|Mats Hjort and Kira Engholm, Cathedral Vergers, at the Great Altar of Linköping Cathedral|
In southern Sweden, on the road from Stockholm on the east coast to Gothenburg on the west coast, lies Linköping, a city of 150,000. The episcopal see of the Diocese of Linköping, within the Church of Sweden, is located at the Linköping Cathedral opposite Linköping Castle. Linköping is a high-tech business and university town which evolved around the 800 year old cathedral.
Among the many experiences rewarding those visiting the parish is interaction with the cathedral vergers who take care of liturgical tradition, visitors, the parish church, and parish staff. They are called “Church Care Takers” in the Church of Sweden custom. One of the vergers, Kira Engholm, commented briefly on our VGEC Facebook page, saying, “(Hello:) I am a verger from Sweden, working in the cathedral in Linköping. Nice to see that you have a Facebook page for vergers!”
On Pentecost Sunday Eileen Hicks, VGEC Content Editor and Verger Document Library Manager, responded to Kira's post with an invitation to comment on her verger work in Sweden by emailing [email protected]. Kira immediately replied, saying that she could do that. Within 24-hours she emailed your Vergers Voice writer a short introduction. Our spirited interview began.
Despite the 7 hour time difference between Sweden and central Texas, we exchanged questions, answers and photos interactively. I found that Kira had always wanted to work in the church. Not sure how she might fit in, she wrote to the Cathedral dean and asked to work there for a while exploring different roles. She gravitated to the vergers.
She says, “They taught me about all the things vergers do and I spend most of my free time in the Cathedral too:) I love the fact that the Cathedral is open every day 0900-1800 (9 am -6 pm). People can just come in, sit down, light a candle, have a chat or walk around. Every day we have about 500 visitors. In the summer there are plenty of tourists from all over the world. I grew very fond of the Cathedral and while studying I kept on working there part time. Then I took a break and went to live in the UK for a few years working in the Insurance business, but all the time I missed the Church. After some problematic years I was asked to come back and work as a verger again, and it has been a true blessing! I have worked as a verger now for 8 years.”
“We began wearing cassocks after several exchanges with the Anglican Church, perhaps 15 years ago. We always have done the same things: helping with the services, taking care of the Cathedral, helping our coworkers and being there for visitors and people in need, able to direct them to a minister or deacon. At the Sunday service a verger always carries the cross, leading the procession.”
“We are 6 full or part time vergers and 2 extra vergers who study or work elsewhere as well. There is also a small modern church (on the Cathedral close) which belongs to the Cathedral parish called the St. Tomas Church. That church is only 20 years old and I work there too.”
“Our diocese is massive with 225 churches and 19 Chapels (and more than 400,000 members, Ed.). Most churches have at least one verger but the duties might vary. There are 13 dioceses in Sweden. We don’t have any (national) association for vergers, but last year we started gatherings within the parish churches located in the city of Linköping so that we can meet other vergers and exchange experiences.”
“I work as a full time verger and it is the best job I could ever imagine. There are so many things that need to be done and it never gets boring. To work in such an environment is fantastic and special. I feel that I can make a difference and it is nice to be of service to the ministry and my coworkers.”
Register online today for the 2014 Annual VGEC Conference on Thursday, September 25 through Sunday September 28, 2014 in Burlington, Ontario. Call 905.681.5400 for hotel reservations with VERG as the code!
Abstract: Kira Engholm, a verger in Sweden, visited our VGEC Facebook page and left a comment . On Pentecost Sunday Eileen Hicks answered her comment inviting her verger story. Read about a determined servant of God who became a full-time verger at the 800-year old Linköping Cathedral in Linköping Sweden.
Please send your story ideas, anecdotal notes on your verger experiences or fully developed articles about your own verger ministry to [email protected]. There are more than a thousand stories out there. We'd like to publish yours.