WHAT IS A VERGER?
~ submitted by Krys Clark
What is a verger? It is a question I get asked a lot. Honestly, it can be a hard one to answer.
The history of the verger dates back to the middle ages. Generally, the chief manservant of the priest or bishop would be given charge of the church building, the cemetery and also be required to clear the way for any church processions through the town. To assist with the processions, the servant was often armed with a mace or a heavy staff known as a verge to clear the streets.
Today’s vergers still serve. They are the servant lay-leaders of the church. Traditionally vergers have served in larger churches and cathedrals but starting in the 1990s many smaller parishes have added verger ministries. Vergers may be part time or full time, paid or volunteer. The duties of a verger can also very greatly from ceremonial to practical depending on the need of the parish. Overall, most verger’s duties include assisting clergy during the church service as well as assisting other lay ministers.
The ministry of the verger is supported by the verger’s guild of the Episcopal church. This organization seeks to train new vergers and provide continuing education and guidance to the community. This is done through a web site, Facebook, YouTube videos, mail list, zoom meetings and an annual conference. Personally, I have found lots of support from the verger community. The verger’s guild has a great saying: every church has a verger, either recognized or not.
For me, being a verger at St. Matthews means being there for the whole community. I am the focal point for service set up and organization. If something needs to be done or a lay minister at the last moment cannot perform their duties, it is my role to either get a replacement or do it myself. During the service I am constantly on the lookout for any problems or needs that may arise. I also try to ensure that everyone feels comfortable and welcome and any needs or concerns are either addressed by myself or directed to another church leader to address. All of this keeps me very busy on Sunday and sometimes throughout the week; but I would not trade it for anything. I enjoy serving this great family of St. Matthews.
So ,I guess a verger is many things. But mostly a verger is a servant of the church and of Christ. Amen.