Living stories are accounts of the soul. Our four stories reflect a depth of personal experience that, shared with others, can enrich lives in a deeply spiritual way. The result is often one of creative reflection and Christian growth. We Vergers four tell our stories.
On the First Sunday of Advent this past year, four of us—Arwen Newman, Brian Ortmeier, Angela Wakeham, and I—were commissioned to minister as Vergers at St. Philip’s. As a consequence we became members of the Episcopal Guild of Vergers, the seal of which we display on our vestment, our chimere. I was deeply moved. In our training before the commissioning moment, I didn’t know what to expect beyond the this and that nature of the role. In the procession Vergers generally lead the clergy into the church and up to the Altar; we honor and conduct the readers of Scripture to and from the lectern; we precede the Gospel party down the center aisle for the reading; we share in Communion by holding the reserve wafers and wine or sometimes filling in as chalicists. But after a couple of times functioning in this way the light came on that ours is a symbolic ministry. We lead, should I say invite, the clergy into the service, the liturgy, and in turn the priests and deacons invite us—Vergers, choir, chalice bearers, acolytes, ushers, and the congregation—to the altar and Holy Communion. As Vergers we display the inherent relationship between laity and clergy in the Episcopal Church, we remind all present that we are one in worshipping God and Jesus Christ. This is what I have learned and wish to share.
Around St. Philip’s when people say Verger, most think of Ben Day. I know I did. I met Ben when I began acolyting as a 7th grader. Throughout my years as an acolyte and lay liturgical minister, I observed Ben’s quiet guidance, especially after he took a paid position in the church after his retirement from teaching. Along with his official position, he became the Verger. I learned many things from him, including a talent for calmly moving through a service while not outwardly exhibiting the true level of panic.When Ben died, we all felt a void. We discovered that many people had to step in to do the work that Ben had handled effortlessly. I began to work with the acolytes as the coordinator, passing on the tradition I learned from Ben. When we revitalized the Verger ministry, a remembrance of Ben and how he was able to help guide a service when he was Verger was something that I made sure to point out as we determined how to move forward in this role. I feel that this newest Verger ministry is a place to carry on the tradition of both the church and the people who have come before.
It was just about two years ago when I wandered into St. Philip’s for the first time. What struck me first was the warm welcome I received from the ushers and the congregation. As I returned week after week, the warmth grew. Between the clergy delivering sermons of promise and hope, the choir’s uplifting voices of song, and the spiritual environment of the church, I was convinced St. Philip’s was the parish for me. A continual thread through all of this has been the people of St. Philip’s. I was received into the church last year and was approached by the Rev. Greg Foraker and asked to be a part of the renewed Verger ministry with Angela, Arwen, and Harry. It’s been an amazing calling. Through this ministry I have become more spiritually involved in the service, and most importantly, have met so many members of the congregation. It’s provided me an opportunity to add to the spiritual fire of the St. Philip’s community.
Angela E. Wakeham
Thank you everyone who has welcomed me so warmly as a Verger and the reestablished Verger ministry at St. Philip’s in the Hills Episcopal Church. I am very touched by your good wishes and obvious delight in getting to know me in a different role. Also, I am honored and privileged to be able to serve and uphold the tradition of Verger that can be traced as far back as the 16th century in the Church of England’s history. I am blessed to follow in the footsteps of Ben Day. And, you like my hat!