Welcome to the Vergers Voice, the official news blog of the Vergers Guild of the Episcopal Church. Also known as the VGEC, we are located on the web at vergers.org and facebook.com/vergerguild the #1 online resources for vergers world-wide.

For information about submitting news and announcements to the blog, click HERE or contact [email protected].

Friday, October 31, 2014

My Diocese Doesn't Have A VGEC Chapter - Help! Part 1

Not Cindy Leap's church, but illustrative of how alone any one of us may feel from time to time...

By Ken Holloway, VGEC News Manager, with Cindy Leap and Nicholas Birchum

The power of the Vergers' Guild of the Episcopal Church lies in its distributed membership, and especially in its diocesan and local chapters. Currently we have chapters in these eight dioceses: Atlanta, Connecticut, Dallas, Mississippi, North Carolina, Southeast Florida, Tennessee, and Texas, with new chapters under development in many dioceses across the country.

"Chatter" between chapter members and their parish churches has a way of revealing new ideas or methods and thereby reinforcing communications and idea exchange among the member churches. Chapters also provide the experience and processes that support training and development of new vergers, both in established "vergerized" churches and those seeking a verger ministry of their own.

Earlier this year, Cindy Leap,a VGEC Fellow, of  St. Mark's Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, expressed interest in exploring the dynamic of "big-city" parishes as contrasted to smaller rural area parishes with regard to their need for vergers. Nicholas Birchum, head verger at the Cathedral Church of Saint Matthew in Dallas and past chair of the Dallas Chapter, answered Cindy with some keen observations.

Let's listen in on parts of their conversation.

Cindy begins, "I am one of 7 or 8 vergers in the Diocese of Pittsburgh  (over 40 parishes) and I believe the only one to have completed the VGEC training course to become a Fellow."

"While it would be a wonderful thing for us to develop a chapter, there are some obstacles that would need to be overcome, the biggest being distance.  It is over 80 miles from my church to the church that has the majority of the vergers.  They are all located in or around Pittsburgh with larger congregations (150-500 people) and I am in a small rural parish of less than 30 active members which is actively searching for a new rector."

"I would like to see something developed that addresses the different issues between big city parishes and small parishes. To be perfectly honest, at this time in our parish, it’s quite silly to have a verger in liturgical attire leading a small procession of seven people. I’m having difficulty articulating these differences, but they are substantial."

Nicholas answered, saying "Cindy, I would like to share some similarities between the Diocese of Pittsburgh and the Diocese of Dallas."

"In our diocese, several parishes have their own chapters. But in addition, there is a diocesan chapter which formed at the request of our bishop in 1994. Any verger may join the diocesan chapter, but it is not required. Even paying dues is optional. It is loosely knit, but works wonderfully."

"The diocesan guild is a fraternity of vergers who choose to serve together. We have vergers who come from large and small parishes. I would share that I know of several small parishes that take the position that we're small so a verger is too much. But there are some small parishes that would never dream of a service, no matter how big or small, without a verger."

"The diocesan guild has an unusual feature. If you are a member, and have trained  properly, you can serve at any diocesan event, convention, convocation, as well as parishes that have no verger but need one for some special event of one kind or another."

"There are at least two vergers in the diocesan guild who come from parishes that have no verger. Their rectors refuse to have vergers. So these diocesan vergers only serve at the cathedral from time to time and at diocesan events. The bishop's staff and cathedral staff reach out to the diocesan guild and just announce an event and say that they need vergers. The diocesan vergers reply if they can attend. It's a strong bond, and the bishop and cathedral are very pleased. They know that any event will be handled if they hear that the vergers will attend."

Fast forward to today, Wednesday, October 29, 2014. Cindy met this afternoon with her new rector, The Rev. Nancy Threadgill, who asked Cindy to help her define the verger's role at St. Mark's over the next few months.

So the story continues. Will Cindy be able to use some of the concepts which Nicholas shared to organize a VGEC chapter in the Diocese of Pittsburgh? Will she be a force in Pennsylvania verger history? Will Nicholas, the VGEC Chapter Development Committee, or other willing VGEC member contribute concepts and processes that result in a thriving verger chapter in the Diocese? How many vergers from the Pittsburgh area will we get to meet in St. Louis next October at the 27th VGEC Annual Conference? Which dioceses will be officially recognized as new chapters of the VGEC at the next conference?

Stay tuned, intrepid vergers, as we monitor the Diocese of Pittsburgh VGEC chapter possibilities, and the exciting new era of verger ministry at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Johnstown, PA.

Abstract: Is your church located some distance from a metropolitan area? Are you seeking verger-comradeship? Are you a verger without a verger ministry? Would it help to have a conversation with other vergers around common liturgical issues, like your rector doesn't see the need for a verger or your church has less than 50 members and you are not quite "right" with escorting a procession of 7 folks on Sunday? If you qualify, listen in on a real conversation dealing with a few of these topics in this week's Verger's Voice - My Diocese Doesn't Have A VGEC Chapter - Help! Part 1, and tune in soon for Part 2, in which our heroes begin to whittle down a set of solutions for real-life verger dilemmas. 

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Rev. Walt Kindergan, Former Verger, Comments on Being Ordained

The Rev. Walter Kindergan and wife, Becky at the VGEC 26th Conference in Burlington, Ontario

By Ken Holloway,VGEC News Manager, with the Rev. Walter Kindergan

I asked the Rev. Walt Kindergan, the former verger at Christ Episcopal Church, in Pensacola, Florida, about the events on his life path that led him to ordination. I wanted to know how/why/when he decided to seek ordination. I wondered why he sought to make himself available, at this level of service, to his community. I asked, "What about your journey would you tell prospective vergers? New vergers? Well-experienced vergers? What about the priesthood do you find the most fulfilling activity?"

He said,"When I became a verger it was mostly because I saw it as another opportunity to serve the church I love in a deeper and more fulfilling way. And it certainly did meet those expectations. Over the years, I have very much enjoyed the learning, the opportunities for service, and the camaraderie I have found as a member of the Vergers Guild of the Episcopal Church."

"About eight years ago, I began discernment for the vocational deaconate. I was getting close to retirement but still had a lot of energy and I knew God had something more for me to do. Soon after that, our diocese began a two-year Deacon’s School (in 2008) but I didn’t think I was ready yet. Then, in the summer of 2011, after much personal reading and discernment and many long conversations with mentors, clergy, spouse, and friends, I discerned a call to the priesthood. The Commission on Ministry and the bishop agreed and I began studies at The General Theological Seminary the fall of 2011."

"Seminary was great fun and extremely rewarding. I like to say it was like Education for Ministry (EfM) all day every day – and those who know EfM will understand this. Of course, there was a lot of reading, studying, writing papers, lectures, etc. but every bit of it was fascinating and educating. And my experience as a verger really paid off, especially in two areas. One is probably obvious: a verger arrives at seminary perhaps a bit more knowledgeable than many other seminarians who have not served the liturgy in the same way. The other area is not so obvious but, I would argue, perhaps even more important. And that is that a verger understands her or his ministry is one of ‘hospitality’ and ‘service.’ That is a critically important attitude for any seminarian to hold and it is vital to successful ordained ministry."

"Now that I am a priest and serving as Curate at Holy Cross Episcopal Church in Pensacola, Florida, I cannot imagine what I might be doing that could be more rewarding and fulfilling – and just plain fun!"

"If I were asked for advice by someone thinking of becoming a verger, or a deacon, or a priest, I would remind them to take their time, pray about it often, and really discern what God is calling them to do – and don’t do it in a vacuum but seek a lot of conversation with others. And remember that God doesn’t call the qualified – Moses couldn’t speak right, Jeremiah was too young, Isaiah was a man of unclean lips, and so on – but God qualifies the called. Just think about the disciples."

"And one last thing – always remember that ours is forever a ministry of ‘hospitality’ and ‘service.’ It’s never about you – it’s about Jesus!"

So, Walt, after a long Naval career and subsequent experience in governmental administrative positions, made himself available to serve in the church. Is his story unique? I will parrot those who have said, "It is just as common for a dentist or teacher, a "techie" or tailor, as it is for a verger or anyone else to be ordained." It really relates to how one is called to be a servant of Christ.

How can we know if we are being called? As humans, all we can do is to be vividly aware when God grabs us by the nose and pay careful attention to following His lead.

Abstract: Vergers thinking about seeking ordination, read this article. It's about your calling. It's about your willingness to be a servant. It's about your commitment. It's about knowing God. The Rev. Walt Kindergan tells us about his experience in becoming a priest.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Advancing VGEC Technology, Board Elections, Committee Appointments, and More

By Ken Holloway-VGEC News Manager

How do we measure progress? What about the VGEC is changing and how will change in our Guild transpire? Who was elected at our annual meeting? What are we doing to advance our use of technology so that more vergers can attend the annual conference - virtually?

Let us count the ways...(with all due respect to Elizabeth Barrett Browning)

Experimental Webcast of 26th Conference Business Meeting Conducted via Verger TV on YouTube:

In the interest of determining how best to expand the membership participation at the Annual Conference, we conducted an experimental webcast of the Business Meeting from Burlington via our YouTube channel. I was on the other end of the webcast here in Round Rock, TX making notes as fast as my stubby little fingers could type. As one of many who could not attend this year, I felt very connected to the proceedings. The plan is to expand the study population by broadcasting to a larger audience during the 27th Annual Conference in St. Louis in 2015. We are currently studying what means would be required to conduct the second phase of the study. If next year's webcast is successful, VGEC may plan to make certain parts of the conference available, streaming live on-line for the entire Guild membership and the general public. Watch for updates on this and other VGEC technology initiatives currently in evaluation and feasibility study phases.

On the board membership, leadership structure and committee appointments:

At the VGEC 26th Annual Conference in Burlington, Ontario, the members present elected Terry Hughes, Michael Sanchez, and Scott Smith to fill the three open positions on the board. Each was elected for a three-year term in the vestry-model board. Subsequently, Scott Smith was re-elected as President, Bill White is now the Vice President, Cheryl Cantrall became the Secretary, and Duke DuTeil remains Treasurer. John Whitaker and Ann Davis McLain were appointed to the Audit Committee. Betty Moore was appointed as the new Training Course Registrar. More exciting news about the changing Training Course will be coming in the Verger's Voice very soon!

James Armstrong, Head Verger, Carlisle Cathedral, to be Keynote Speaker in 2015:

During this year's Pilgrimage to Canterbury, Margaret McLarty and Scott Smith talked with James Armstrong about the VGEC Annual Conference and its history of visits by Anglican Church leaders. Margaret suggested that James consider presenting the keynote address at our 27th Annual Conference in St. Louis,.October 1-4, 2015. We are happy to announce that James Armstrong will be with us in St. Louis. James has been researching the history of the ministry of the verger for several decades and the verger's residence at Carlisle Cathedral has a room specifically dedicated to this work. Look for a full and detailed history of our ministry and a rare view into his growing catalog of virges and other verger-related artifacts from England. Registration opens January 1, 2015.

VGEC Chaplain attends meeting of The Anglican Communion Compass Rose Society:

The Rev. Canon Matthew Corkern, Rector of Calvery Episcopal Church, Summit, N.J. and our VGEC Chaplain, attended a meeting of the Compass Rose Society last week. Rev. Corkern's ongoing work with the Church of England and the Anglican connections to The Episcopal Church took a step forward during this visit to England. Expect a report on the meeting and a look forward to the fabulous Pilgrimage to Canterbury planned for 2015.

Abstract: How do we measure progress? What about the VGEC is changing and how will change in our Guild transpire? Who was elected at our annual meeting? What are we doing to advance our use of technology so that more vergers can attend the annual conference - virtually? 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Hidden Gems

Lincoln Cathedral About 400 Years Ago

By John Campbell, Overseas Liaison Officer for the Church of England Guild of Vergers

Many of you may follow me on Facebook at Lincoln Cathedral's Official page with my series of posts entitled, "Hidden Gems." Posts have included shots often hidden, off piste gems in often obscure corners of the upper regions of the building. Others are often in accessible areas but missed as the pilgrim passes by oblivious to the details surrounding them.

Revelations highlight ancient and modern observations including an ancient fossil at the foot of the shrine of St Hugh, traces of blue, red and gold embellishment found on the pulpitum, ancient and modern graffiti, brilliant sun rises, simple decorations and detailed elaborate carvings. These are coupled to the real gems (the true treasures of the church - as would be depicted by the Deacon - later saint - Laurence) the human presence in the building: visitor, staff, pilgrim, contractor, communicant, all users of this sacred space.

It is a joy and a privilege to share Lincoln Cathedral through the modern technology which is Facebook. It is also a privilege to share these treasures in a tangible form as we welcome people physically to Lincoln and not least within the 'world wide fellowship' of our guilds and with vergers worldwide.

Recent visitors welcomed have included the planned and the impromptu like Eduardo Fanfani on his intensive visit to the UK from Rome. It was an enjoyable experience to welcome Eduardo and spend an all too short 50 minutes exploring and explaining the cathedral. It was no less a privilege to welcome a pilgrimage under the leadership of your chaplain, The Rev. Matthew Corkern, who with a party of 31, including many VGEC members, spent 72 hours enjoying a mixture of "faith, fun and fellowship" as part of their pilgrimage from Windsor to Canterbury on a somewhat circuitous route.

As well as welcoming "overseas members" of the VGEC to Lincoln, I am often able to arrange introductions to several other venues. I am grateful to: James Armstrong - Carlisle Cathedral, Alex Carberry - York Minster and Martin Castledine-Westminster Abbey, who have assisted in welcoming visitors from USA, New Zealand, Italy, Australia, and other Anglican communities.

Please use your Overseas Liaison officer to contact vergers, assist with itineraries, help you find those hidden gems from the small (bee carved in a quire stall) to the large (Lincoln Cathedral, an amazing pile of stones), the man made, the natural and the spiritual - I am here to help.

Pax vobiscum
John G Campbell
Dean's Verger - Lincoln Cathedral
Overseas Liaison Officer - CEGV
[email protected]

PS: For a stunning history of Lincoln Cathedral, see The Cathedral Church of Lincoln: A History and Description of its Fabric and a List of The Bishops By A. F. Kendrick, B.A.

Abstract: John Campbell, bids us welcome and invites our requests for facts, connections, referrals on travel, tidbits, stories and notes on the history and practice of the verger's ministry. This post includes a link to an elegant downloadable book entitled The Cathedral Church of Lincoln.

Friday, October 3, 2014

"The Blast in Burlington" - 26th VGEC Conference a Hit

26th VGEC Annual Conference - Sunday Service at Christ's Church Cathedral, Hamilton, Ontario - September 28, 2014

By Ken Holloway, with comments from roaming reporters

From the east to the west, the north and the south of Canada and the US plus across the Atlantic, comments are arriving at this desk about the 26th VGEC Annual Conference. These just in, "...we had a blast in Burlington." "They really know how to celebrate." "The singing Mountie was the best!" After a week off, let’s go to press!

"This was one of the best conferences I have attended.  The hospitality shown by the Parish Church of St. Luke was exceptional.  The two highlights for me were the Three Cantors and the Burlington Teen Tour Band that played for us outside our banquet on Saturday evening.  That said, the whole conference was a highlight of my September this year. This conference was a cause for renewal of my hope in our Episcopal Church. We have so many dedicated people who love the church and are willing to serve and to serve as examples to others who are seeking a spiritual home. The Episcopal Church is alive and well if our vergers are any example - and I think we are."  - The Rev. Walter Kindergan, Pensacola, FL.

"Liturgically my high point was my first Festival Procession or Holy Pretzel. I've read about them but had never seen one until Sunday at Christ Church Cathedral. Cynthia Jean Shepley, Windsor, Ontario, Canada, sitting next to me, had never been in a cathedral so she was thrilled. When the Festival Procession started heading down the aisle, it seemed like it went out of the church but then here it came up the side, across the front and back down the other side aisle. It was awesome. Diane Carlisle, Seattle, WA, was sitting on my other side. Her church does festival processions several times a year so she was able to coach Cynthia and me." - Eileen Hicks, Baytown TX

"Burlington is a conference that we'll be talking about for years to come!  There were many high points in the conference, it's hard to name just one.  The experience at the cathedral had me in awe the entire time, the trip to Niagara Falls is something I'll never forget, the sessions were informative and engaging, and the fellowship was truly soul-nourishing.  Is it 2015 yet?  I can't wait to see all my friends--and make new ones--in St. Louis!" - Michael Sanchez, Oregon City, OR

"Having 140 people together for four days was a true joy. We were hoping for 90 - blessings from God that we had so many people interested in the ministry of the verger. The trip to Niagara Falls is not to be forgotten. Once in a lifetime for me as my grandparents went there in 1937 and loved it. Thinking that the water there is doing the same thing so many years later is pretty cool to say the least. The Burlington Teen Tour Band as lead in to the Saturday evening was fantastic - what a way to start the night!" - Scott Smith, Nashville TN

"It was a pleasure to be back in Ontario and to have the opportunity to go a visit my alma mater and take in Niagara Falls and the beautiful country side around Lake Ontario. This was a wonderful conference and we were very pleased to be part of it. The highlight for me was the beautiful festival procession and church service. The singing Mountie was a delightful additional treat. Kathie and I, along with our planning and verger team look forward to being your hosts in Spokane Washington in 2016." - Dallas and Kathie Hawkins, Spokane WA

"Another couple of notes about Ms. Shepley. I met her for the first time on Thursday, found out she's just starting out as a verger and had no robes. Then Saturday night at the banquet it was announced that one of the CEGV members had an extra chimere if anyone needed it. In a God moment, it of course fit Cynthia beautifully. The conference spirit really hit on Sunday when a Detroit verger, Lea Ellwood-Filkins, ran into Cynthia, saw her name tag, and exclaimed "We've been looking for you", and they went off discussing the possibility of starting a VGEC chapter across the border." - Eileen Hicks, Baytown TX

 Kent Wingerson, Topeka, KS, celebrated his birthday during the conference, I think on Saturday, and everyone sang Happy Birthday to him. He turned as purple as the shirt he was wearing.  Bill Gleason, Nashville TN, instigated the announcement and later treated him to lunch while at Niagara Falls.

"The formal establishment of the Diocese of North Carolina Chapter and the Episcopal Church in Connecticut Chapter speaks the the success and growth of the Diocesan model for chapters of the VGEC. We're in high gear on that initiative." - Scott Smith, Nashville TN

If you think you've experienced hospitality before, how about the congregation of the Parish Church of St. Luke which went to Christ's Church Cathedral in Hamilton bringing their choir, priest, and banner for the service Sunday morning. Yep, the whole congregation closed the doors, boarded buses, drove down the coast and showed up, supporting us, their guests. Wow!

Thank you Terry Hughes, Ritchard Taylor, the vergers of the Diocese of Niagara and the entire St. Luke's congregation. It was a unique experience... just as you had promised, eh!

Readers can view the online photo album located here or visit VergerTV to see the video of the Thursday Evensong and the Sunday Eucharist.

Abstract:  From all points in Canada, the US, and  England, 111 VGEC members and 28 guests gathered in Burlington to renew acquaintances with many friends met at previous conferences, to 'catch up' with them and to meet new people with a common purpose, to faithfully serve our liturgical tradition. Read about some highlights and view video and photos from the 26th Annual Conference.