Clergy work with the verger to assign the tasks specific to that parish that are the responsibility of the verger. The verger’s duties are about 90% behind the scenes and 10% in the service.
The ideal candidate for verger may already be supporting the clergy by checking on the set up of the chancel prior to the service. A verger typically interfaces with the altar guild and ushers to make sure everything is in place. The verger makes sure the readers are prepared and chalice or eucharistic ministers are assigned and present. The verger organizes the procession and may also be the acolyte master.
The verger might have the responsibility to train and schedule lectors, chalice bearers and ushers. If someone does not show up the verger finds a replacement, or is always prepared to fill in at the last minute.
Anytime a liturgical visitor comes to assist in worship, the verger will welcome that person and show them where vesting and seating will be.The verger must be flexible, double check everything, and have an “eagle eye” while remaining "invisible". The verger is always thinking a few minutes ahead as the service progresses and watching to see that all that was planned is indeed set to occur.
As a priest considers beginning a verger ministry in his or her parish, a job description with specific duties needs to be written for the verger. In some parishes the verger is not vested in the liturgy. Vesting and processing in the liturgies might be added Feast Days. Over time, a verger, wearing a simple cassock, moving around the nave getting everything ready can be a real asset because that person is available as a source of information to everyone especially visitors during special services such as funerals, weddings, confirmation, and baptisms. The visitor can ask about Sunday school offerings, where the nursery or restrooms are located, or about the history of the church building itself.
For special groups, like pre-baptismal training, weddings or ordination rehearsals, a verger can be very effective helping in making large groups of people feel comfortable and at ease. Especially at the time of a funeral, the verger can work with the various funeral homes to assure that the church’s guidelines are followed. Members of the parish often welcome the assistance of the verger in the liturgy because it allows the clergy to be more available for personal conversation and to address pastoral concerns.
Even in small parishes, a verger can be invaluable to the priest. As your parish size and number of services increase, it is nice to develop a team of vergers. Periodic meetings with the clergy help the verger team know what details need to be addressed in specific liturgies.
The Vergers Guild of the Episcopal Church will be responsive to any priest who wants to consider this ministry.
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