The Verger Ministry Needs YOU!
The Verger ministry was brought to Holy Comforter by Jim Webb in 2003. Most parishioners had never heard of Vergers and didn’t particularly know how to understand the change. As we all know, Episcopalians are slow to accept change. But did you know Vergers have been serving for hundreds of years? The tradition started in the Anglican church and later spread to the Episcopal church. The Vergers of long ago carried a stick, called a virge, at the head of the procession to clear away all the animals roaming in the open-air churches. Thank goodness we no longer have to do that!
Today many people at Holy Comforter still do not fully understand the role of the Vergers and some may not even think we are necessary. I have been questioned about carrying the Virge (why are you carrying that stick?) and for wearing the vestments we wear. So, I want to enlighten a few folks and tell you why Holy Comforter benefits from what we do, and, encourage you to join us.
One of our functions is to free up our clergy to be pastoral at the time of the service. We take care of the nitty-gritty details of set up and then end of service tasks. This allows our clergy to be free to talk and catch up with many people before and after services and to completely focus upon the current service. Part of the reason the Verger ministry began was to relieve our Deacon, Carter Lofton, of all the opening tasks, which made for a very long day if you lived far from the church as Carter did. Several years ago, we also stopped having acolytes at the 8 am service and we currently do not have any senior acolytes qualified to be the server during Holy Eucharist at 10 am. Your Vergers have assumed that role now during both services. Here is a list of what we do:
1.At 7 am the Verger opens the church and turns on all the lights.
2.The Verger turns on the audio equipment and tests the microphones.
3.The Verger collects the two Holy water bowls and sets them aside with new water for the clergy to bless before the service and then we put them back out.
4.The Verger checks that all the readings are accurate and present for the service readers. We also make sure the Gospel book is set for the correct reading.
5.The Verger opens the safe and double checks for extra wine and wafers.
6.The Verger makes sure there are bulletins at every point of entry and we set them out where all the clergy sit. We fill water glasses for the clergy as well in case they are needed during prayers or a sermon.
7.The Verger checks to make sure all service participants are present. We must be prepared to fill in as a reader or Eucharistic minister if someone is absent.
8.The Verger prepares the special kits for each Eucharistic minister and provides the info to the clergy about who will be receiving Eucharist at home.
9.The Verger lights the candles when there are no acolytes.
10.The Verger carries the cross in the absence of acolytes and the gospel book as needed.
11.And NOW the verger functions as the server during the preparation for Holy Eucharist. This means they bring the chalices, paten, wine, water and wafers to the priest or Deacon as they set the table.
12.Vergers are always observing and organizing as the need arises. If something is forgotten, we retrieve it. If someone feels faint or sick, we can assist. We have also studied a lot about the Episcopal church and our very own Holy Comforter, so we are there to answer questions.
13.We wear the white robe in case we fill in as a Eucharistic minister, and the long gray vest called a chimere to identify us in case you have a question or need us.
14.Verging is NOT about being pretentious or to imitate clergy. We simply want to help.
There is a story told about a Vergers and Acolyte festival held at St. Johns here in Charlotte during the time our Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, was our Diocesan Bishop. I also heard him personally when I attended the National Vergers Guild Conference in Atlanta a couple of years back. He said: “I can always tell when a church has vergers when I visit parishes across the Diocese. In these churches, the clergy is always so relaxed! They tell me they can concentrate upon the service ant their parishioners. The vergers take of all the other stuff.”
I love opening the church before the 8 am service. The peace and quiet surrounds me as I carry out my duties before people arrive. It is a time when I feel close to God; a thin space as we like to say. I also love assisting as the server during Holy Communion. Being close and providing things to the clergy often makes me visualize the last supper. It is a special time.
****The ranks of the Vergers are diminishing, and we need more to be able to continue this ministry. People without children often find this to be a wonderful way to serve. But some younger members may find that this could be an opportunity to serve with your child when they are performing duties as acolytes, or reading the lessons. The more Vergers we have, the fewer services we work. This ministry speaks to me in ways nothing else does. Please give this some consideration and contact Bill Reed, or myself.
Ann Moore Maxwell
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