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, August 28, 2015

VGEC Techie Tour

VGEC online resources are at your fingertips and vergers are pressing our buttons all over the world

By Michael Sanchez, VGEC BOD and Co-chair, Communications and Technology Committee

The Vergers Guild of the Episcopal Church is committed to having an online presence that is robust, easy-to-use, and accessible to all our members. Often I receive questions about the differences between the various online tools that we have available. I want to take a moment to describe them individually and show how they relate to the “big picture.” So roll up your sleeves and let's get going.

Membership email list

When you sign up for membership in the VGEC, you are automatically added to this list. It is our first way of reaching out to you, the membership, with the latest news about the Guild, upcoming conferences, and other information. We use the email service MailChimp and average one mass email per week. That’s usually letting you know about the latest Vergers Voice blog post that we’ve published. The Communications Committee, which oversees this list, is very careful not to send out too many emails per week. We want every message you receive from us to be something you want to read and not just toss in the e-junk pile.


Our website is a great resource for anyone interested in the verger ministry. It is a storehouse of information about all things verger. We hope that you use it and use it often! Don't miss our Document Library. Fellow vergers have submitted dozens of example customaries, checklists, liturgies, glossaries, bulletins, and more. Apart from our Document Library, you can find the latest on conferences, VGEC chapters, Guild leadership, and other information about the ministry we love so much. See vergers.org


MMS stands for our “Membership Management System.” Once you’re a member of the VGEC, you can use MMS to view your membership details, renew your membership, update your information, upload a directory photo, print out your membership certificate, and search our membership database. As an added bonus, we have a beautiful Membership Directory that members can download as a PDF to your desktop/laptop computer, mobile phone, or tablet. It’s updated daily so you’ll always have the most current information available. You can search VGEC members by name, city, and/or state, which is really helpful if you’re going to be visiting another city or church and want to find a friendly face. See membership.vergers.org

Vergers on Facebook

The VGEC Facebook page is our online "conversation around the water cooler." This is a fun, free, easy way to socialize and connect with other vergers from all around the world. Every Wednesday until our Annual Conference in October, we’re featuring VGEC Annual Conference photos from years past, and every Sunday we have our “Sunday check-in,” where vergers get to share about their day in church. Sometimes we hear some funny stories about something an acolyte may have done during a service, and other times, we hear about medical emergencies and other unexpected things that happen. During Holy Week/Easter as well as Christmas, we have more frequent check-ins to allow for more conversation around these active times of year for vergers. Also, during the week, we may also post important announcements or something funny that we see or that you send us. See facebook.com/vergerguild

Vergers Voice Blog

The Vergers Voice is our online news publication. Think of it like you would any online news site, except this news site deals primarily with verger related topics. We post a new article every week, and all 174 past articles (as of today) are fully searchable. See vergersvoice.org

The V-List

The V-List is a Google-based forum moderated by the VGEC to facilitate email communication among some members and interested people. There are about 200 members of the V-List who can send, receive, and respond to messages. The V-List is typically used for questions, and participants benefit from having vergers of all experience levels read and respond to these questions. The increased activity on the facebook.com/vergerguild page has made the V-List a less used resource, but there are those who still love using it! See vergers.org/join/vlist

PDF Edition of A Course of Training for a Verger

We have launched a brand new 2015 edition of the training course with a completely updated and rewritten course and a reduction in cost. As part of the update, Training Advisor Duke DuTeil took the time to make the course available online as an electronic PDF thus eliminating the need to ship the course materials. In addition, he made the PDF such that participants in the training course could enter their course material directly into the PDF. This makes taking the course much easer and submitting the course work back to the VGEC could not be easier: email the completed PDF! See vergers.org/training

VergerTV channel on YouTube

VergerTV is a growing feature that we’re excited to offer in the VGEC! VergerTV is a YouTube channel—think of it like a channel on your regular television. Instead of turning on your television to go and catch a sports game or cooking show, you go to VergerTV to see verger-related content. We currently have videos of past conference sessions, eucharists, and interviews. We also post other videos that might be interesting to vergers: for example, we have 3 videos that show the virge-making process, which is definitely worth a look! Our goal is to post even more content in the coming weeks and months, so do make sure to check back to see what’s new. See youtube.com/vergerTV


The archives have recently had a lot of attention with new governing documents and complete back issues of the printed and digital edition of the Vergers Voice. All the archives are searchable making it very easy to find something even if you don't know the year you need. See archives.vergers.org

As you can see, there are many ways the VGEC keeps our membership informed, entertained, and engaged. The Communications & Technology Committee is a very active group and we are always looking for more folks to join in the fun in helping to keep things running, both in front and behind the scenes! Contact committee co-chairs Eileen Brightwell Hicks or Michael Sanchez if you’re interested in finding out more about how you can help.

See you online!

You still have time to click the big red button to register for the 2015 Annual Conference being held October 1-4, 2015 in St. Louis, Missouri:

Abstract: Which button do you push for the membership directory? How do we cover all the news and make it available to the largest number of folks interested in verger ministries? VGEC online resources are at your fingertips.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Church Mice at Advent

"Church Mice" abound in Lillian, Alabama's Episcopal Church of the Advent

By Ken Holloway, News Manager

Thus begins the story of the famous "Church Mice" told by Cheryl Josephson, verger at the Episcopal Church of Advent in Lillian, Alabama, who debuted the mice to the world at the VGEC 25th Annual Conference in Nashville. That showing resulted in orders for 60 mice. The Mouse makers worked daily for two weeks to fill those orders.

Cheryl, a Business School graduate of the University of Alabama, retired from Johnson & Johnson as the South East Region Manager. She had always had an eye for unique ministries so it is not surprising that, in 2011 while attending St. Martin in the Fields Episcopal Church in Atlanta, she discovered a group of women who were making church mice.

The miniature mouse figures were fashioned in the style of all of our familiar liturgical participants. From the priests and deacons to a bishop, the choristers, the acolytes and the verger, these little grey felt bodies wear cassock and cotta, chimeres, albs, stoles and  chasubles in authentic pattern and scale. The bishop carries a crozier. The verger wields a virge. The crucifer and torch bearers have their processional crosses and torches.

Cheryl says that she immediately admired the craftsmanship and dedication required to make the character mice. Each figure takes around 4 hours to make. The bishop mice require a bit more attention to detail so upwards of 5 hours are spent to attain mouse episcopacy.

In time, the church mice team at St. Martin in the Fields disbanded. Cheryl asked the ladies if she could carry on the craft. They responded by giving her all of the materials they had on hand so that she could start a new mice ministry properly.

After moving to Lillian AL, and joining Episcopal Church of the Advent, Cheryl sought those in the congregation who might want to help her in making the mice. Soon five ladies became involved. The profit from sales by the Mice Ministry is used to buy liturgical articles needed at their growing mission church.

The "Advent Mouse Makers" meet once a week for four hours, using everything from pipe cleaners to gold-colored wire and many novel materials to imbue the small figures with respectful grace. The mice are born naked and soon clothed with basic liturgical vestments. Next, their ears are attached. The mouse makers then vote on what character is attributed to each mouse by the shape and orientation of the ears. Mouse ears, you see, tell us about gender, attitude, boldness (or the lack thereof) and personality. "You can just see a chorister in certain ears." Cheryl says.

Visit the Meet our Church Mice and The Mouse Makers pages of the church web site to view pictures of the mice emerging from pieces of felt carefully cut by loving hands, mouse ears ready to contribute character and vested mice in procession. The church also has an online Church Mouse Order Form for ordering your very own church mice to help support liturgical ministries.

One of the most prevalent collective nouns used to describe a group of mice is a "mischief." It is not a surprise, then, that soon we will see a book titled, "Mischief at Advent."

Cheryl will attend the 27th Annual VGEC Conference in St. Louis, beginning October 1st, so seek her out and get the expanded story, first hand. Here ends this chapter of the tale of Church Mice in Alabama.

You still have time to click the big red button to register for the 2015 Annual Conference being held October 1-4, 2015 in St. Louis, Missouri:

Abstract: We have been quiet as "Church Mice" for some time now, but can no longer hold back the rest of the Church Mice story. Find out who is behind the Church Mice ministry, how the mice are made and see how interesting one might look on your desk.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Get to know your VGEC Board Nominees - 2015 Conference

A few past VGEC Boards - What will the future hold?

By William White, VGEC Vice President and Chair of the Nomination Committee

We will be electing three board members at our Annual Conference in St. Louis during the business meeting, on Saturday morning, October 3rd. The leadership of the guild is defined in the VGEC Bylaws and is based on the vestry model in which each year three of the nine board members are elected to serve a three-year term. When the new board is established at the annual conference, it immediately elects its officers: a president, vice-president, secretary, and treasurer. Those officers serve a one-year term and may be re-elected at the next conference or the board may choose to elect different officers.

The three board members who have expiring terms are Cheryl Cantrall, Duke DuTeil, and me, Bill White. Since I have served for two elected three-year terms, I am not eligible to stand for election again. Both Cheryl and Duke have agreed to stand for election to another three year term.

Your Nominations Committee submits the following seven candidates for your consideration. Our sincere thanks to all these VGEC members willing to stand for election to leadership positions.

We asked each to write a Statement of Interest so that you have ample opportunity to get to know them before the election. Their full biographies and Statements of Interest can be found at archives.vergers.org in the 2015 Board Nominations folder.

In alphabetical order, here are condensed versions of their statements:

Cheryl Cantrall, VGEC Membership Committee Chair and Secretary of the VGEC Board, All Saints’ Episcopal Church – Lakeland, FL

I was born in Kentucky and came to Florida more than 30 years ago. A former Baptist turned Episcopalian, I have been a member of All Saints’ in Lakeland, FL over 30 years. My husband, Matthew and I have two children, and eight grandchildren. I have worked in the Home Health field over 20 years.

I have been our Church Administrator, Sunday School Director, Lay Eucharistic Minister and Visitor Trainer, Lector, Warden and Vestry member. Besides being a verger for 12 years I am currently the Wedding Coordinator, an Altar Guild member, Worship Council Director, D.O.K, member and I do the scheduling for numerous Subdeacons and Chalice Bearers. I became a Fellow of the Guild at the 2013 Nashville Conference.

Since 2009 I have served as VGEC Membership Committee Chair (which is not an elected board position). I was appointed to the Board in 2013 to fill a 2-year term with the adoption of our new bylaws and vestry model for the board. In October, 2014, I was elected Secretary of the Board and I am in charge of all minutes and parliamentary procedures.

We have made many changes in the way we process memberships and have a strong online presence in many aspects of our membership management. Two visions I have for the future of the VGEC are to bring as many parishes on board as possible and to reach out to those vergers who are not part of our guild. Our goal as a board is to maximize membership revenue while offering the absolute best services we can to our membership.

Thank you for the privilege of being nominated.

Vyonne Carter-Johnson, Grace Episcopal Church, Houston TX

I am honored to be asked to serve on the VGEC Board of Directors. I have served as treasurer for the Diocese of Texas Vergers Guild for the past 4 years. St. Louis will be my fifth VGEC Conference. I hope to use my experiences to help new vergers in small churches; especially when they are the first verger in their church. Edith Wharton said, "There are two ways of spreading light - to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it." I want to be the mirror and help others with their ministry.

I was born in New Orleans, LA. I was educated at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and the University of Houston. I have worked for a major oil company for 39 years as a Human Resources professional.

I love, I pray, I worship, I give offerings, I try to serve others. I pray daily giving thanks for two people and two events that turned my life around and tested my faith. The people are my husband, CL and my mother, Celina and the events are the death of my father and cancer. During these trials my mother, my husband, and God were what sustained me.

I am also a member of Rainbow (a Christian choral group), Cursillo teams and  other diocesan committees.

I have obtained every layperson’s license the Diocese of Texas issues, except Evangelist. I was installed as a verger on October 4, 2009. I have served on the Vestry -- been Senior Warden and Secretary of the Vestry.

David S. Deutsch, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Capitol Hill, Washington, DC

I was a television director for 38 years, working for the Public Broadcasting Service which was called Educational TV when I started my career as a camera operator in 1962. I directed hundreds of educational, music, and news productions. When I left the director’s chair on September 26, 2003 never to return, I had been directing the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer since 1995.

My verging career truly began in 1999 when I was asked to join the newly created verger team at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Capitol Hill. In 2004, I became the head verger at St. Mark’s — a position I still hold. I became a volunteer verger at the Washington National Cathedral in July 2003. I continue to serve at the Cathedral to this day.

I graduated from Wesley Theological Seminary in 2010 with a Master of Theological Studies which is the academic degree. My thesis is titled “Walk Softly and Carry a Big Stick—with Love: The Emerging Ministry of the Verger. The thesis is available to all on the VGEC website. I have agreed to participate in writing the history of the verger in North America for the VGEC.

My interest in the VGEC is threefold:
  • I enjoy the annual conferences because it is a time of camaraderie and sharing experiences.
  • I am interested in making sure that we vergers are aware of our history. We should travel toward the future knowing from whence we came.
  • I feel that we should understand both the theological and spiritual underpinnings of our calling as well as the importance of strong lay leadership as a foundation for the future success of the Church.
As is said in the Bible, “Here I am.”

Claude "Duke" DuTeil, VGEC Treasurer and Training Advisor, St. Richard's Episcopal Church, Round Rock, TX

I wish to continue my service on the Board of the Vergers' Guild of the Episcopal Church. I believe that the Vergers' Guild is the best vehicle for expanding the knowledge of this ministry and knowledge to this ministry throughout the Episcopal Church. I trust that my service these past 5 years on the Board has been to that goal and I believe there is more to be done and I wish to be a part of that.

I became a verger in the Diocese of Dallas in 1994 and have served in parishes in Dallas Texas, Seattle Washington DC, and Round Rock Texas. In 2007 I was called to be the Head Verger at the Washington National Cathedral. I served there until my retirement in 2014. At that time I moved back to Round Rock Texas and resumed serving as a verger in the parish I left when I went to Washington.

I have served on the VGEC Board as the treasurer for the past five years. I brought the books into the 21st century with electronic records and a detailed chart of accounts so we know exactly where funds in the guild come from and where they are going.

In 2014 as I was retiring from the Washington National Cathedral, the board asked me to take on the role of Training Advisor for the Guild. I was also asked to update and/or revise the Verger's Training Course. I completely rewrote the training course and converted it from a printed book into an Electronic PDF format so that one can read and respond to questions on-line.

It has been a pleasure and an honor to serve on the Board for the last five years and I look forward to serving a second elected full term.

John Townsend, Church of the Good Shepherd, Nashua, NH

I see the VGEC as a vital and growing ministry within the larger church, not only as a ministry of welcome, but also as a ministry to the vergers themselves.

The support, education, fellowship and shared experiences offered to me as a new verger have been instrumental to the continued growth of my faith. If I can offer but a small portion of that experience to new members, by introducing them to the Guild and its resources, I will feel the satisfaction of sharing my faith, perhaps not with words, but with actions.

I am a cradle Episcopalian, born and raised in the Diocese of New Hampshire, baptized at Christ Church, Exeter, confirmed at St. Christopher’s, Hampstead where I began service as an acolyte and chorister. Many years later, after returning to New Hampshire from four years in Spain, I joined the Church of the Good Shepherd in Nashua NH, where I became active in parish life, serving on the Fellowship Committee, a three year term on the Vestry, and becoming a Eucharistic Minister, a Eucharistic Visitor and Acolyte Master for the Youth Acolyte Corps.

I was appointed Verger on Palm Sunday of 2001. I completed the Vergers’ Training Course, and became a Fellow of the Guild in San Diego in 2009. I have since worked with the Altar Guild and the Lead Eucharistic Minister to revamp and modernize the customaries for the Altar Guild, Eucharistic Ministers & Visitors and the Acolyte Corp. I am also mentoring a new verger, who is working to complete the Vergers Training Course. I also serve as a Delegate to the Diocesan Convention, and to the Southern Convocation of the Episcopal Church in New Hampshire, where I recently presented a program on the Verger Ministry.

Cindy Ware, Christ Church Cathedral, Lexington Kentucky

I am delighted and honored to be a candidate for the Board of the Vergers Guild of the Episcopal Church!  I would enjoy helping with plans for the Annual Conferences. (St. Louis will be my sixth!)

I grew up in northern Indiana, and have been an Episcopalian all my life. I have been a proud resident of Lexington, Kentucky, for 30 years, working the last 20 as an independent Long Term Care Insurance broker. My husband, Jim (who is also a Cathedral verger) and I have been members of Christ Church Cathedral since our marriage in 1986. We have one son, Daniel, who is an architect in Lexington.

I have been involved with most of the possible volunteer activities at Christ Church Cathedral over the years: Vestry member, Altar Guild member and Director, Pastoral Care Team member, Prayer Shawl knitter, ECW Treasurer for six years, Flower Guild member, Eucharistic Minister, and Verger. I will graduate from EfM (Education for Ministry) next May, and I am looking forward to my fourth-year studies.

I became a Fellow of the Guild in 2011, and shortly thereafter was asked to be Head Verger of the Cathedral. We quickly identified and trained several new vergers, bringing our current corps to nine vergers strong. Next I assured that our checklists and customaries for all services were accurate and up-to-date so that anyone who comes after me will know exactly how we have planned our services. I strongly believe that succession should be seamless!

If elected, I hope to use my excellent organizational skills and my ability to work as part of a team to help the Vergers Guild grow to its full potential. I think our new frontier might be to make some of our materials and website attractive and useful to our brothers and sisters in Spanish-speaking areas of the United States and Central American countries.

John T. Whitaker, Christ Church Cathedral, Nashville, TN

I appreciate the opportunity to stand for election to the Board of the VGEC. I see the role of a Board Member is to serve and support our Guild membership so that we may better serve our parishes and the church as a whole. As the Westminster Catechism says, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”

As a VGEC Board Member, I feel that my professional and volunteer experiences would help me to contribute to financial oversight and board governance.

I was raised in Chattanooga, Tennessee as a Presbyterian, and discovered the Episcopal Church when
attending Sewanee. Today, I am a Mortgage Banker of twenty years with the same bank in Nashville. I have served as a President of the Nashville Association of Mortgage Bankers, and am currently on the Board of the Better Business Bureau of Middle Tennessee. I am the husband of Anne Byrn Whitaker, and father of Kathleen (25), Litton (21), and John, III (17).

  • The University of the South, Sewanee; BA, English Literature
  • Georgia State University, Atlanta; MBA, Marketing
Anglican Formation
  • Confirmed December 2nd, 1992 at St James in Thrapston, Northamptonshire by Bishop William Westwood, Bishop of the Diocese of Peterborough (UK)
  • Parish Church Council (Vestry), St Mary the Virgin, Higham Ferrars, Northamptonshire, 1993
  • Graduate Education for Ministry (Sewanee School of Theology), May 2000
  • Secretary, Episcopal Churchmen of Tennessee Conference, 2009-2010
  • Christ Church Cathedral, Nashville, TN: Lay Reader & Eucharistic Minister 1995 – Present
  • Verger/Sacristan/Thurifer, 1997 – Present
  • Two vestry terms, three Discernment committees, Audit Committee, Sunday School Teacher, and Treasurer for the 25th VGEC Conference Host Committee in  2013

You still have time to click the big red button to register for the 2015 Annual Conference being held October 1-4, 2015 in St. Louis, Missouri:

Abstract: Every year the VGEC elects three of its nine board members to serve, using the vestry model of rotating three-year terms. This is your opportunity to get to know the candidates for the VGEC Board election, coming up on Saturday morning, October 3rd in St. Louis, Missouri.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

So what exactly is a verger anyway?

A fairly typical verger checklist

By Ken Holloway, VGEC News Manager

How do you answer the question, "So what exactly is a verger anyway?"

I often develop my answer using information from David Deutsch's masters thesis on the verger ministry plus what I've learned over the years of actually serving as a verger in various parishes and being an active member of the Vergers Guild of the Episcopal Church.

My common attempt to explain a verger's role goes something like this.

"In the 15th and 16th centuries, when a circuit-riding priest would go from town to town to hold services, the priest would take a layperson with him called a, "verger."  They would go to the church, get vested, and then the verger would lead a procession through town to tell everyone it is time for church. The verger carried a mace (or a virge) with him to knock dogs, cats, drunks, etc out of the way so the procession could make it through town. So the historical ceremonial function of the verger was leader (escort) or protector of processions. Nowadays the ministry has evolved into much more of a lay liturgical assistant to the clergy - someone to make sure all the i's are dotted and the t's are crossed."

I have trouble condensing the historical overview and our modern practices into "sound bite" format and length allowing no more than about four breaths when spoken aloud - and one that really deals with what we do today instead of 500 years ago.

Sound Bite Length Algorithm: (average volume of expelled air necessary to produce a five letter word plus a one second pause X the number of words in your speech) /  average adult lung capacity in cubic centimeters = number of breaths required to deliver said speech. I couldn't resist a bit of engineering nonsense, but think about it: applying this process can help us condense our story into more meaningful and efficient phrases.

Another approach is to ask what they have observed that the verger does, then comment on the reply, tailoring your comments to what was observed and how those actions relate to historical perspective, somehow tied in with the tasks that the congregation doesn't see us perform.

You know, there are so many things we do behind the scenes that I sometimes feel that we are selling ourselves short if we just talk about escorting processions, wearing robes, and carrying virges. If you take a look at the snapshot of the verger checklist above, you'll see much of what we all do every week. Another thought is that many parishes have a person who does all of the supporting tasks but rarely wears a verger robe or escorts processions.

The verger's checklist tells the "rest of the story" in many ways (see the VGEC Document Library for a complete set of sample verger checklists). Tending the candle wicks is pretty important, but not something we seem to talk about much. How about helping the altar guild maintain the thurible? Who repairs the torches when the candles flop sideways? There's always the entry in the service register to record the time, place, type of service and number attending and receiving communion. What about training acolytes, lectors, Eucharistic ministers, sacristans, and new vergers? Composing and updating "customaries" for routine or feast day services is an activity which vergers or sacristans most often lead.

One of the first assignments in A Course of Training as a Verger has the verger work with their clergy-mentor to develop and refine a personal job description as a verger. According to Duke DuTeil, the VGEC Training Advisor, "As of today, we have 341 Fellows of the VGEC who have completed the training course and each has prepared a thorough job description of their role as a verger in their parish. There are a few common themes in the job descriptions, and I would characterize them as:
  • Assisting clergy and volunteers to make the liturgy work
  • Organizing everything, paying close attention to all details
  • Training and encouraging volunteers
  • Welcoming and assisting all
"Condensing this to a sound bite is hard, but here's my attempt," continued Duke. "As a butler is to his master's house, so is the verger to The Master's House."

What is your verger sound bite?

Send me your sound bite on how you tell our story to [email protected]. We're planning a follow-up article which will cover the larger view of being a verger, including many of the duties and tasks listed above. Your input would make this article a real winner. We might have so much response that we'll make it a series of articles, or maybe a theme that we visit once a quarter.

Let me know what you think!

It's not too late to register: Click the big red button to register for the 2015 Annual Conference being held October 1-4, 2015 in St. Louis, Missouri:

Abstract: "What is a verger?" That is a question many have heard. So how do you answer it?