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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.


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