By Stephen Haude, member Church of England Guild of Vergers and member Vergers Guild of the Episcopal Church
The Church of England Guild of Vergers conference is now held annually at the Elim Centre at West Malvern. It is held in a beautiful country house once lived in by Lord Baden Powell, founder of the Boy Scout movement. It boasts a large heated outdoor swimming pool, the rooms are en-suite, and the food (full board) is very good, plus hot drinks on tap with pastries all day long. We were surrounded by what must surely be the finest views of British countryside.
Our conference is somewhat different to the VGEC Conference in the United States. Indeed it would be very boring if we were all the same! It could perhaps be described as contemplative and solely centered in one place. There is a beautiful old country church a few yards away that kindly allows us unrestricted use for our many services. We don’t have a banquet or tours, but I’ll let my hair down in Nashville! A typical day begins at the church with Morning Prayer at 7.30 am followed by Eucharist. A good cooked breakfast follows at 8:30.
A talk or lecture takes place at 10 – noon. Then a short midday prayers followed by lunch. The afternoon lecture is from 2 – 4 pm. We also formed a pretty good choir and did Choral Evensong with the Bishop of Worcester preaching. The lectures were really interesting, one of which was by our National Chaplain, Canon Maureen Palmer. Her theme was "Healing" and included a long period of silence – not easy for me, but I managed it! This was followed by a service of Healing and Anointing. Another great talk came from the Rev'd Tom Cameron on funerals and dealing with death and bereavement. In places it was funnier than you might think!
After dinner each evening (playing hooky from Compline) some of us strolled down the country lane to a great old pub reputed to have the best view in the land. The fellowship between us all was tangible, and it was great to welcome VGEC member John Townsend from Nashua, New Hampshire.
Our closing Eucharist was beautifully rehearsed with full ceremony and plenty of clouds from the theruble. It was a moving and uplifting service providing a fitting end to our conference. In 2014 it will be from 10th August over four nights. Hope to see some of you there. Meanwhile, many of us Brits will see you in Nashville!