A Verger’s Tale


By: Jason Tillman

Last Sunday afternoon, I served as the ceremonial verger during Lessons & Carols. I accompanied readers to and from the lectern and led a portion of the processions in and out. The staff that I carried is called a virge, and sometimes in great cathedrals a longer, thinner version called a beadle is used. The particular virge that I used on Sunday has a story.

When my wife and I were members of the Episcopal Church at Cornell, a freshman arrived from Houston, TX, who had been trained as a verger in his home parish. When the chaplain was called to a new parish and we left the chaplaincy as well, Scott offered his services at Cornell in the full ministry of verger.

The true calling of verger goes far beyond the ceremonial duties, and assumes the responsibility for making sure that all is ready for Sunday service in church. It was often the tradition that the parish sexton would also serve as the verger. This was true at Old North Church in Boston years ago. Local North End resident Al Moscone was the maintenance man, and led the Easter procession as verger.

Anabel Taylor chapel at Cornell is an ecumenical space, and everything needed to be brought up and taken down from the basement offices each week, including prayer books, hymnals, altar linens, candles, etc. The average college freshman would not want to roll out early on Sunday to get ready for the 9:30 eucharist, but Scott wanted to make sure that the supply clergy rotating through at the time would have everything all prepared and be guided successfully through the service.

At one point, Scott’s virge was broken and he drifted away from that ministry. The virge was recently unearthed and restored, and at Lessons & Carols I served with Scott’s virge as an homage to his faithful and dedicated service, and the service of all of those who make our churches ready for worship.

If you would like to learn more about vergers in the Episcopal Church, go to: http://www.vergers.org

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