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, April 24, 2015

Mid-Year VGEC Board Meeting - Fun! Fun! Fun! in Saint Louis!

Board members returning to the Union Station Hotel from Christ Church Cathedral after a tour: Terry, Bill, Richard, Scott, Barry, Cheryl, and Duke. Photo by Margaret.

By Ken, Holloway, News Manager, VGEC

Your VGEC Board gathered in St. Louis last Friday and Saturday for its mid-year meeting, reviewing budget, learning more about the details of our annual conference scheduled to begin on October 1st, and charting the next six months activities. I was able to attend the meeting via video hookup from Round Rock, Texas along with Michael Sanchez, who was barely awake out on the west coast. The 2015 Conference discussion lasted most of the day on Friday and proved most worthwhile.

How would you like the opportunity to win a $100 gift certificate from the Guild Shop? All you need do to be entered in our Guild Shop Gift Certificate Drawing (hereafter known as the Annual GSGCD) is to register BEFORE June 1st. It is open to vergers only, you must be present at the drawing to be held during the business meeting on Saturday morning at the conference, and board members are not eligible to win. Register today!

Our 2015 conference chair and host Shug Goodlow has been working with last year's conference chair and new chair of the VGEC Annual Conference Committee Terry Hughes to prepare a first-rate conference experience for you. Board members stayed at the historic Union Station Hotel and uniformly rated the accommodations "fantastic" and "very comfortable." The hotel is set in a grand architectural location, reminiscent of a stately era in historic Saint Louis. The hotel is exactly 0.8 miles from our host church - Christ Church Cathedral.To see the online photo album of the meeting, clickHERE.

At the morning break, Margaret McLarty visited the Fudgery shop located in the hotel mall where they sell fudge frosted with live entertainment. This morning a singer was belting out standard hits. Margaret's fudge purchase was reported as "very tasty" by every board member! I noticed through our video relay that board members greeted her return to the meeting room with more-than-usual interest in her sweet-tooth report. Sweet food and fun. What a combination!

All of these shops are located within the Union Station property. You don't have to go far to find what you want in St. Louis, but if you're planning to "do St. Louis" during your stay, the local site lineup is really stunning. Here are the St. Louis Points of Interest you may want to explore.

Several board members exclusively used the MetroLink rail for transportation between the airport and the hotel, and several point of interest. Duke DuTeil, VGEC Treasurer and Training Course Advisor stated, "The Metro rail system is very convenient to the hotel and offers transport from the airport for $2.50 for young folks and $1.25 for the over 65 crowd. It's clean and very easy. Best of all, it took me to the Forrest Park stop where I had easy access to the 1904 World's Fair site, the St. Louis Zoo, and many other attractions. Public transportation along the rail line could not be better."

Later, there was talk of a VGEC paddle-boat challenge-match tournament to be staged at the pond located on the Union Station hotel's proximity. This is a fast-evolving plan, running up to early October, so make sure that you stay tuned to this channel for all of the latest details.

The entire conference agenda was reviewed, tweaked and updated on Friday by Shug and the board so take a minute and have a look at it. The agenda will continue to evolve and slightly change so be sure to check the link to remain up to date.

We'll be sending a conference registration reminder post card to you next week which will go to all VGEC members and to all Episcopal Churches across the United States. Don't fold it into a plane or a crane. Keep it in plain view to remind you to press the big red button (before June 1st)!

The board meeting continued on Saturday morning and included reports and discussion from all committees of the VGEC. Board president Scott Smith said, "The mid-year board meeting is a great chance for us to meet together at the site of the annual conference. We always enjoy being together, learning more about how the plans for the conference are taking shape, and reporting on other projects and activities of the vergers guild." The board also meets regularly every other month by conference call, but everyone agreed how nice it is to be in the same room.

The board unanimously wants everyone to know how much we all are looking forward to the conference in St. Louis. We have a phenomenal lineup of speakers and sessions which is not to be missed - So remember to Meet Us in St. Louis!

Click the big red button to register for the 2015 Annual Conference being held October 1-4, 2015 in St. Louis, Missouri:

Abstract: There'll be Fun! Fun! Fun! in St. Louis coming your way in October. Here are just a few items to tickle your interest buds about the fun side of our 27th Annual Conference. And a reason to register before June 1st.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Sessions at the 2015 VGEC Annual Conference are going to Rock!

Christ Church Cathedral, St. Louis, MO, site of the 27th annual VGEC Conference - Tim Hamilton photo

By Ken Holloway, News Manager, VGEC, with Elle Dowd, Youth Missioner, Diocese of Missouri, and the Very Reverend Mike Kinman, Dean, Christ Church Cathedral, St. Louis

In 174 days, more than one hundred vergers from across North America and around the world will meet in St. Louis for education, fellowship, worship for the verger! The primary thing that I truly and eagerly anticipate about our conferences are the conference sessions. This blog post is the first of a short series exploring details of the session topics. Each annual conference offers diverse sessions based on the hosting parish's ministries and interests. Here are 2 samples of what await you in St. Louis in October.

For 27 years, a LOT of work has gone into the sessions that are presented each year at the VGEC Annual Conference and this year is certainly no exception. In fact, after having talked with Shug Goodlow, our conference host in 2015, I am convinced that she is doing a phenomenal job putting our sessions together. She recently told me, "When looking back into the past few years' conference surveys, the resounding request was for more detailed sessions on various topics. The conference committee took those survey results to heart when planning this year's conference and I truly believe that everyone will see the results when they come to St. Louis. We have more sessions about more topics, some that apply specifically to the verger but others that speak to the broader church. There is something this year for everyone, I hope!"

For this post, we have chosen, "The Role of Cathedrals" by the Very Rev. Mike Kinman, Dean, Christ Church Cathedral, which is one of your 2 session choices for Friday afternoon right after lunch, and "Youth Participation in Worship: Moving from Tokenism to Partnership" by Elle Doud, Youth Missioner for the Diocese of Missouri which is one of your 3 choices beginning at 2:30pm on Friday afternoon. Their thoughts on what they'll have to say in St. Louis give us much to think about between now and October and reason to make plans now to attend the conference starting on October first.

"The Role of Cathedrals"

I spoke with the Very Rev. Mike Kinman, Dean, Christ Church Cathedral earlier this week. He is looking forward to engaging us in conversation about the unique ministry of Cathedrals to be three Eucharistic tables in one -- for a congregation, the diocese, and an entire city.

He said, "It's a mission with an ancient history that is being remade in exciting ways today and raises important questions. How do we take our grand, old buildings and make them sustainable economically and missionally? How can Cathedrals be the sacred public space where congregation, diocese, city and region come together in all our diversity and lay our lives on the table for the common good?

In identifying our mission as a threefold one of truth-telling, Jesus-spotting and blessing... what does that look like, and what can other congregations learn from a Cathedral approach to ministry? How can all our churches be the glorious presence of God in the heart of our communities?"

Explore is a great word (for Christ Church). The space is uniquely exquisite. You could hear one of the finest organs in the Midwest;  the reredos is gorgeous as are the stained glass windows. You can climb into the bell tower and ring the largest bell in the state. But the best exploration is had by sitting and having a conversation with the people who wander in and spend time sitting in the Cathedral during the week. There is not greater exploration than learning the stories of each other's lives.

Dean Kinman likes showing off St. Louis to visitors. "Besides the standard things (Arch, City Museum, Ted Drewes, the Cardinals and Christ Church Cathedral), I love to take them to Forest Park and all the museums there (especially the History Museum). BBQ at Vernon's or lunch at Blueberry Hill. The Cathedral Basilica is one of a kind and awe-inspiring and, assuming good weather, I try to go to CityGarden downtown. If I had to pick one place to take someone from out of town, though, it would be the Missouri Botanical Garden." Are you taking notes for your free time during the conference?

"Youth Participation in Worship: Moving from Tokenism to Partnership."

Elle Doud is so enthusiastic about her mission within the Diocese of Missouri that she'll have your attention within 20 seconds of beginning her presentation.

She says, "Oftentimes when youth are involved in worship they are relegated to a couple roles... if they are included at all! What would it look like to include youth in all aspects of planning, preparing, and leading worship?" Diocesan Youth Missioner Elle Dowd will speak about principles that can be adapted for your specific worship context, how to deal with barriers that may be inherent in including youth as partners, and why it's worth the challenge.

Elle describes herself as a "Religious Studies" scholar with interests in incarnational relational youth ministry, feminist theology, and global ministry." She graduated with honors from Iowa State University with a degree in Religious Studies and has served as a Christian Educator, pastoral intern, and Youth Coordinator at Episcopal and ELCA churches. She has led several mission trips to Jonathan's House for Orphans in Sierra Leone as their Sponsorship Coordinator.

Elle lives with her husband, Adam, and their six year-old daughter, Alice, in St. Robert. She is excited to share her passion for youth ministry with the 2015 Verger's Conference.

After reading these summaries, I'll bet that you're as motivated as I am to be in the front row for both of these conference sessions. Just don't take my seat. O.K.?

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 a lineup of VGEC 2015 Conference session presenters second to none. Read what we have to look forward to in the first two sessions we're highlighting as conference time grows near.

Friday, April 3, 2015

A Good Friday for Vergers

The tower bell, purchased in 1833 tolls 33 times at 3pm each Good Friday in Nashville, Tennessee

by Scott Smith, Verger at Christ Church Cathedral, Nashville, Tennessee

After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), "I am thirsty." A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the wine, he said, "It is finished." Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. John 19:28-30

The always seeking and usually wishful-thinking theologian Frederick Buechner had much to say about Good Friday in the his book, Faces of Jesus.

He wrote, "To participate in the sacrificial life and death of Jesus Christ is to live already in his kingdom. This is the essence of the Christian message, the heart of the Good News, and it is why the cross has become the chief Christian symbol. A cross of all things – a guillotine, a gallows – but the cross at the same time as the crossroads of eternity and time, as the place where such a mighty heart was broken that the healing power of God himself could flow through it into a sick and broken world. It was for this reason that of all possible words they could have used to describe the day of his death, the word they settled on was 'good.' Good Friday."

So maybe there is good news on Good Friday. But how? How can we find ways to “participate in the sacrificial life and death of Jesus” as Buechner suggests?

The vergers at our parish may have found our way. A long-standing tradition at Christ Church is known as "Vergers Keeping Watch." Immediately following the noon Good Friday Liturgy, the Cathedral Vergers (usually two to three souls) hold the front doors of the nave open to the city of Nashville for prayer and reflection until 3:00 p.m. This has been an extremely rewarding experience for the participating volunteer vergers as we are able to silently reflect on the meaning of the day. Many curious visitors, as they slowly trickle in and out of the church, experience the afternoon in their own quiet ways.

Precisely (and we vergers all know what "precisely" means) at 3:00 p.m., we stand in the 9th Avenue Narthex, at the door, looking out, as we toll the tower bell thirty-three times. Why thirty-three times? Because that is the customary age Jesus is believed to have been when he died. According to Luke 3:23 he was about thirty when he began his ministry and John mentions three Passovers during his ministry which brings him to the age of thirty-three.

So the bell tolls to honor each year of his life. In years past, Good Friday was the only time that the Cathedral bell was rung. According to Geoffrey Butcher, retired Canon Pastor who began the tradition many years ago at Christ Church, "Hearing the bell may have made some people realize that the church had an active ministry in the early days. I talked with people who thought that the church was an abandoned building but the tolling bell on Good Fridays told them otherwise."

The Good Friday bell ringing leads to questions about the history of the tower bell itself. Where is it? How long has it been there? Fletch Coke, Christ Church Archivist and historian recently explained, "The ladies of the church were busy indeed during the summer of 1833. The rector reported that the ladies had sold "articles made chiefly by themselves, for the purchase of a bell." With the $650.00 raised they purchased a bell. In the tower of old Christ Church located on Church Street, the bell was hung in the spring of 1834 where it remained for the next 55 years. After the sale of the old church, the bell was removed and re-hung in the "new" belfry in 1891 on Broadway. That bell tower is the smaller tower at the southeast corner of what is now the Parish Hall. At a Jumble Sale at Christ Church in the summer of 1996, sufficient funds were raised to purchase an electronic system for ringing the bell. On All Saints Sunday, November 3, 1996, the historic bell at Christ Church once again pealed forth calling the faithful to worship."

Rev. Butcher added, "...on one Good Friday, I went to ring the bell at 3:00 p.m. At that time, an old rather fraying rope was attached to the bell clapper. After climbing the steps, grasping the rope, and ringing the bell a few times, the rope broke and I went sailing backwards down the old rickety staircase. Not to be outdone, however, I got up, climbed the stairs, and with my hands, tossed the heavy clapper at the bell until I had rung the bell 33 times. After that event we thought that we should look into updating the way the bell was operated. That turned into a big project resulting in the ability to ring the tower bell automatically."

In a subsequent event in 2011 on Good Friday, the electronic system for ringing the bell malfunctioned and would not operate. On that day, the vergers coordinated with Elliot Brown, Cathedral Maintenance Engineer, to hold watch in the belfry with a cell phone and a hammer. When his cell phone turned to exactly 3:00 p.m., Elliot, along with his trusty assistant Trent, dutifully tolled the bell manually, bong... bong... bong... with the knowing smiles of vergers down on the street. Where there is a will, there is always a way! That's how we vergers operate.

So, as the vergers and others stand at the steps on 9th Avenue and Broadway in Nashville, at 3:00 p.m. on Good Friday this year, holding the small grey remote control that tolls the bell slowly, gazing at our verger watches synchronized to the atomic clock, at the moment that Christ died some two thousand years ago, significant history and tradition will live through our own actions while celebrating the life of the dear one, the savior who died for us.

We might also trust that the healing power of God will continue to flow through into our sometimes troubled world, making this truly a very "Good" Friday.

Abstract: The Verger's Voice blog is taking this week off in order to worship and serve in our parishes during Holy Week through Easter. This post is a repeat of the one used last year on this day. We will be back in full operation next Friday.