Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Celebrate! - A Note From Ghana

Verger and Crucifer at St. Andrew's Anglican Church in Accra, Ghana

Isn’t it remarkable how just a glimpse of an event can sometimes flip the switch on your “Wow!” receiver? See what you think about these few well-chosen words and two simple pictures.

In early August 2013, Debra Gustin, wife of VGEC member Pete Gustin, of Annandale, VA, was on a team sponsored by Ghanaian Mother’s Hope, a Maryland, USA - based non-profit working in a village in Ghana, West Africa called, Akramaman. The Ghanaian Mother’s Hope (GMH) mission statement declares they “…show the love of Christ through the building of preschools, playgrounds and health education.” Each year they show that love by conducting a reading camp for Ghanaian children.

One Sunday, the team attended the 9 AM Eucharist at St. Andrews Anglican Church in Abossey Okai, Accra, the capital of Ghana. Debra wrote to Pete, commenting on the vergers’ and acolytes’ role in the liturgy.

Pete shared Debra’s note from Ghana; "I wish you could have seen the main verger [out of the three] in his Ghanaian robes, his verger robes lined in velvet, his bare feet, the verge pointing out and his other hand over his heart. He could not have been more regal." Debra described the acolytes as "drill teams, so spot-on with their duties and executions.” Reading her note, I was struck that what she wrote is an elegant description of a whole-hearted celebration of Christ! I had to know more.

"...acolytes - so stunning but still boys when it came to
staying at absolute attention."
Later, replying to my questions, she said, “I wish I remembered more accurately how many acolytes served that morning.  You would think during a FOUR hour service the details would stick.  I am enclosing two pictures of the acolytes - so stunning but still boys when it came to staying at absolute attention. They went down on their knees for the communion prayers and then down on their faces for the consecration ... still holding on to those torches and cross and even incense.” 

Look at the picture of the verger and the crucifer taken by Linda Rines, a Lay Eucharistic Minister from St. James Parish in Lothian, MD and member of the (GMH) team, also present at that service along with, she estimates, 500 parishioners. How fulfilled the Verger appears to be. Can you tell that his heart is fully invested in his role in the liturgical mission?

Notice one more thing. What do you see in the crucifer’s face? Is it “determination”? How about “dedication”? Does it look like “boyhood”?  Maybe he sees himself carrying a virge in the future. Maybe he’ll remember the path that the verger led in procession that morning. Maybe….he’ll lead that procession some day, followed by his own son, regally bearing a cross.

With graphic stimulus like this, I’ll bet that we all can regain that grand inner sense of worship we felt years ago when we first were a part of a liturgical team. Perhaps our “how-it-felt” memory will be strong enough today to enable us to be “in church” more than “at church”.

How loving Debra Gustin, Linda Rines and the other members of the Ghanaian Mother’s Hope team are to travel to Africa to show the love of Christ, and how sensitive they are to grace us with their insight.

Isn’t it remarkable how Debi’s forty four word note to Pete, and two pictures, manifest themselves as a gift to hundreds of ministries, now touched by her expression of wonder. 

Muse on the dignity and reverence revealed in the pictures. Feel the verger's dedication. Enjoy the acolytes, living into Christ’s world by profound ritual. 

By Ken Holloway, verger at St. Richards Episcopal Church in Round Rock, Texas and VGEC News Manager.

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