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Friday, August 31, 2012

Church of England Guild of Vergers Elects General Secretary

Stephen Stokes, General
Secretary of the CEGV
Stephen Stokes grew up watching his father and his grandfather perform verger duties, feeling a call to the clergy, but resolving that he never wanted to be a verger.

So how does a nice young man who has no interest in following in his father’s vocation get elected General Secretary to the Church of England Guild of Vergers (CEGV)?
He answers, “While working for customer services of a Gas supplier that was relocating I started looking for another job and saw an advert for Verger at Westminster Abbey,
London. It interested me and I applied and came in second. I think it was at this point I realized that this was my path and started travelling it.”

“My first position as Verger was at StMarylebone Parish Church in London, where I was a lone Verger.  I remember that I also came in second in that interview as well!! However, the person who was appointed was unable to accept the position and I was then offered the role. Which I happily accepted.“

“Looking back I think needed to come in second as I was beginning to get over-confident that the job was mine. Perhaps I needed a bit of humility. After three years I moved to be Verger of Romsey Abbey, Hampshire. Where I had a small team of volunteer Vergers, and then after three and a half years, I moved to be Chapel Clerk and Verger of St John’s College Chapel, Cambridge (part of Cambridge University), where I have been for now over five years and still love each day.”

“My initial training as a verger I suppose was my father and grandfather however I also spent time with Tom Cameron, then Canons Verger at St Paul’s Cathedral, London, who taught me about Vergering and how not to strangle yourself while Vergering clergy (he used the analogy that if you have a length of string tied to the end of your Verge and then to your clergy’s neck, this should then mean as you turn you should not wrap the string round your own neck).  I also went up and spent a week with James Armstrong, Head Verger of Carlisle Cathedral, where he taught me the general running (of a parish church) and day to day duties.”

“Aside from those, I have been trained by everyone within the Guild, whenever we meet up and exchange stories we all learn something new or something not to do!“

Stephen was planning to attend four “Branch” meetings across the Guild during his first term, in an effort to meet as many of the roughly 400 CEGV members as possible. His Branch meets four times annually, while the CEGV gathers three times a year at the Canterbury Province Festival, the York Province Rally and for the annual Training Conference. He says that the Festivals draw around 100 attendees each and the Training Conference has about 60 attendees.

Stephen’s father is currently verger at St Andrew’s, Enfield, London and his grandfather was Beadle of St Martin’s in the Bullring, Birmingham till his retirement then Verger of Birmingham Cathedral until his death.

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