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Friday, August 25, 2017

The Church of England Guild of Vergers Turns 85

The CEGV was 25 years old when this photograph was taken on April 19, 1956

By John G. Campbell BEM, FBGU, FCEGV, Head Verger of Lincoln Cathedral, United Kingdom, and Overseas Liaison Officer of the Church of England Guild of Vergers - [email protected]

I am reminded of the words penned by the [then] Archbishops of Canterbury and York in 2007 when the Church of England Guild of Vergers celebrated the Diamond Anniversary of formation:

Vergers are almost as much a part of the Great British Collective Unconscious as vicars. From Dickens' Edwin Drew through to Dad's Army, they are there, hovering (or hoovering) around the shrines of our imagination. Many of a certain generation in church life will have stories of the great and terrible vergers of the past. Stories of the punctuation of Evensong with the extremely audible reprimand to tourists "You can't come in 'ere, there's a service going on."

But now the stereotypes belong to the distant past. The best vergers have always been creative, even pastoral servants of the life of the churches they have cared for. More than ever these days, the verger's job will be some of the most crucial work of the Church in its reaching to and welcoming those on its margins. It is going to require huge gifts of stamina, imagination and spiritual steadiness. The Church of England is fortunate to have so many men and women gifted in these ways, who give themselves to ministry.

At the same time +John of Lincoln, one time Chaplain of the Exeter Branch, whose father was a verger and one time secretary of the Bristol Branch, wrote:

Vergers have been described as the Church's Cinderella Service - presumably with the Clergy as the Ugly Sisters. To a certain extent this is true. Vergers have turned discretion and unobtrusiveness into an art form. They ensure all is done decently and in order so that ministers can fulfil their roles effectively and people can worship undisturbed. It is a vital role which although often hidden, must not be taken for granted.

These statements were true ten years ago and perhaps more so these days in our 85th year, when we see some deterioration in our traditional diaconal role. Bishop John eludes to the sentiments in Acts 6 - individuals chosen to carry out essential supportive roles, whilst Their Graces paraphrase Ephesians 4 - the essence and importance of using differing God-given talents to propel that which primarily is the engine, the power house, which is the Church.

With potential changes within the leadership of our guild; chairman, chaplain, training officer, we thank God for those who have served us in these roles in the past and pray that new officers will lead us so that we can develop and at last, as vergers, go to the Ball.

Did you know that when you join the Vergers Guild of the Episcopal Church, you become an Associate Member of the Church of England Guild of Vergers?

If you would like more information, contact John at [email protected].

When the VGEC was founded in 1989, we had been an American Branch of the CEGV for about a year. A "Branch" for the CEGV is the same thing as a "Chapter" in the VGEC.

The 2017 VGEC Annual Conference in Atlanta is coming soon on October 12th to October 15th. Registrations made through Thursday, August 31, 2017 are $225.00 per person. Registrations made after August 31, 2017 are $275.00 per person. The deadline to register is Monday, October 2, 2017. We cannot accept on-site registrations!

Editors note: Send ideas for Vergers Voice blog topics to [email protected] or submit your own manuscript for consideration.

Abstract: The Church of England Guild of Vergers recently celebrated their 85th anniversary. John Campbell, Overseas Liaison Officer of the Guild and Dean's Verger at Lincoln Cathedral explores the meaning of being a verger both then and now. His description might echo your own experience.

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