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Friday, February 28, 2014

Lloyd Graham - Sixty Years a Verger

St. Mark's, Tampa Senior Warden,
Jean Shahnasarian presenting the
VGEC Life Member Certificate and
VGEC Virge to Lloyd Graham

When he entered the Navy in 1943 at age 16, Lloyd Graham could not have predicted his sixty years service to the church in many capacities that we now identify as “verger” roles. He served forty-three years on active and reserve duty in Naval Air component units, retiring in 1986 as a Master Chief Petty Officer.

Upon discharge from active duty in 1947, he trained to be a welder under a Navy-sponsored apprenticeship program and went to work in the welding business where he had trained. He eventually bought the business, and ran it until he retired.

While attending St. Francis Episcopal Church, in Tampa, in his early twenties, he became involved in worship planning and serving in worship services. After his confirmation, the rector asked him to take charge of service management. And so it began...

All went well until the next rector arrived. On the second Sunday of his tenure, he gave Lloyd a book of Church of England liturgy proceedings, saying, “Here’s the book that shows how to do our services, and you’re going to do the job for us.” Lloyd became what we now might call a "sub-deacon" training acolytes and lay readers, leading the altar party, helping set the table and assisting the rector by turning pages in the missal.

Years later, having transferred to St. Chad's, he noticed in the the Sunday paper, a ‘first service” announcement for the newly established St. Mark’s which was near his neighborhood. The next week he attended that service, which was set with improvised vessels on an ironing board altar in a conference room in a business building. After an interim move to a strip mall meeting space, the church was built and Lloyd was declared,  "The Verger." When the altar guild president and the rector had a parting of the ways, Lloyd became the sacristan in addition to his many other duties.

He is proud that he has served as the Diocesan Verger under two bishops of the Diocese of Southwest Florida. He has served in all vestry positions several times and he served on the Diocesan council during the evolution of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer.

Lloyd's son, Mark Emory Graham, was heavily involved with the VGEC in the early days and spearheaded the VGEC Diocese of Atlanta Chapter. In 1989, Mark called Lloyd to suggest that he join the VGEC and attend the first annual conference in Nashville. Although Lloyd knew nothing of the guild, on faith he joined immediately. Mark was elected the first Treasurer of the VGEC at that first conference but Lloyd was unable to attend. Both Lloyd and Mark did attend the second VGEC conference at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. Mark was also a key author of the VGEC Training Course and is the namesake of the Diocese of Atlanta Chapter and founder of the Mark Emory Graham fund that supports a number of initiatives in the VGEC today.

The VGEC helped celebrate Lloyd's 60 years of service on January 19th this year by presenting him with a commemorative VGEC Life Membership Certificate and a VGEC virge.

As we all know, once a verger, always a verger. Lloyd Graham continues as the verger for three services a week at St. Mark’s at a still-young age of 87.

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