions could benefit from using a checklist.

This book is an easy read and I highly recommend that all vergers, especially head vergers, read it. While I realize many of you might already be using a checklist for services, this book is particularly useful in that it explains the difference between a good checklist and a bad one. Below are a few factoids from the book.

The checklist came into use after a prototype bomber, Boeing’s Model 299, crashed during takeoff at a critical competition in front of U.S. Army Air Corps brass in 1935. The crash killed the highly experienced test pilot and wrecked not only the plane but Boeing’s chances for getting a contract. The problem: the pilot, Major Ployer P. Hill, forgot to release a new locking mechanism for the rudder and elevator controls. The checklist was born. Boeing eventually got the contract back from Douglas and built the Model 299 which became the B-17, one of the most famous planes in aviation history.

It is important to note that a checklist is not a detailed customary explaining each step of a project. A checklist sets forth the minimum steps possible in a process and makes them explicit. Dr. Gawande writes of the years of designing a checklist to be used in surgical operations around the world. The finished product had only14 steps. Put forth by the World Health Organization, it has saved many lives in both prosperous and third-world operating rooms. Checklists are not “comprehensive how-to guides... they provide protection against failures. They remind us of the minimum steps and make them explicit.”

In order to find out what makes a good checklist, Dr. Gawande visits Daniel Boorman at Boeing, a veteran pilot who has spent two decades designing checklists:
There are good checklists and bad. Bad checklists are vague and imprecise. They are too long; they are hard to use; they are impractical…They treat the people using the tools as dumb and try to spell out every single step. They turn people’s brains off rather than turn them on. Good checklists, on the other hand, are precise... They do not try to spell out everything... They provide reminders of the most critical steps... Good checklists are, above all, practical.
To summarize the book, good checklists are
  • Concise
  • Precise
  • Practical
  • Protection against forgetting procedures that are done over and over
  • A guard against the fallibility of human memory
  • A prevention against accidentally skipping steps
  • Buttress skills
  • Must be constantly reviewed and refined lest they become “ossified mandates.”
  • Allow room for judgment—judgment enhanced by procedure

Can a checklist be useful to the verger? In order to think more deeply about the use of checklists, I very much recommend that we vergers read The Checklist Manifesto. It may enhance smoother running of the liturgy during our services which, as we know, can have many moving parts.

BTW: If you use a checklist at your services, how is it working for you? Or, if you tried using one and discarded the idea, why?


I have never forgotten the installation of a new rector who I knew and very much liked. It promised to be a wonderful service which included a baptism. Installations are complicated—a one-off service, if you will—but all was humming along splendidly. Then, as the baptism began, it was discovered that no one filled the ewer with water.

Did you know that we have a huge number of shared documents in the Vergers Document Library online? See vergers.org/resources/library.

We have a whole section of Verger Checklists in the library that you might explore.

You can also submit your own checklists to Eileen Brightwell Hicks the volunteer Document Library Manager at [email protected] for possible inclusion in the library!

The 2017 VGEC Annual Conference deadline to register is Monday, October 2, 2017. We cannot accept on-site registrations! Registration is $275.00 per person.

Abstract: Do you use a checklist for regular Sunday services? Here's a book that can help you start utilizing checklists or refine the ones that you currently use. David Deutsch reviews and recommends that we vergers read The Checklist Manifesto.

Friday, September 15, 2017

A Verger without a Chimere and Virge is — a Verger!

How often do you use a virge and a chimere when you are a verger in a small parish?

Verging in a Small Parish

by Joseph John, St. James' Episcopal Church, Pewee Valley, Kentucky, [email protected]

Is there really a difference between verging in a large church versus a small church?


What a cop out response.

However, let me first say “Ahh!”

Ahh, yes, the chimere, the virge, the procession down the aisle. Yes, that's just one of the enjoyable "perks" of being a verger.

However…forget the Ahh!, the vestments and the "stick" (or virge), for a moment. I believe the role of being a verger is directly related to the size of the church, plus the history of the church's liturgical processes, plus the season of the year, plus the pre-disposition of your rector towards liturgical processes and verger involvement — always keeping in mind that the verger serves at the pleasure of the Rector, Vicar, or Priest-in-Charge, or the Senior Warden.

In other words, a verger in a small parish with an average Sunday attendance of 75 or less may or may not be vesting and processing on a regular basis. So be it.

Let's begin with the baseline of responsibilities for the verger — large or small church. An excerpt from the vergers.org web site entitled "The Verger Today":
The verger's logistical and behind the scenes support allow the clergy more time for pastoral and sacramental responsibilities. We often say that every parish has a verger whether or not they are identified as such. Some typical verger duties are assigning, training and checking in lectors, chalice bearers, acolytes and prayer intercessors. The verger often coordinates with the altar guild and funeral guild. In some parishes the verger checks lighting and sound.

The precise duties of the verger will be specific to each parish church. For instance, in some parishes the verger will process at all liturgies and in others, they only process on Feast or Festival days. Especially helpful with visiting clergy or special services, the verger checks on additional seating, hospitality and welcoming newcomers. Most parishes, either small or large, and clergy who incorporate the verger position, wonder how they ever did without vergers!
Indeed, we as vergers are very busy; however, I think the small parish verger is even busier simply because there aren't a lot of people to divvy up responsibilities — there’s just ONE of me. No other bodies — no delegation of responsibilities. With the benefits of delegation being lessened dramatically, there is more "doing" and "git 'er done" required of the verger. Small church vs. large church is simply the difference of having bodies or critical mass to accomplish the many jobs a verger typically performs in any parish.

Yes, for the small parish verger, there is less pomp-and-circumstance and more behind-the-scenes work. He/she is working with the Altar Guild, the Worship Committee, the organist, the Parish Administrator, ushers, acolytes, Episcopal Church Women, and more.

Speaking of acolytes, invariably, there are fewer acolytes in the small parish, which then increases the challenges of training and scheduling around Mom and Dad's busy Sunday, weekend, and vacation schedules. Oh, my, there are countless times that I believe that it's a lot easier to herd cats or bishops.

Structure and attention to detail is Rule #1 for any verger, and Rule #1 is critical in the small parish. He/she must be organized and focused since there is always a bunch of running back-and-forth to ensure that the "show" goes on — without a hitch. Again, rarely is there anyone present to whom responsibilities can be delegated.

Rule #2 is flexibility. The verger has to be flexible for there will be changes during the liturgy that weren’t planned and so, the verger must accept the fact that every Sunday is "live theater" and thus, things change very quickly. Let's face it — the verger is a stage manager for the liturgical services.

I mentioned more personal "doing" rather than "delegating"; well, the small church many times lacks a sexton, and so the verger in the small church will often be responsible for opening the church, the parish hall, and all of the "locked doors" that need to be opened for easy access to the services.

Are there other challenges to the small parish verger? Oh, yes. A major challenge is the small parish that lacks a full-time rector. A verger in a situation like this becomes a major asset to the Vestry and the Search Committee as he/she keeps the Sunday services flowing while working with supply priests — one less thing the Senior Warden and the Vestry has to worry about.

The verger greets the supply priest, makes all the necessary introductions to those who will be involved in the liturgy that day. He/she reviews the liturgical processes for all services that should have been prepared by the verger and emailed to the priest earlier in the week.

And then the "stage manager" does a sound check, checks the lavaliere and shows the priest where to vest, the all-important location of the bathrooms and, of course, the freshly brewed coffee. And the list continues.

Well, all the responsibilities I've listed in this article come as no surprise to vergers throughout our churches. It’s really more of a "there's ONE of me" in the small church as compared to "there's more of me's" in the large church.

So is there really a difference between verging in a large church versus a small church?


Did you know that you can submit your own story about the verger ministry for possible inclusion in the Vergers Voice blog?

We are always looking for interesting topics, ideas, and creative ways of demonstrating the power and enjoyment of being part of the fellowship of the VGEC and our ministry of service.

If you have any ideas, or if you would like to take your turn at writing a post and sharing ideas, send them to [email protected]!

The 2017 VGEC Annual Conference in Atlanta is coming very soon on October 12th to October 15th. Registration is $275.00 per person. The deadline to register is Monday, October 2, 2017. We cannot accept on-site registrations!

Abstract: Recently, vergersvoice.org asked the members of the Vergers Guild to consider submitting ideas and manuscripts for the blog. This post was submitted by Joseph John, a verger in a small church, average Sunday attendance of 73, in Kentucky. See if you agree with his summation of the difference between verging in small and large churches.