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Friday, July 11, 2014

Greetings from Rome

Edoardo Fanfani, verger at Rome's All Saints Church with Assistant Curate: Fr. Alaric Lewis at evening prayer

By Ken Holloway with Edoardo Fanfani and Bill Gleason

When he was proprietor of the Vergers Guild Shop, Bill Gleason "met" hundreds of vergers. Bill recalls "One such acquaintance, Edoardo Fanfani, contacted the shop in 2013 ordering a VGEC Chimere and Basic Virge. He also joined the VGEC as a Life Member the same day. Edoardo serves as a verger at All Saint's Anglican Church in Rome."

Enjoying their first year of retirement, Bill and his wife, Helen, recently visited Rome. Bill reports, "As we got to Rome last Sunday evening, I posted on FaceBook our arrival there. Very shortly thereafter, Edoardo liked and messaged me, inviting us to a Choral Evensong on Thursday Evening, and a Eucharist on Tuesday at Noon. I contacted him back immediately, and we made arrangements to meet at the Obelisk with the Bernini Elephant in Piazza della Minerva on Tuesday. We were leaving on Wednesday morning so we could only meet on Tuesday. He is is the midst of studying for High School exams, and needed to do that rather than have lunch after the Eucharist. So we met only for about one and a half hours and then parted ways."

Now 19, Edoardo has graduated from High School (five years in Italy). He has a one year sabbatical ahead, still in Rome, and then hopes to go to university in England. 

I asked Eduardo to tell us about himself and his ministry. This is his excellent reply:

"I am currently a verger at All Saints’ Anglican Church in Rome (the only such verger), and I became member of the Guild in spring 2013. All Saints’ Church – home of the Archdeaconry of Italy and Malta - was built in the 1880s in the English neighborhood of the eternal city (near the Spanish steps) to cater for the ever-growing Anglo-Saxon community, along with the American Episcopal Church of St Paul’s within the Walls are our Anglican homes here in Rome."

"A chapel already existed outside the walls, known as The Granary Chapel, but was replaced by G. E. Street’s masterpiece when the unification of Italy made it possible for non-Roman Catholic churches to be built inside the city walls. All Saints has a beautiful Victorian, yet Italian, feel; of special interest are the stained glass windows by Clayton & Bell, and the lovely nineteenth century altar frontals. Beautiful above all is our gothic white travertine spire that is a delightful surprise in the midst of so many baroque domes. Our chaplain is Fr. Jonathan Boardman, whose distinctive northern Yorkshire accent is probably the chief characteristic of the parish. Liturgy at All Saints is classical Anglican high church – not so different on a smaller scale from what you would find in an Episcopal parish in New York, Boston or Chicago: incense when appropriate, and lots of chanting."

"I discovered the ministry of verger for the first time when the choir of Westminster Abbey came to Rome for a special visit on the Feast of Saint Peter (who is also the Abbey’s patron). I was at once impressed by the importance of the ministry, in terms of liturgical help - a sort of parish (or cathedral) guardian who knows everything about the institution itself! I had previously met other vergers, at Saint Thomas church in New York for example, but this experience especially enchanted me. I realized how important it would be to have such a ministry even in a small Church of England parish in Rome. My “vocation” to this ministry also came through my priestly vocation and my passion for High Church liturgy. Accordingly, I began to search online for information about vergers, and being Episcopalian I came across the Vergers Guild of the Episcopal Church - which seemed the best way to go! I joined this guild and began to study for this new ministry, beginning for a few months at the Episcopal parish here in Rome – the beautiful St. Paul’s within the Walls (Spring 2013) – before moving to All Saints’ Anglican Church, to which I now have a deep attachment. With the help of Fr. Jonathan, the chaplain, I learned a great deal about how to be a verger in the Church of England. I began with Choral Evensong (which is still my favorite service), then Festal Eucharist, and finally on the recent Trinity Sunday I verged the Archbishop of Canterbury himself (I had thankfully had practice with other bishops on other occasions)! Oh Rome! This wonderful ministry has given me constancy, and a strong sense of spirituality and closeness of the church to my troubled life - a life that seemed destroyed four years ago with the loss of my beloved mother, while I was still at high school. Things have not been easy … but my faith did help me, and now I am doing this ministry for which I am really thankful. Not many 19 - year old young men can claim to have met the Pope, or verged the Archbishop, leader of this our beloved communion!"

"But these are not the real fruits of this ministry in Rome. The real blessings are things such as welcoming people, and making them feel considered and loved; helping those who are not confident with a formal Anglican service; those who would like to learn more about why that specific stained glass window of St. Cecilia is there, or if the Queen is our “head”; closing one’s eyes and listening to the stirring and ancient words of the Coverdale psalter sung to beautiful Anglican Chant by MacFarren or Stanford! Just consider Psalm 96: “O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness”, while the incense brings you to heaven… these are the real joys! It has been a great year, and I do believe that through the grace of God many more will come! Many more people will enter those gothic doors and feel loved; many more will want to know who was the architect of the Church of England parish in Rome; many more will want to listen to beautiful Anglican chant - and will want to spy on the verger to see when to make the sign of the cross or when to bow at Choral Evensong!"

Thank you, God, for this - and thank you for this wonderful Guild of which I am part, My best greetings from Rome, Italy!

Edoardo, Verger at All Saints’Anglican Church, Rome

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Abstract: A gifted communicator. A well-traveled intellect. A nineteen year old verger at All Saints' Anglican Church in Rome. Having just graduated from high school in Rome, he will take a year's sabbatical before pursuing university in England. Meet Edoardo Fanfani and enjoy his inspiring story of a unique verger ministry.

Please send your story ideas, anecdotal notes on your verger experiences or fully developed stories about your own verger ministry to [email protected]. There are more than a thousand stories out there. We'd like to publish yours.

Wanted: A new Verger's Voice publication team member who will help find stories, write stories, interact with and help our story contributors, envision ways to improve our blog publications and take on new themes as we expand our coverage. Write and tell me about your background and how you'd like to be a part of The Verger's Voice team. Use my Verger's Voice email address: [email protected].

Position is still open. A couple of interested vergers have responded. Would like to hear from more of you. Maybe we can have a corps of reporters.


  1. I loved Edoardo's adventure with the able assistance of our own Bill Gleason, the venerable one.....Bede can't be the only one !

  2. What wonderful experiences you have had as verger and at only age 19. Bravo, Edoardo.


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