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Saturday, June 23, 2018

Young Adults in Verger Ministry and Pub Theology in Boulder Colorado

Jesus-loving Coloradoans and Vergers in Boulder!

By Jennifer Carr, Head Verger, Acolyte Master, St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church, Boulder [email protected]

Editor's note: Jennifer is leading the “Young People in Verger Ministry - Not all heroes wear capes and not all vergers wear chimeres” session at the 2018 VGEC Annual Conference on Friday, September 21, 2018 at 2pm in Denver, Colorado. To register, click HERE.

On a Sunday, not too long ago, one of my parish’s retired vergers stopped to ask me, “Has the job changed much since you took over?” He asked me just as the bell was ringing and obviously did not expect a detailed answer so I said, “No, we still do most of the things that you remember.” That answer was not entirely accurate.

Thinking about my answer and considering our conference theme of “The Church in the 21st Century,” my answer changes. We do still complete many of the same tasks that vergers at my parish have always completed, but there’s more to what we do than completing the same tasks year after year.

I work in a church that is just a stone’s throw away from the campus of The University of Colorado at Boulder. Part of our mission is to reach out to the students at the university. Through this outreach I now have a team of vergers comprised partially of college students and recent graduates.

Having students and young adults as vergers is wonderful. I strongly encourage you to reach out to young people who may be interested, whether they know it or not! But you will have to remember to make some accommodations. Scheduling, for my team, includes a knowledge of the academic year. I do not schedule student vergers during finals week or other weeks where their attention needs to be on campus. Summer break also brings scheduling considerations as some students leave town or work summer jobs that include Sunday shifts. However, there is more to what we do than scheduling. With these students and young adults, I get to do something that I think is truly remarkable: Pub(lic) Theology.

Pub Theology is nothing new, but as a Jesus-loving native Coloradoan there is little I enjoy more than talking about God over a good craft beer. My group started meeting because some of the older students and young adults in my church wanted a place for fellowship and discussion that fit in the gap between campus ministry sermons and Sunday morning. A place where we could ask questions and have discussions and find a little fellowship with people who were in a similar place in life. Vergers now help plan and facilitate those conversations.

Planning Pub Theology is not a difficult job, but it is important. We meet roughly once a month in a brewery in East Boulder. The brewery is quieter than most of the restaurants we have tried. You do not have to shout to be heard. I gather feedback and ideas from some of our regulars and pick a topic to research. Recently we have discussed The Seven Deadly Sins, The Seven Virtues, as well as Vocation and the Holy Spirit. I come prepared with ideas and questions, but no answers. One of my other vergers helps plan the meeting by posting the event on Facebook and making sure it is announced in newsletters and bulletins.

Hosting these meetings feels similar to the work we do in officiating a Daily Office or serving at the Eucharist. We help create a space where people can be open to something bigger than themselves. Just as vergers worry about the details of the liturgy so others do not have to, my vergers worry about the research and scheduling so others can simply participate. Just as a verger might guide someone through part of the Daily Office by guiding us through the prayers, we guide others through a discussion. The result, for me anyway, is not unlike when I leave a worship service. I come away pondering my place in the universe and within my community and thinking about how what we discussed can influence the rest of my life. Pub Theology is a place where we can talk about whatever interest us and it also a place where we come for support and fellowship. Together, we have grown a lot while talking about God over craft beer.

So to return to the original question, I would stay that my job has not changed much. It is still my job to be welcoming and support people through the service. Now I just get to extend that support and welcome to a brewery in East Boulder.

The 2018 VGEC Annual Conference is in Denver on Thursday, September 20 to Sunday, September 23, 2018. This conference marks the 30th year that we have gathered together to learn about and explore the ministry of the verger in God's church. The deadline to register is Monday, September 10, 2018. We cannot accept on-site registrations! Fees increase after August 15, 2018!

Abstract: Jennifer Carr will be leading a seminar on Friday afternoon, September 21, at our annual conference. Come hear how craft beer, vergers, and Pub Theology fit in with the verger ministry of hospitality and welcome and the ministry of the verger in the 21st Century.

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