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, July 31, 2015

"Vergers: The Concierges of the Church" - How the Video Was Made

The Right Reverend Michael Curry, Bishop of the Diocese of North Carolina and Presiding Bishop-Elect

By Ken Holloway with Richard Parker

This week I asked Richard Parker, verger at Church of the Holy Comforter, Burlington, North Carolina about the video entitled Vergers: The Concierges of the Church, which our Presiding Bishop-Elect, The Rt. Rev. Michael Curry, made in the fall of 2014 with Richard and Mick Capon, as a part of the diocese's continuing news video series, Please Note from the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina. Richard had these observations on why and how the video was made and the results of the conversation with Bishop Curry.

"Shortly after our Diocese of North Carolina chapter of the VGEC was started in 2014, we met with our Bishop Suffragan Anne Hodges-Copple to tell her about our new chapter. She was very excited to hear that the vergers would have regular meetings and continue to promote the ministry throughout the diocese. She said that she would inform our diocesan Bishop Curry and suggested that we arrange to meet with him to give him an overview of the verger ministry in North Carolina and the role of the VGEC plays in supporting the diocesan chapters.

"We originally set the meeting for the summer but conflicts arose so we arranged to meet in the fall. The verger at St. Philip's in Durham, NC, Mick Capon and I met with Bishop Curry in November, 2014. Mick and I had a long discussion with the Bishop before his film crew began taping our conversation. Bishop Curry recalled that when he became our Bishop 15 years earlier, there were only a few vergers in the diocese. He was thrilled to find out that there were over fifty vergers in the diocese now.

"He asked both of us about our ministry to our local parish and what vergers did in other churches. We explained the various roles that vergers serve and that the duties of the verger were directed by the parish priest. We said that in some churches, the verger is behind-the-scenes and in other churches the verger is "out in front," during processions and at other times. As our discussions went on, the Bishop was enthusiastic about our ministry and mentioned that he'd encouraged all parish priests to find someone in the parish that could fill the position of verger.

"As General Convention approached, the vergers in North Carolina had a pretty good feeling about Bishop Curry's chances to be elected as Presiding Bishop. Our knowledge of him and his ministry gave us confidence as the election drew closer. We were not surprised when we learned of his election and were thrilled when we immediately saw the Vergers Voice blog post with our video front and center! We were sad to lose him as our Bishop but we are thrilled at the prospects of his new position. We gladly give him up to the greater church and we are very confident that he will continue to motivate us all!

"We feel that Bishop will help promote the verger's ministry as he begins his journey as our Presiding Bishop. As for us here in North Carolina, we have great confidence in the leadership of Bishop Anne and the eventual election of a new Bishop."

A further endorsement of North Carolina vergers was made in "A Rector's Take on Vergers", featuring The Reverend Jonah Kendall, rector of St. Philip's, Durham as he comments on his introduction to parish vergers and the partnership he found with Bruce Olive who preceded Mick Capon at St. Phillip's. He spends a very concise minute and twenty-four seconds endorsing the verger's role as a "right hand" for the rector. I was impressed that Rev. Kendall emphasized that vergers are not just for cathedrals or large program churches, challenging all rectors to consider the value that a parish of any size gains from having a verger.


Click the big red button to register for the 2015 Annual Conference being held October 1-4, 2015 in St. Louis, Missouri:.

Abstract: Some believe that vergers only have a place at a cathedral or large parish church. Others know that any church can benefit from the verger ministry. The Bishop of North Carolina, now our Presiding Bishop-Elect, The Right Reverend Michael Curry and The Rev. Jonah Kendall, rector of St. Phillip's in Durham made news videos in the recent past exploring and endorsing vergers as "concierges" and "partners". Read about how the videos came to be made.

Friday, July 24, 2015

2015 VGEC Conference - "How goes it" report

Shug Goodlow, Head Verger, Christ Church Cathedral, St. Louis and Chair of the 2015 Annual Conference Committee escorting a Sunday procession, before going back to work, that afternoon, putting more polish on the details for our stellar 2015 VGEC Conference which begins October 1st. 

By Ken Holloway, VGEC News Manager

We are headed, full tilt, for one of the largest, most diverse, educational-opportunity-filled, VGEC conferences ever, beginning in 10 weeks in St. Louis.

Barry Norris, VGEC Guild Shop manager, reports, this morning, that we now have 128 registrations. Last year at this point, we had 104 registered. It is very likely that we will have over 160 participants at this year's conference if not more. This is a phenomenal number of vergers in one place.

It is not too late for you to register and join us! See the BIG RED BUTTON at the bottom of this message. In fact there is a drawing for a second gift certificate for the Guild Shop if you register by August 1. Tell all your fellow vergers because the registration fee increases on August 1st.

James Armstrong, Head Verger at Carlisle Cathedral in the United Kingdom and our keynote speaker has said that the setting at Christ Church Cathedral, with the generous educational session participation by its clergy and staff, "...is a model for how vergers should gather to increase in our ministries." He is definitely ready to launch.

All of the VGEC booth gear used at the 78th General Convention in Salt Lake, Utah is now in place at Christ Church Cathedral, ready for setup and use during the week of October 1st.

The conference agenda is available.  Have a look and see which sessions you'll be ear-marking. Every conference participant should have already chosen their conference preferences for the various educational sessions, but remember that you can make changes now online at membership.vergers.org. You will be able to make changes during on-site registration for the conference with no problems. There are also many options that will be specified and talked about during the event registration at the hotel on Thursday, October 1st.

My scan of this agenda reveals:
  • 1 evensong followed by dinner
  • 2 morning prayer services
  • 1 Festival Eucharist service
  • 1 concert 
  • 3 sessions of the whole
  • 10 verger education sessions
  • 3 formal tours
  • 1 spectacular light show
  • 1 fantastic formal dinner
That adds up to TWENTY-THREE events packed into three days of conviviality. And that doesn't count the scheduled free time for your exploration of the many unique attractions in Saint Louis. (For you nerds, that's 6.571428571428571 events per conference day.)

  • 9 1/2 hours of VGEC Guild Shop
  • 12 1/2 hours of educational sessions
  • 3 1/4 hours of general membership events
  • 5 3/4 hours of meals or refreshments
  • 2 hours of committee meetings
  • 3 3/4 hours of worship together
  • 3 hours of organized tours
  • 2 hours of entertainment
That adds up to FOURTY-TWO hours of really unique experience available to you over 3 days. (For you nerds that's 14 hours a day of churchy stuff.)

I'm already feeling uplifted, challenged and a little weary (the "warm satisfied weary" you feel while waiting at the gate for your airline trip home). Won't you Meet Us in St. Louis?

FLASH - This just in from our VGEC Board correspondent and VGEC Shop manager, Barry Norris:

The VGEC Board has decided to sweeten the Guild Shop Gift Certificate Offer and add another award. We have extended the cutoff date from June 30th to August 1st. Gift certificate awards will be as listed below.
  • $100 Gift Certificate to the Guild Shop for those who registered by June 1st
  • $50 Gift Certificate to the Guild Shop for those who registered by August 1st
The winning names for the Gift Certificates will be drawn at the Friday night banquet (instead of the Saturday morning business meeting) and the certificates must be redeemed during the conference. That gives you just 8 more days to procrastinate.

Click the big red button to register for the 2015 Annual Conference being held October 1-4, 2015 in St. Louis, Missouri:

Abstract: The 2015 VGEC Annual Conference begins on October 1st, hosted by Christ Church Cathedral vergers, clergy and staff. This year we have 42 hours of verger experiences scheduled in 23 sessions and events, packed into 3 conference days. We're going to see vergers sprinting to the next event every day. So start your training camp now and bring comfortable walking/running shoes. We'll meet you in St. Louis.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Planting a Seed

Cecil Brewster with Sandy Burrell at Sandy's recent birthday celebration

By Sandy Burrell, acolyte and verger at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, The Bronx, NY

In 1987, at ten years old, I joined the acolytes at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church. The late Mr. Webster B. Tapper (1925-1991) was the acolyte trainer and leader at that time. His successor, Cecil Brewster and several others maintained Mr. Tapper's training methods with greatest respect for his inspirational presence which still exists to this day. I progressed from probationary acolyte, to acolyte, to altar server, and finally to senior acolyte. In 2000, Cecil announced he was stepping down as head of the acolytes. He passed the torch to me. After taking charge of the acolytes I was recruited by Eric Petersen in 2005 to prepare to become the first person to formally hold the title of verger at St. Luke’s.

I heard about the VGEC and fortunately already had vacation scheduled to accommodate attending my first VGEC Annual Conference which was held in Swanee, Tennessee in 2005. Whatever doubts I had about being involved in the verger ministry were calmed after talking with others at the event. Those conversations helped me understood that the verger ministry is a natural progression of what I learned during my acolyte training. That made it much easier for me to visualize and plan my new responsibilities. I returned home and worked on preparing myself, With the blessing of the late Mrs. Viola Tapper, I announced to the congregation on March 19, 2006, that my ministry to the church as verger would be in memory of and dedicated to my late mentor Mr. Tapper.

I feel Mr. Tapper was really the first verger at St. Luke's so I wanted to acknowledge his long history of work on behalf of the congregation. During September every year, in observance of the month that Mr. Tapper, I vest strictly as an acolyte while serving.

Because of my having led the acolyte corps at St. Luke's for so long, many in our community urged me to write a leadership book that approached a young audience. I was a little bit tentative at first, but after seeing someone I knew from my college days as a member of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) display his recently published book, I had no excuse for further delay. Cecil encouraged me to consider a bible-based inspirational book for youth.

After wrestling with the unknown path to publication for several months, I started recalling and writing about discussions among the acolytes that had occurred during acolyte practices on Saturday mornings and elsewhere over the past twenty-five year period. Over two years, I found that I had written a book that would hopefully spark the conversation that motivates the youth and empowers them to take on responsibilities and not to feel intimidated.

In October 2014 with the help of Xulon Press, “Seed Time: An Inspirational Book for the Youth” was published. I am excited to say that it is now is available in both paperback and eBook versions!

It was an interesting journey writing this book. It took two years to write during 2012 to 2014. Like most first-time authors, the largest problem was staying motivated to write. This is where another VGEC Annual Conference came into play. Before I left for the 27th VGEC Conference in Burlington, Ontario last fall, I sent all of the final materials to my publisher. When I arrived home, the book was waiting for my approval before going to print. As it entered into print some have asked if I would write another. There is a hint in one of the chapters as to what the next book would be if it were written.

It is not an exaggeration to say that attending several VGEC annual conferences has punctuated my growth within and given great substance to my verger ministry. It certainly seems that God led me to the VGEC, to the verger ministry and to putting my thoughts and experiences into a form which, prayerfully, will be beneficial to young people everywhere.

Click the big red button to register for the 2015 Annual Conference being held October 1-4, 2015 in St. Louis, Missouri:

Abstract: VGEC Annual Conferences marked two very important milestones in the life of the Verger of Saint Luke's Episcopal Church, the Bronx, New York, Sandy Burrell. After 25 years serving as an acolyte, under several influential mentors, he became the church's verger. Then a ground-swell of sentiment and opinion energized him to write a book designed to, "... spark the conversation that motivates the youth and maybe empowers them to take on responsibilities and not feel intimidated."

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Verger's Eyes: General Convention Wrap-Up

Even the "got vergers?" sign looks ready to come down while the VGEC booth contents are packed in boxes to be shipped to Christ Church Cathedral in St. Louis for the 27th Annual VGEC Conference beginning on October 1, 2015

By William Hooper "Bill" Gleason

These few notes are my attempt to wrap up the VGEC's support of the 78th General Convention. As Co-Captains of the booth, Barry Norris and I would like to thank all of the volunteers who helped staff the VGEC booth at the convention:

  • David Evans, Cathedral of St Mark, Salt Lake City, Utah
  • William Gleason, Cathedral of St. John, Denver, Colorado
  • Sid Glynn, All Saints Church, Lakeland, Florida
  • Ron Kastner, Cathedral of St Mark, Salt Lake City, Utah
  • The Rev. Walter B. Kindergan, Sr. Christopher's Episcopal Church, Pensacola, Florida
  • Margaret McLarty, St Andrews Cathedral, Jackson, Mississippi
  • Danny Meadors, St Patricks Church, Long Beach, Mississippi
  • Barry Norris, Church of the Holy Spirit, Haleysville PA
  • Scott Smith, Christ Church Cathedral, Nashville, Tennessee
  • Melita Thorpe, St Andrews Church, Saratoga, California
  • Steve Tilson, Cathedral of St Mark, Salt Lake City, Utah
  • Cindy Ware, Christ Church Cathedral, Lexington, Kentucky
Editor's Note: If we forgot your name in this list, please let us know. This list was compiled during the convention and we may have inadvertently made mistakes. Please contact [email protected] with any updates, corrections, or additions.

These volunteers were incredible representatives of the membership of the VGEC and the ministry of the verger  Each can  unquestionably testify that a two-week stint hosting a booth at this convention is long, tiring, strenuous, and very rewarding. Take time to look at photos covering all aspects of volunteering at the VGEC booth on Flickr.

On Wednesday, July 1, 2015, the closing day of the Convention Exhibit Hall, the Eucharist was truly inspirational. The music opened with a Japanese Drum Ensemble with a dozen or so large drums, each booming their beat throughout the Salt Palace Convention Center. The performance, style, and energy was exhilarating as the convention honored Hiram Hisanori Kano, on his Feast day in the Diocese of Nebraska.

Then we heard the Reverend Becca Stevens of St. Augustine's Chapel, Nashville, Tennessee, and founder of Thistle Farms, preach a sermon entitled, “The Lost Sheep.” She is a moving and inspirational force in the church today, full of power, love, compassion.

Back at the VGEC exhibit booth, it turned out to be the busiest of all the days we were open! Folks who had not visited came to the booth; folks that had previously been by came back; and folks that had waited to pick up the famous magical VGEC cup came to get their cup! Legendary verger hospitality was in play as we made sure that everyone who wanted a cup went home with one.

Over the last days of the exhibit hall it dawned on us we had purchased too much water for the booth, So the final day we gave away a lot of bottled water. Who knew $20 buys 6 cases of water at Costco and that's enough water to just about fill a pool?

The Bishop of Panama, Rt. Rev. Julio E Murray Thompson, came by to visit as well. He is very interested in welcoming the verger ministry to his country and diocese. To support the Diocese of Panama, and other similar dioceses, he encouraged VGEC to have our printed and online materials be translated into Spanish. Who out there will step up to help us with the details and language expertise to support expanding the VGEC mission? This is something that the VGEC has been talking about for some time, so if you are interested in helping, please contact Eileen Brightwell-Hicks, Co-Chair of the VGEC Communications Committee at [email protected].

As delegates started heading back to their meetings at 2:15pm, the Exhibit Hall became progressively empty until it was almost deserted. Other booths were already dismantling and at 2:30pm, we started doing the same to the VGEC booth. With the help of Cindy Ware, Steve Tilson, and David Evans, Barry and I were were able to dismantle and box all the materials in our booth in about 45 minutes. That was far easier than the two days it took to get everything unpacked, organized, and set up.

What a wonderful time we had with friends, colleagues, delegates, clergy, and bishops - all working together to increase awareness of the verger ministry throughout the Episcopal Church. Yes it was an endurance contest, but the VGEC came out a real winner!

Here's your "Save the Date" notice to be on hand in Austin, Texas in July 2018 for the 79th General Convention of the Episcopal Church. The VGEC booth needs you. We need you too!

Click the big red button to register for the 2015 Annual Conference being held October 1-4, 2015 in St. Louis, Missouri:

Abstract: At the 78th General Convention of the Episcopal Church, our stalwart VGEC Exhibit Booth volunteers greeted all who visited with the cordiality and friendship inherent in our ministry. Serving in our booth was a challenge of stamina buoyed up by "verger's hearts".

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Vergers Eyes: Our Active Booth and a Short Side Trip

Wednesday June 24th  - Our booth was like this all day long!

By Ken Holloway with Bill Gleason and Barry Norris at the Salt Palace Exhibit Hall

This report from last week's adventure in Salt Lake City gives us a perspective on attending the General Convention. Just read along with Barry and Bill on a short day in the booth followed by an excursion.

On Wednesday, June 24th, Barry Norris wrote, " We were in the exhibit hall by 0700 to get everything ready for the 0800 opening of the booth. It was a short day as we closed the booth at 3 pm. Today was our busiest so far. VGEC members, Margaret McLarty (Deputy-Mississippi), Danny Meadows (Alternate-Mississippi), and Sid Glyn (Alternate-Central Florida) were in meetings most of the day, so Bill, Scott, and I staffed the booth.

"We handed out a lot of informational material and cups, and had the pleasure of speaking with too many people for me to remember all the names or faces. In one case, I started into my usual speech with a lady when she stopped me. She told me that I had told her all that yesterday. Must be my advanced years...

"The day passed relatively fast for me. When I wasn’t explaining about vergers or the magic cups, I took the opportunity to visit some of the other booths. Emergency Relief and Development (ERD) had wonderful dark chocolate, a real favorite.

"After we closed, Bill and I drove out to the Timpanogos Cave National Monument, it was an easy drive to the area.  Since the usual tour involved a 3-hour walk, we decided to watch the movie instead. It was very interesting!

The aspen groves along a switchback on the drive to the Sundance Ski Area as photographed by Bill Gleason

"Later, driving over the mountain, the view was breath-taking. I wanted to stop every ten feet to take another picture. Between the two of us, we took several dozen pictures that you can see on the VGEC Flickr page. As we started down the other side of the mountain, Bill got a picture of me trying to look down the hill, white knuckles and all. I think I may have left a few small indents on his car from holding on too hard.

"Side note - Bill and Scott have been very patient trying to teach me how to move into the 21st century with respect to technology. I now know how to put a picture into Flickr and how to edit it and add a title." (Editor's note: you CAN teach an old dog new tricks!)

Bill Gleason wrote, "Today, business on the convention floor was the orientation session for Bishops and Deputies and presentation of the Presiding Bishop nominees. The four nominees (to be elected on Saturday afternoon) presented their platform addresses.

"At the VGEC exhibit booth, we know that everyone who visits us wants a magic verger cup. Many folks tell us they have the last two general convention verger cups (from 2012 and 2009) and they are here to collect another. Our magical (changing plain water into colored-water) cups continue to the "hit" of the exhibit hall!

"Barry and I found the Timpanogos Cave National Monument, about 25 miles south and east of Salt Lake City to be a fascinating series of caves high up on Mt. Timpanogos, in an area abundant in aspen groves, and bounded by steep cliffs. We enjoyed the National Park Service film about the guided ranger tour through the caves and tunnels, and, not wanting to make the 3-hour walk in 100 degree weather (for which we were not provisioned), we let that be our cave trip. We then drove over Mt. Timpanogos ending up at the Sundance Ski Lift in the Uinta National Forest. Besides trying to keep Barry from wrecking my car and frightening me to death with his screams of terror, it was a beautiful ride and lots of fun for me.

"Tomorrow, the convention will open officially. The Presiding Bishop candidates will be formally nominated. Your VGEC booth will be open and welcoming visitors with a good supply of color-changing beverage cups and information on all things verger."

Editor's Note: While Barry and Bill were out gallivanting around the Utah countryside, Scott was dutifully sitting in the VGEC booth eating jelly beans to control his blood sugar...

Click the big red button to register for the 2015 Annual Conference being held October 1-4, 2015 in St. Louis, Missouri:

Abstract: On June 24, 2015. We had a good number of visitors at the VGEC booth at the 78th General Convention. The exhibit hall closed at three, so Bill and Barry drove into the nearby mountains for a look at a famous National Park.