New to the Ministry of Verger?
A verger is a layperson who serves the church in a ministry of organization, service, and welcome.
Vergers work under the direction of their Rector, Vicar, or Priest-in-charge.
Every church is unique and so is the role of the verger in each church. No two ministries are alike from one church to another.
The Vergers Guild can be a source of training, support, fellowship, and mentoring.
Every church has individuals doing many of the functions of a verger.
Raising up lay leadership in a congregation through the ministry of vergers can be a blessing to a congregation and to the clergy they serve.
In each parish, the verger serves at the pleasure of the rector. It is an appointed position that typically assists with the logistical details prior to a service, freeing the clergy to be available to greet parishioners, welcome visitors, and respond to pastoral concerns. The visible ministry of the verger, that of escorting processions and individuals during worship is but a small portion of the ministry. The verger’s duties are about 90% behind the scenes and 10% in the service. The verger is a key individual on the worship team of a congregation with duties unique in each congregation as delegated by the clergy.
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 also may serve as the acolyte master.
The verger might have the responsibility to train and schedule lectors, chalice bearers and/or ushers. When an individual who is scheduled to serve for a particular service is not available at the last minute, the often verger's responsibility includes finding a replacement, or if needed is prepared to fill..
Anytime a liturgical visitor comes to assist in worship, the verger typically welcomes them, showing them where vesting where they will be seating during the service. One the verger chief responsivities it that of a ministry of welcome to all who enter through the doors of the church. A 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 during liturgy. Vesting and processing in the liturgies might be added only Feast Days. In other congregations the verger is vested and an active participant is the liturgy. Over time, a verger, wearing a simple cassock, moving around the nave getting everything ready can be a real asset. 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 may 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.
These are examples of the duties and responsibilities that a verger in a particular congregation may have. The actual duties are unique to each congregation and must be worked out with the Rector, Vicar, or Priest-in-Charge.
Some Helpful Ideas for Getting Started
The best way for anyone to get started is to join the VGEC for $40 per year. The only requirement for membership is that you are interested in the ministry of the verger!
You might also wish to form a parish membership which is $200 per year. This saves money if more than five people are interested.
Visit the Vergers Guild Shop online store for processional gear (your first virge and chimere) and other verger-related items of interest.
Consider the VGEC Training Course. The course is very helpful for building experience and confidence as well as defining roles and responsibilities of the verger in your parish. While the training course is extremely valuable, it is not a pre-requisite to being a verger. A verger is a verger when their Rector, Vicar, or Priest-in-Charge says they are a verger.
Send a few of your vergers to the VGEC Annual Conference. We always have training and fellowship which makes being a verger more fun and rewarding.
Use and contribute to the VGEC Document Library. This is a growing resource of tools that can be very useful in building your own parish verger ministry.
Visit VergerTV on YouTube for many educational, informational, and fun videos
Contact us if you have any questions
The Vergers Guild of the Episcopal Church will be responsive to any priest who wants to consider this ministry.
Verger John Whitaker and The Rev. Matthew T. L. Corkern at Christ Church Cathedral in Nashville, Tennessee.