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, February 27, 2015

Calling all Vergers for Salt Lake City

The got vergers? sign rises high above the exhibit hall floor in 2012 at the 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church

By Ken Holloway, VGEC News Manager

What exactly is General Convention?

This is not the easiest question to answer. If you review www.generalconvention.org, you find that the 78th General Convention of the Episcopal Church will convene in Salt Lake City from June 25 through July 3, 2015 and you see some other obscure looking links to various materials. You likely will find it hard to figure out exactly what GC really is. On further digging, we found this: "The General Convention is the governing body of The Episcopal Church that meets every three years where work is carried out by deputies and bishops representing each diocese." The actual description is longer, but this gives you a pretty good thumbnail sketch.

For the VGEC, General Convention is the premier event opportunity for the guild to reach a large number of church members and clergy from across the country.

According to Scott Smith, VGEC president, "Since 2009, the VGEC has been present in the exhibit hall at General Convention and it has become a very important way that the Vergers Guild of the Episcopal Church can share information about the ministry of the verger and how our work for welcome, for organization, and for service can benefit all sizes of parishes from small to large."

So what is the exhibit hall and how does this all work? First, take a look at some of the photos of the VGEC's booth in 2009 in Anaheim, California and in 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana. You will see that our participation has been growing in what we are able to talk about and how we are able to present the ministry to everyone who attends.

Margaret McLarty, VGEC immediate past president and chair of our General Convention Committee, reported during the February VGEC virtual board meeting that, "We have obtained a very good location in the exhibit hall for our booth this year. It is in a central corner location, just across the aisle from and very near to the entrance from convention registration. I am very excited about our location this year." Margaret provided the board with a copy of the 2015 exhibit hall floor plan showing the location of the booth.

What will our message be at this year's convention? According to Michael Sanchez, VGEC board member and liaison for the Communication Committee, "This year we are focusing on how we all can work with our clergy to learn how to be better vergers. With our fully revised national self-guided training course, as well as a wealth of online shared resources, the VGEC is poised better than ever to help spread the verger ministry throughout the Episcopal church and the world-wide Anglican Communion."

How can we all help? Scott adds, "We are thrilled to be taking part this year and we call on all members of the VGEC to consider coming to Salt Lake City to help staff our booth. General Convention is long - nine days by our calculation - but no one is expected to staff the booth for the entire time. We need a small cadre of committed volunteers to help in telling our story, answering questions about the verger ministry, and cheerfully distributing VGEC memorabilia to convention delegates and visitors."

As part of the VGEC exhibit hall team, your badge will give you free admission to the exhibit hall. Not only will you meet the most interesting people from all over the world in the most congenial setting imaginable, you can also tell verger stories all day long! If you are a delegate or alternate delegate to GC please consider volunteering with us. VGEC will provide lunch and snacks for the booth workers during ther shift.

Sign up to be a Exhibit Hall Volunteerand we will contact you with additional details. If you have any questions, please contact [email protected].

We'd really enjoy hearing about your General Convention experiences when we meet in Saint Louis for the 2015 VGEC Annual Conference. You see, your presence at both events brings a premium return to the VGEC because you will have "been there and done that" as a messenger of Christ.

Register for the 2015 Annual Conference being held October 1 to October 4, 2015 in St. Louis, Missouri by clicking on the big red button:

Abstract: We have the very best opportunity to tell the "VERGER STORY" and answer questions at the Episcopal Church's General Convention 2015. Volunteer to help the represent the VGEC in Salt Lake City June 25 – July 3, 2015 at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, UT.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Who do we think we are? James Armstrong - National Chairman Church of England Guild of Virgers

A virge from the 17th Century (or is it?) from the collection of Carlisle Cathedral in England

By Ken Holloway, News Manager, VGEC, with James Armstrong, National Chairman of the Church of England Guild of Vergers (CEGV)

As the agenda for the 2015 VGEC Conference in St. Louis was formed, a topic near to my heart grabbed my attention. On Friday morning is James Armstrong's Keynote address entitled "Who Do We Think We Are? Our Ancestry as Vergers.”

I wrote to him saying, "The title of your address is intriguing. I am a avid student of church history, so I anticipate that your presentation will be like chocolate candy to me.” I asked him how he became a verger and what led him to his post as Head Verger of Carlisle Cathedral. I also wanted to know why and how he began accumulating this body of knowledge.

He responded, "My career as a verger began in St Mary’s Parish Church, Wooler, Northumberland England when I had just left school in 1979. I took over the role from a gentleman who had been a family friend who became ill. This was no great surprise to anyone as I had been worshiping at the church all my life and was always keen to help and I was possibly a nuisance to him always hanging around. So I became the voluntary verger of St Mary’s for the next eight years as well as working as an Agricultural Chemist in Tweedmouth which is on the border between England and Scotland. I was next appointed, after an interview, to the post of verger of Hexham Abbey, Northumberland - a building which dates back to 674, although most of what is above ground was built in the 1200's. My next move was to become the Head Verger of Carlisle Cathedral to succeed John Campbell when he moved to Lincoln. Both John and I now have been in our positions for almost 25 years!

"I joined the CEGV in 1983 while I was at Wooler and have served the guild on various committees and held positions both at branch and national level. It was during our various meetings and conferences that as a young verger the older members were talking and giving advice as well as reminiscing on times past, I thought to myself, "... if this information is not written down it will be lost." So whenever the gin and tonics were poured and talk turned to the formation of the CEGV, I started to make notes of all that was relevant. This I later turned into a time line and have added to it through reading old meeting minutes and back copies of “The Virger” magazine. During this process I accumulated a lot of snippets and bits about vergers and our ministry that were just sitting in a file. It finally dawned on me that I needed to do something with this pile of hand written scraps of paper. This is the foundation of my knowledge and indeed my presentation."

You see, therefore, that James has for a long time collected artifacts and documents supportive of his study of the history and evolution of the verger ministry in the Anglican tradition. As head verger at Carlisle Cathedral in the UK, his residence there has a room set aside solely as a repository for the result of his research.

As we talked, I became more and more thirsty for "verger-history brew," Carlisle-style, when he told me, "I became increasing aware that although we all assume that we trace our roots back to the Roman temple servants and guards there was no evidence. This has become a bit of a quest. Then thoughts turned to, was there any shape or design that was universal among early virges and what date did they come into use? That led to my appealing to our members to send me pictures and as much information on their virges as possible. I had some success but I have drawn no conclusions as to what early virges looked like and what date they were first introduced into our liturgy. There are a few from the 1600s still in use in cathedrals today. So many questions, so many of them still unanswered, but I have made a start."

Finally, he shared just one example of what we'll be privileged to hear during the Keynote Address at the VGEC 27th Annual Conference in October:

"1160 Old St Paul’s Cathedral London; The Treasurer was a canon of very great importance; the tithes of four churches came to him. He was entrusted with the duty of providing the lighting of the cathedral, and had charge of the relics, the books, the sacred vessels, crosses, curtains, and palls. The Sacrist had to superintend the tolling of the bells, to see that the church was opened at the appointed times, that it was kept clean, and that reverence was maintained at times of service. Under him were four Vergers (wand-bearers), who enforced the Sacrist's rules, and took care "bad characters" were not harboured in the church."

I have a scant notion of what those "bad characters" may have looked like. Can you see them being approached by the wand-bearers? What conversation may have transpired? Register now to come to St. Louis on October 1-4, 2015 and find out first hand from James Armstrong!

James tells us about the virge in the photograph above, "This verge does have a story attached to it, It was said to have been carried before Bishop Owen Oglethorpe, Bishop of Carlisle 1557-1559 on the occasion he crowned Elizabeth I. Unfortunately no evidence supports this claim, and it has no hall marks to establish its date or provenance. It does bear the arms of the Dean and Chapter so was probably made for the cathedral, but it has been judged stylistically to be of seventeenth century date and probably the “one silver mace” which is listed in the inventory of 1674."

Who could resist learning more from the leader of the vergers of the Church of England? Join us in St. Louis for a fascinating experience reaching into and examining our rich world-wide history of the ministry of the verger.

Register for the 2015 Annual Conference being held October 1 to October 4, 2015 in St. Louis, Missouri by clicking on the big red button:

Abstract: 25 years as Head Verger at Carlisle Cathedral. Current National Chairman of the Church of England Guild of Vergers, and our Keynote Speaker at the VGEC 27th Annual Conference, this year in St. Louis, MO. He brings to us an in-depth commentary on the history of the verger supported by serious research to tell the story,"Who Do We Think We Are? Our Ancestry as Vergers”.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Natalie Hala - 1st Verger at Episcopal Church of St. Mary the Virgin and New VGEC Fellow

Natalie Hala is recognized as a Fellow of the VGEC at the 26th Annual Conference by Scott Smith, VGEC President

By Ken Holloway, VGEC News Manager

"Bridging the People and Worship" is how Natalie Hala, the first Fellow of the Vergers Guild of the Episcopal Church (VGEC) in the Diocese of California describes her verger ministry in an article in the newsletter of The Episcopal Church of St. Mary the Virgin in San Francisco as seen here, beginning on page 7. The diocesan newsletter picked up the story and published it in the November 18th edition. Here are some excerpts from her article:

"Do you know that over 200 names appear on the rosters of our worship ministries at St. Mary's? If you are serving as a chalice bearer, choir member, usher, Altar Guild member, lector, or in other related ministries, you are an important part of what makes our worship a truly distinct expression of the gathered community. Whether or not you serve in any of these ministries, have you ever wondered how all these people come together with the clergy to create coherent worship services that lift the hearts and souls? This is where the ministry of verger comes in.

"During this past year of intensive study and prayerful discernment, the Rev. Christine McSpadden served as my mentor and adviser. I worked ....in many aspects of the "behind the scenes" work that are part of planning, implementing and evaluating a service, especially during Advent, Christmas, Holy Week, Easter and other special services, like the Feast of All Souls' Day.

"During this past year the Associate Rector and I developed customaries and directionals that sequence the actions and movement for each member of the altar party, including the formation and order of processions, in and out of the church. I compiled checklists that identify specific items that are needed in a service. The verger confirms that all the items are in their designated places before the start of a service.

"As verger I will add another perspective and voice in the development, content, and flow of services as they are being prepared. Occasionally I will attend weekly Liturgy Team meetings of the Rector, Associate Rector and Director of Music. The call to the ministry of verger has risen during my continuing spiritual discernment. To me, part of fulfilling the Baptismal Covenant means actively participating in my faith community through Christian service and leadership. I view myself as the "people's representative" in the planning and implementation of worship. My hope is that I serve all of you capably and prayerfully as we strengthen the spiritual dimension of our worship at St. Mary's, and broaden the life of the church through Christ beyond our courtyard walls."

Natalie was installed as verger for the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, San Francisco, at the 11:00 a.m. on Sunday, November 30, 2014. She graciously volunteered to answer questions about the verger ministry by publishing her email contact information in the newsletter. The article also included a reference to the VGEC website for anyone interested in the guild or our training program.

When a VGEC member is the first in a diocese to be recognized as a "Fellow" of the guild we can collectively celebrate the accomplishment while thinking about how we can help to make the VGEC better known and more available to others in that diocese. For that matter, shouldn't we take on an evangelistic attitude about the guild? How can we spread the word about our 2015 VGEC Conference as a way for new vergers (and seasoned vergers too) to experience grand conversation and learning opportunities around our ministry?

Natalie helps to represent the presence of the VGEC on the west coast. Here's hoping that more vergers in the Diocese of California and surrounding dioceses will join the guild, enroll in the VGEC Training course and earn the distinction of becoming a "Fellow of the Guild," not for recognition, but for the expanded understanding and appreciation for the verger ministry, its heritage and daily path of servant leadership.

P.S. Another way to publicize the guild and the conference is to register now and get your parish administrator to issue a press release locally with a few words about your plan to "Meet Us in St. Louis!"

Register for the 2015 Annual Conference being held October 1 to October 4, 2015 in St. Louis, Missouri by clicking on the big red button:

Abstract: The first "Fellow" of the Vergers Guild of the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of California is big news. This woman is setting precedent in her diocese. We are proud of her accomplishment. If that were not enough, her parish church, The Episcopal Church of St, Mary the Virgin, has made her its first verger. Kudos all around.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Meet Us in St. Louis!

Meet Us in St. Louis for the 2015 VGEC Annual Conference! Contrary to rumor, the conference will not star Judy Garland, directed by Vincente Minnelli

By Ken Holloway, News Manager, VGEC, with Shug Goodlow, Chair of the 2015 Conference

Mark your calendars for October 1 through October 4, 2015 and make plans to assemble in St. Louis for the 27th Annual Conference of the Vergers Guild of the Episcopal Church hosted by The Very Rev. Michael D. Kinman, Dean of Christ Church Cathedral, Shug Goodlow, Head Verger, and the host committee from the Diocese of Missouri.

When you attend a VGEC Annual Conference, you will be able to learn more about the verger ministry, spend significant time in fellowship with vergers from around the US and the world, and enjoy many worship opportunities together. Sessions this year include "Verger 101: Exploring the Verger Ministry for the New Verger," "Verger 307: Advanced Discussion Topics for All Vergers," "Using Social Media to Spread the Word," "The Role of Cathedrals," "The Partnership Between Clergy and the Verger Ministry," and many more!

This year we are also introducing a new session called "Verging in Depth" designed to facilitate in-depth discussions on relevant topics for all vergers, new and experienced. This year the topic is "Holy Smoke!" focusing on the use of incense. We all have questions or opinions about why we use incense in the first place and when, where and how best to use it or not to use it.

Here are some of the highlights of the conference:
  • Keynote Address, "Who Do We Think We Are? Our Ancestry as Vergers” by James Armstrong, Head Verger, Carlisle Cathedral and National Chairman of the Church of England Guild of Vergers (CEGV)
  • Verger 101: Exploring the Verger Ministry for the New Verger
  • Verger 307: Advanced Topics for All Vergers
  • Verging in Depth: Holy Smoke! A detailed look into the use of incense
  • A discussion of The Role of Cathedrals led by the Very Rev. Mike Kinman, Dean
  • Early History of Black Anglicanism led by Sylvester Johnson, Ph.D.
  • Presentation on the history of Christ Church Cathedral with tour of the Cathedral and Reredos
  • Tour of the Missouri Botanical Gardens - 79 acres of lush gardens, landscape architecture, greenhouses and conservatories at the oldest Botanical Garden in the United States
  • Special events for spouses, partners and guests of conference attendees
  • Thursday evening Choral Evensong at Christ Church Cathedral
  • Morning Prayer each day
  • Vergers Recognition Dinner and Entertainment
  • 3-D Video Light Show
  • Verger Exhibit Hall including the Vergers Guild Shop and Hospitality Suite
  • VGEC Annual Business Meeting and board elections
  • Festive Choral Eucharist with the Procession of Vergers and Christ Church Cathedral Choir. The Rt. Rev. George Wayne Smith, 10th Bishop of the Diocese of Missouri, celebrating and preaching
This list will change over the next several months. If it is any indication, it shows that we are in for an incredible conference filled with a large number of learning options and experiences.

Christ Church Cathedral is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a National Historic Landmark. This wonderful, intimate example of a Gothic Revival church was designed by prominent New York architect Leopold Eidlitz and dedicated in 1867.

Just 7/10ths of a mile walking distance from the cathedral, our conference hotel is the St. Louis Union Station Hotel (a Doubletree Hilton Hotel). The hotel is on the actual site of the historic St. Louis Union Railway Station. All of the guest rooms have been renovated recently, so expect the "new" smell in your room at the conference rate of $119.00 plus 15.74% tax for one King Bed Deluxe. Other room accommodations are also available at special VGEC rates. Continental breakfast is included in the room rate. Reserve your room by clicking here now.

Be sure to review the full conference agenda on the VGEC conference page and watch for the essential VGEC travel "Survival Guide" soon to be completed and linked there. It is a good practice to visit the conference page often to catch any agenda or event location changes or updates which may be made as we near the conference date.

Registration is open now, so get moving toward St. Louis. What are you waiting for? Press the big red button!

Note from Ken: I'm planning to travel to St. Louis on AMTRAK from Austin. More on that in a later Vergers Voice post!

Register for the 2015 Annual Conference being held October 1 to October 4, 2015 in St. Louis, Missouri by clicking on the big red button below.

Abstract: 27th Annual VGEC Conference is to convene at Christ Church Cathedral in Saint Louis on October 1, 2015. Reserve your hotel rooms and register now. This week's post is an overview of the conference venues and agenda. St. Louis is a fantastic setting for our conference.