|Scott Smith presenting Bishop Whitmore of the Diocese of Atlanta with a VGEC Challenge Coin at the Summer Assembly and Business Meeting of the Diocese of Atlanta Mark Emory Graham Chapter
By Ken Holloway with Scott Smith, President - Verger's Guild of the Episcopal Church
Scott Smith and I talk frequently, sometimes by email, sometimes on the phone, sometimes by ham radio. Our conversations are 97% about the Verger's Guild of the Episcopal Church. This week I asked Scott, our VGEC President, to give me his view of where we stand in implementing the official Guild objectives announced at last year's conference and to suggest how we, individually, might be looking to the future of the VGEC. This edition of the Verger's Voice is lengthy, but I pray that you will see we've been working hard since our Nashville conference to produce really smart and long lasting improvement to the reach and function of the VGEC.
Central to a healthy guild is our constant grounding in the fundamental question: "Are we living into our bylaws." Scott stated that the center of the Board of Directors' focus has been the declared objectives for the year (2013 Conference to 2014 Conference). The following list is read at the beginning of every board meeting.
Review/Update/Amend 2014 Goals
- Active working committees
- Chapter Development (Major push)
- Expand Membership (Clean up list, contact all parishes, work with Dioceses/Chapters, increase membership revenue)
- Training Course Improvement (long term)
- Guild Shop mission and plan (long term)
- Finance/Audit Committee and budget (long term, planning)
Active Working Committees - We have eight operational committees with 45 members. The term "active working committees" describes our functional backbone. All the members are experienced leaders in their own right, with heartfelt dedication to complete their individual tasks on time and in appropriate detail while meeting objectives which were determined by the committee as a whole and approved by the board. Every committee is engaged actively in no-fluff work toward well-defined objectives. Check!
Chapter Development - The key elements of diocesan chapters of the VGEC are local training, education, fellowship, and a meaningful project to center the chapter's focus. With nine strong members, our Chapter Development work has literally "lifted off" this year under the leadership of Rich Lammlin and Richard Parker. New chapters have formed and are forming in the Diocese of Tennessee, North Carolina, and Connecticut. Many existing chapters are enjoying a rejuvenation including Atlanta, Dallas, Mississippi, and the Diocese of Texas. The VGEC is best supported by organic growth of its chapters within the dioceses of the Episcopal Church and around the world in the Anglican Communion. By frequently visiting diocesan gatherings around the country, and engaging in continuing conversation, we attract those interested in the ministry of the verger at the diocesan level. We support and encourage our chapters by maintaining a meaningful training course and effective communications channels, using all available means. We are working on ways to coordinate with chapters to better coordinate our shared membership data. We are expanding the number and strength of the chapters. Check!
Membership - Already engaged in a multi-year effort to assure that the membership rolls are audited for validity and currency, committee chair Cheryl Cantrall called on Betty Moore to take on the bulk of our database purification work. Happily, we can report that the task is virtually complete with new projects coming online. Richard Lammlin, as board liaison, and as the moving force in revitalizing chapter activities in Connecticut, is codifying the process of chapter establishment and concomitant membership expansion. This process will provide structure to our planned out-reach to dioceses and parishes across the nation. Finally, Betty and husband Karl are now working to purify our Parish Membership data. Check!
General Convention - Strategic planning, agile tactical decisions and experienced leadership are the codes for our presence at the General Convention. Margaret McLarty has arranged for the VGEC to have the best booth placement on the Exhibit Floor in Salt Lake City. Margaret and the General Convention team will use the booth placement, chosen to gain maximum traffic exposure, to increase awareness of the verger ministry within the greater church. Membership expansion and diocesan and clergy attraction...check!
Training - Our awesome training team, headed by Dr. Bill White, has worked to make sweeping changes to our training course by putting the parish rector at the center of the course completion certification, changing the price of the course to $60, making the virge available separately for course graduates, and making the distribution of the course via a PDF file rather than hard-copy mailed version. Contributing to the ongoing VGEC training philosophy, Duke DuTeil has been asked to contribute his extensive experience as Head Verger at the Washington National Cathedral by acting as Board Liaison and Training Advisor. Stay tuned for another innovative and truly stellar addition to our guild training capability in the mid-term future. I'd grade this one as a "check", wouldn't you?
Guild Shop - Bill Gleason's retirement prompted Barry Norris to step up and extend the splendid track record of providing merchandise of genuine interest to our membership at price-points geared to assure a break-even operation. Barry is developing a long-term Guild Shop plan, ably assisted by an active committee. You'll find an accelerated rate of merchandise development specifically for the Guild from month to month as you visit the shop. Tune in to the shop often and watch the merchandise changes. Guild Shop Mission and Long Term Plan - check!
Annual Conferences - The vergers who serve on the conference committee are led by Pat Allen who has been part of six incredibly successful conferences during her tenure. Terry Hughes and Ritchard Taylor of St. Luke's Church, Burlington, are planning a unique Canadian experience this month. Looking ahead to the 2015 Conference in St. Louis, Shug Goodlow of Christ Church Cathedral, promises memories unavailable anywhere else. We have conference planning in very good shape and there is opportunity for change, new ideas, and innovation in the coming years.
Communications and Technology -We arranged to use innovative technology to facilitate board meetings and the board met five times this year instead of just twice a year as in the past. Web-based face-to-face meeting technology means so much more than just being able to meet more frequently. It brings our feelings to what might otherwise be just words and diagrams on a presentation chart. When you have audible and visual conversation that continues as long as necessary, even between formal meetings, the volume of issues discovered, explored and settled increases tremendously. We have that. Our Facebook page and our email "blasts" have expanded their update frequency and reach to assure that we always have a way to talk among ourselves. Our "V-List" bulletin board acts as a day-to-day forum, entertaining questions, answers and opinions. Our weekly "Verger's Voice" blog attempts to explore, in story format, subjects that all vergers will hopefully find interesting. Our communications programs have reached across the Atlantic and Pacific oceans to interest and engage new members, one of whom is acting as European correspondent for The Verger's Voice.
Nomination Committee - No better example of "living by our bylaws" exists than the recent work accomplished in providing a dynamic slate of candidates for election to our board next week. It is so gratifying that, using our formal nomination procedures, Dr. Mike Malone, Nancy Paulin, John Townsend, Pat Allen and Duke DuTeil produced our slate with comparative ease. This is validation of the process itself and the skills of those using the process to prepare for the annual conference.
The very best leadership personalities I have known over 38 years of public and private work are those who support and promote their colleagues with sound counsel and positive reinforcement at all times. I think our Scott is such a leader. He told me that being president of the VGEC is an "absolute joy" because of the talented and willfully dedicated people he gets to work with in building the Guild day-to-day. He even said, mindful that he is a "geek's geek", that it is easier to be the Guild president than to chair the communications committee. Scott has provided his vision to us and supported every move we've made by giving us his confidence and trusting us to do our parts. It is the beauty of working with professionals in which I find so much joy. If you see it the same way, I challenge you to find your niche in VGEC, locally in your diocese or nationally on one of the committees mentioned in this post. There is plenty of work for vergers and the VGEC to do in 2015!
Abstract: A conversation with Scott Smith on the State of the Guild as we prepare for our annual conference next week.