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.

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Friday, September 25, 2015

On the way to St. Louis!

The 27th Annual Conference of the VGEC starts on Thursday, October 1, 2015 in St. Louis, Missouri

Compiled by the VGEC Communications & Technology Committee

Most of those coming to St. Louis for the start of the VGEC Annual Conference are probably flying into Lambert-St. Louis International Airport as part of the more than 12 million travelers who use the airport every year. Our number of people coming may not be large for the city, but everyone's arrival and what happens after that is very important. (Editor's note: with 163 registrations, this conference is slated to be our #2 conference for number of attendees - that's news-worthy in and of itself!)

In our last blog post before the 27th Annual Conference (#VGEC27), we asked some of our members about what their journey to St. Louis is going to look like.  We will also be taking a quick peek at what our online presence will look like for those unable to attend.

Getting there

"I actually get a leisurely start to my travel day on Wednesday," quips Board member Michael Sanchez. "Typically, I prefer to take red eye flights, but it just so happened that the flight options have me leaving Portland International Airport in the late morning."

That's where the leisure ends, though. "I'll get in just after 11:00 p.m. that night. It'll be a long day and an early morning, but I love it. The conferences always are such an invigorating experience that I'll hardly notice my lack of sleep... that is, until I get back home!"

VGEC member David Barr is flying from Denver International Airport.  He comes to us having had a busy week:  several church services during the week, acolyte training (with 50 people), the first meeting of the Colorado Chapter of the VGEC, a funeral, and a planning of a Pontifical Mass for the Society of Catholic Priests.  He's thrilled to be joining us in St. Louis, but we hope he gets a quick nap on the flight over. 

VGEC President, Scott Smith, will be flying with our Chaplain, the Rev. Matthew Corkern, from Newark Liberty International Airport. But those plans were in danger of falling through. According to Scott, "Matthew had some health concerns that almost caused us to drive, but thanks be to God he is feeling better! That drive from Summit, NJ to St. Louis, MO is about 14 hours. Let's pray for the continued health of our chaplain!!!"

When asked about his travel plans, VGEC member John Montreville Denton says, "I am excited to be taking a MegaBus for the first time! After a little research, this is the easiest way to get to the conference from Memphis without having to pay for valet parking. Better yet, the bus stop in St. Louis is just around the corner from the hotel! I can't wait to see everyone next Thursday!"

William H. Gleason (Bill), VGEC President Emeritus, is driving from Denver to St. Louis.  That's an 851 mile, 12 hour drive.  He will be stopping in Kansas City / Overland Park KS area overnight. He likes to drive, as can be attested to, from Bill and his wife Helen's earlier trip this spring: 7300+ miles from Denver to Nashville to New England and back to Denver in 3 weeks; and then he and Scott Smith driving from Denver to Salt Lake City for the 78th General Convention of the Episcopal Church.  

Scott, Michael, Matthew, and Board member Terry Hughes, and several others will be taking the MetroLink light rail from Lambert - St. Louis International Airport to their hotel. 

Scott says, "Matthew and I will absolutely catch the Metro from the airport to Union Station, as it's incredibly inexpensive and a really nice way to go."

Terry adds, "MetroLink costs $2.50 for a regular fare and $1.25 for seniors.  Just follow the signs as you are exiting the airport. You are getting off at Union Station. It's just a 5 minute walk from the station through indoor mall connected to the hotel."

Speaking of the hotels, keep in mind that the conference hotel is the St. Louis Union Station (a DoubleTree by Hilton hotel).  This is where most of our sessions are taking place (see conference agenda for more details).

However, there were several attendees that weren't able to secure a room at the conference hotel.  Board member Cheryl Cantrall explains, "We will be staying at the Drury Inn Union Station across from the conference hotel as there was 'no room in the inn' for us."  Vergers are taking over two hotels—we hope St. Louis is ready for us!

As you can see, we are all literally coming into St. Louis by plane, train, and automobiles! However you're getting there, be ready for a few days of sessions, fellowship, and all things verger.

Online coverage

We know everyone can't make it for a variety of reasons, so the Communications and Technology Committee will be working hard to make sure you can still feel like you're a part of the action.

"What's nice about our conference coverage is that we're going to be on overtime on Facebook and our Verger's Voice blog. This helps us to keep a digital record of our conference, but also helps to include those who aren't able to be there with us," says Michael Sanchez, Communications and Technology Board Liaison. "The better our team can show the folks at home what we're doing, the better record we have of this conference. It's a win-win for everyone."

We plan on there being a lot more Facebook activity! Michael goes on, "Pictures are how we can best show what's going on at any given moment during the Annual Conference, and we plan on posting lots of them.

"Another thing we're excited about is using hashtags for all our social media posts this year. If you're on Facebook, when you are on your newsfeed, you can type in #VGEC27 into the search bar and see all the posts on Facebook that have #VGEC27 attached them. It's a cool way to find something quickly, and with everyone posting #VGEC27 on Facebook, you'll be able to see all the VGEC official posts as well as posts from individual members. This will be our most high tech conference yet, and we hope that everybody with a smartphone will join in on the fun!"

New to all this hashtag business?  Not a problem.  Come find Michael during the conference and he'll get you all caught up.

Be on the lookout for special Vergers Voice articles, too. For those who enjoy reading more detail, this is where we can get more in-depth into the conference goings on. Keep checking the Verger's Voice for hot-off-the-presses articles about this year's Annual Conference.

We're just six days away from our Annual Conference.  However you're getting there, we offer our prayers for safe travels.  We're excited to see you for the biggest verger event of the year!

You still have time to click the big red button to register for the 2015 Annual Conference opening on October 1st and running through noon on the 4th, in St. Louis, Missouri.

Abstract:  As we prepare to descend into St. Louis, we examine all the different ways that conference attendees are getting there.  We also take a look at how we'll be bringing the conference to those who won't be there with us. 

Saturday, September 19, 2015

In Saint Louis, I most want to...

Our group photo taken at the 26th Annual Conference last year in Burlington, Ontario, Canada

By Ken Holloway, VGEC News Manager

Wanting to know what vergers expect to find and do at our 27th VGEC Annual Conference, which begins just 12 days from today, I asked a number of our members what they thought. A quick round of telephone calls and a bushel of emails pushed this week's Vergers Voice to capacity in record time. Here is what we heard:

Shug, what special something have you prepared for us in St. Louis?
Shug Goodlow, Christ Church Cathedral, St. Louis - our Conference Host

"The reception at the hotel on Friday night has a light show surprise that will be memorable and following that, be alert for something that will tickle your funny bone while providing elegant liquid refreshment. On Friday night, at our banquet, our musical entertainment will be preceded by a demonstration of fancy footwork aligned with the native St. Louis music from the New Clapper 5.

"I am so looking forward to greeting everyone and sharing our St. Louis ambiance and hospitality."

Hey Scott, what are you looking forward to in St. Louis?
Scott Smith - Trinity Wall Street, NYC, and President, VGEC

"I always look forward to seeing long-time friends and making new friends who have joined the verger community. The VGEC is a surprisingly tight group and we all tend to get along quite well, so it’s always a joy to be able to spend time together and share our common experiences in this ministry.

"As many of you may know, our 2015 conference Chair, Shug Goodlow, is extremely active in the local theater community of St. Louis. I suspect that the entertainment this year will be phenomenal, and there is no telling what kinds of surprises she and her committee have up their sleeves. Above all, it’s just a great time for vergers to be among friends and experience worship and fellowship together.

"I also look forward to the sermon by Bishop Smith, as he is a remarkable preacher and teacher and great friend to the verger ministry and the VGEC."

Here's a link to the Conference agenda (PDF) that you can download and read on the plane or train or at a gas station or McDonald’s.

Josh, as a new VGEC member what has your attention as we approach October 1st?
Josh Taylor - St Luke’s Episcopal Church North Little Rock, AR
(BTW Josh answered my query in 5 minutes, icing the "I'm on top of it" award.)

Josh says, "This will be my first conference, and I am very excited. I would like to meet more vergers from across the country and learn ways to both provide a more comfortable atmosphere for worship in our parish as well as provide more support to our clergy and ministry leaders. I would like more advice from more experienced vergers and other new vergers like myself."

Michael, as an old timer and a Board member, what does St. Louis hold for you?
Michael Sanchez: Christ Church Episcopal Parish, Lake Oswego, OR

Michael, replies that he most wants to:

"Talk shop!  Meeting with fellow vergers to talk about our ministries is one of my favorite things to do at Conference.  Since I'm the only verger in my parish, and we don't have a diocesan chapter (yet!), this is an extremely valuable opportunity for me to learn and share ideas with others.

"Worship!  Since I am always at the same church week after week serving, it's nice to be able to--as my dear friend and long time LEM Kathy says--"sit in the cheap seats" for once.  I love the VGEC motto:  service in worship and worship through service, but it sure is nice to "worship through worship" every once in a while.

"Be a part of something special!  I love how vergers from all over the country and the world come together to share ideas how to serve our churches better.  This is the best opportunity for vergers to gather, and I always come out with fresh ideas, a renewed sense of commitment to my ministry, and a heart full of love for my fellow vergers."

So Lindsay, why are you coming to the VGEC conference this year?
The Rev. Lindsay Hills, Assoc. Rector, The Episcopal Church of St. Matthew, San Mateo, CA

"I am most particularly interested in how we liturgically incorporate youth and young adults into worship, and worship leadership.  Our parish is growing and changing and as our liturgical ministries grow and change, we are beginning to think that a verger role could help our liturgy grow even more. I'm excited about learning strategies for implementation, recruiting, and sustainability of this important ministry. I served in the diocese of Missouri for a year in campus ministry, so I am delighted, to get to come "home"!

Judyth, what will you take away from our St. Louis conference?
Judyth Wilson - St Elisabeths Episcopal Church Memphis, TN

"I'm an new verger and I'm excited about the conference so that I can learn exactly what my duties should be and to talk with more experienced vergers as to how things are handled in their church."

Rich, you've been to a number of conferences, what are your expectations for our 27th?
Rich Lammlin, St John’s Episcopal Church, Essex, CT

"I love the tours of the areas that are part of the conference which allows me to see areas of the country I might not have ever visited.  Another highlight is getting to know my fellow vergers from across the country.  My ultimate favorite though is the Sunday Eucharist with all of us in procession."

Cheryl, having helped host a prior VGEC Conference, what will you do first in St. Louis?
Cheryl Cantrall - All Saints Episcopal Church, Lakeland, FL

"I always like getting to meet the first time attendees.  It is fun getting to know them and seeing why they decided to come for their first conference.  And for the others regulars just being able to get caught up with what has happened in their lives over the past year."

Jerry, as an experienced verger attending for the first time what do you want out of the 3 days?
Jerry Lowe - Christ Church Cathedral, Cincinnati, OH

"I’ve served as Head Verger at Christ Church Cathedral, Cincinnati, since 2002 (on and off depending on clergy). This will be my first VGEC conference. Our new dean, The Very Rev. Gail Greenwell, a remarkable dynamo, came to us a little over a year ago and asked me to establish and enlarge the verger ministry. So, it’s been a busy year developing a corps of 6 vergers. I’m pleased to say that the Dean Gail has been most complimentary of all our efforts. I’ve spent 40 years as a professional stage director and arts administrator. As you might expect, I see the responsibilities of the verger in theatrical terms—stage management, production coordination etc.

"I long to see other vergers at work (I’ve seen a number but never had a chance to meet or talk with them). That’s what I hope for at the conference.  I want to expand my view. I want to see how far our work as vergers can grow. I want to hear stories and tell stories and laugh with others who understand the liturgical nightmares and hysterical moments we all must experience.

"I hope I can leave St. Louis with a brain full of new ideas and great possibilities. Just look for the tallish balding guy with silver gray hair and beard and a constantly moving mouth. I look forward to meeting you."

Clarence, do you have specific goals for the 2015 VGEC Conference?
Clarence Woods - St Andrew’s by the Sea Church, San Diego, CA

"Because this will be my first VGEC Conference I have no specific goals to be realized in St. Louis. I am going to St. Louis with an open mind anticipating a great experience. I have a full schedule for Friday's sessions. I look forward to attending:
  • Session 1 Exploring the Verger Ministry for the New Verger (since I am new)
  • Session 2 Verging in Depth-Holy Smoke!
  • Session 3 The Partnership Between Clergy and the Verger Ministry
And on Saturday, I want to hear Dr. Philip Quaque on “The Early History of Black Anglicanism.”

*   *   *

And so it goes. We gather to share, to learn, to worship, to make new friends, to enjoy our host city and church, to thank our conference leaders for a job well done and to build memories together.

Want to know who else is going to be in Saint Louis at the VGEC Conference? Just follow this link.

You have 18 days to click the big red button to register for the 2015 Annual Conference opening on October 1st and running through noon on the 4th, in St. Louis, Missouri:

Abstract: Looking forward to the 2015 VGEC Annual Conference, we poll the delegation to discover why vergers, new and not-so-new want to gather for conversation, learning, worship and good fellowship every year. Maybe some of the comments we received will ring a bell with you. You can even be a "walk-on" registrant in Saint Louis. Hoping to see you there.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Reflections on 9/11

A portion of the window above the high altar at Trinity Wall Street. Photo by Richard Upjohn

By David Jette, Head Verger, Trinity Wall Street, Retired

Ken Holloway asked me to offer reflections on September 11, 2001, a day I will remember as long as I live. As many of you know I retired this year after thirty years as head verger of Trinity Wall Street and witnessed at very close range the events of that tragic day for our country. It was primary day in New York on that Tuesday and consequently I arrived in Manhattan via the Staten Island Ferry just past 9:00am, a bit later than usual. Upon arrival in Lower Manhattan the crowds of commuters were all gazing at the fire spewing from the North Tower of the World Trade Center uncertain as to the cause. The answer to our question was quick in coming. Screaming over our heads at a very low altitude was the second jet aimed for the South Tower. I will never forget the sight and sound of impact. Rushing up Broadway to Trinity Church I was assured that everyone in our two church buildings and our office building were safe and unharmed. It is interesting to note that Rowan Williams, soon to be named Archbishop of Canterbury, was in Trinity’s television studio being interviewed. His experiences of that day would later appear as Writing in the Dust, a profound commentary on the events of 9/11.

Along side the Reverend Stuart Hoke, a staff priest, and Owen Burdick, our music director,we put together an impromptu prayer service with hymns for the fifty people who had assembled in the church. Never have the words of Isaac Watts', O God our Help in Ages Past, rung so true. With the collapse of the South Tower, the building shook as during an earthquake and I remember distinctly looking at the figure of Jesus in the high altar window and saying to myself, “is this the end?” From the brilliant light of early morning Lower Manhattan was plunged into midnight darkness in seconds. A few people remained in the church through the destruction of the North Tower. Despite the fright and horror of those minutes I remember Owen looking at me and Stuart and saying, “We have praised the Lord, now it’s time to get the hell out of here!” We laughed, knowing he was right and gathered our wits and quietly escorted those still in the church to a transformed Broadway. Debris everywhere was ankle deep. I finally made it home by 1:30pm that afternoon and remained glued to the news. We all were learning of the downed jet in rural Pennsylvania which was intended to hit the United States Capitol and the plane which crashed into the Pentagon. The staggering loss of life that day seemed a harbinger of untold acts to come. Somehow our geographic and military security ultimately could not protect us from wanton acts of terror and destruction.

As I think back on those days, I now cringe at some of the mindless jingoistic statements uttered by many of our political leaders. Though understandable at one level, historians will ultimately help determine the wisdom of our responses. The Church, of course is not bound by rules of engagement and foreign policy; rather we follow the urges of Scripture and the pleas of the Holy Spirit to determine how we as Christians respond to these kinds of events.

Trinity Church transformed Saint Paul’s Chapel (part of the parish, five blocks north of Trinity), as a welcome and relief center to the thousands engaged in rescue and rehabilitation for eight months following the attack. Working with the Seaman’s Church Institute and the General Theological Seminary, thousands of volunteers working in teams all day and night provided the daily necessities and pastoral needs of everyone working at the World Trade Center site. Everything from food, clothing, medical care and importantly pastoral counseling was offered free of charge. Most of the supplies were freely donated or paid for from a special budget set up by the parish to assure that all needs were met. The Chapel was literally covered inside and out with thousands of messages and banners sent from all over the world. Although not removed from the realities of our nation and immediate neighborhood, we were not prompted exclusively from notions of patriotism alone. A paraphrase of Saint Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 13:4-7) sent to us by the youth of a South Carolina parish, guided our work. “Love bears up under anything and everything that comes; its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances and it endures everything.”

It is important to remember that the 2001 Vergers Guild Annual Conference, scheduled for late October 2001 in Overland Park, Kansas, went on as planned. Many conversations there shared varied but similar stories of the new security rules in force at all our airports but nearly a hundred vergers attended. I felt then and still do that it is important and vital that we gather even in the shadow of massive tragedy. Despite the wondrous and various ways we can now communicate electronically, nothing compares with face to face conversation—it is the essence of community, and much needed.

What about today? It is the custom of many parishes to host special worship events on the anniversary of 9/11 and this is meet and right in the language of the Prayer Book.  But our witness must always exceed the mere offering of our beautiful buildings as venues for religious and civic events. Our willingness to proclaim the Gospel removed from the relative safety of our church buildings must continue.  The question of how we take Jesus’ message of love and reconciliation with us at all times is the challenge and, let’s face it, as Anglican Christians we are not always comfortable with this directive! I shared a quote from Saint Teresa of Avila with the vergers in Overland Park fourteen years ago. It formed the text of a small banner at the entrance to Saint Paul’s in the months following 9/11. “For those working amidst the dust of angels, God has no body on earth but yours; yours are the only hands with which he can do his work; yours are the only feet with which he can go about the world, yours are the only eyes through which his compassion can shine forth upon a troubled world.” Teresa’s words ring true today as they did centuries ago. On this anniversary of the attacks of September 11th, pray for peace and reconciliation, be in community with each other and reach beyond the sure and comfortable and live the Gospel of Christ.

David Jette's speech to the  2001 VGEC Conference is located here. Really worth watching!
The 2001 October edition of the Vergers Voice  is also historic. - Ed.]

You have less than 3 weeks to click the big red button to register for the 2015 Annual Conference being held October 1-4, 2015 in St. Louis, Missouri:

Abstract: David Jette, retired head verger at Trinity Wall Street shares his experience of September 11, 2001, along with thoughts of how we can proceed with our spiritual lives in the context of peace, reconciliation and community. 

Friday, September 4, 2015

John Campbell Reporting from Lincoln Cathedral, Lincoln, UK

Magna Carta 800th anniversary celebration dinner held in the Lincoln Cathedral nave this summer.
800 guests joined 30 cathedral hosts.

By John Campbell, Overseas Liaison Officer, Church of England Guild of Vergers and Dean's Verger at Lincoln Cathedral

August is over and it seems that the church has rested, liturgically at least, although for us in Lincoln the tourist and culture season has continued with a run of fourteen performances of "Jesus Christ Superstar," a series of lectures celebrating the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, and a concert by the National Youth Choir and even touching the hem of "Steam-Punk." We have had a rich and balanced diet for the happy band of pilgrims who have passed our way.

But when we reflect on the liturgy of August we find we also have a rich and balanced diet reflecting on the company of heaven who have been received out of the flesh. Commemorations have included: three priests, a deacon, a king, a mother, two monks, a nun, a friar, three bishops, an apostle, two female social reformers, the founders of the Salvation Army, John the Baptist and the Mother of Jesus.

Biblical figures, notable converts, 19th and 20th century reformers, missionaries, and a 20th century martyr: 800 years of clerical notables are brought together to form a canopy under which we can reflect and ponder the discipleship of these individuals. I wonder, when the annuls of the twenty first century are completed, what the inheritance of present day disciples will be adding to that canopy which covers and brings us together in time and space. [With apologies to GJK]

For an update of happenings within the Church of England Guild of Vergers lookout for the next issue of The Virger soon to be distributed. If you are not on my distribution list and you wish to secure your e-copy kindly forward your email details to [email protected].


John G. Campbell, FBGU, FCEGV
Overseas Liaison Officer CEGV
Dean’s Verger Lincoln Cathedral

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: The Church of England Guild of Vergers (CEGV) Overseas Liaison Officer, John Campbell, Dean's Verger at Lincoln Cathedral reports on the summer of 2015 in the city of Lincoln, UK and on recent happenings at Lincoln Cathedral. The CEGV is offering a free PDF copy of their fine magazine, The Virger, so send John your email address to receive one.