"Servitas in cultu et cultus per servitatem"
Worship in Service and Service through Worship

Friday, March 29, 2013

Holy Week advances

All set for Palm Sunday

Holy Week is, without doubt, a verger's busiest eight days of the church year. Palm Sunday at St. Philip's saw two well attended services.  The weather was awful with lashing rain and a cold wind, so the Liturgy of  the Palms was held in the Parish Hall, with the very short procession under cover to the church.

Holy Week is a time for Vergers to study the customaries. However many notes one makes once-a-year services always provide questions from the Altar Guild, Ushers, Choir, etc., usually, "Did we do that last year?"  I make copious notes to remind myself of any glitches, or things that can be improved for the following year.

Notwithstanding the weather, our worship on Passion Sunday went well, as did Holy Eucharist on Holy Monday and Holy Tuesday.

On Wednesday Tenebrae was, as always, a beautiful service - an easy one for the verger.  No procession, choir already in place and in excellent voice.

These warm-up services are the curtain raises to the Tribuum.  Maundy Thursday is a busy one, with careful planning and co-ordination of ushers (for the foot-washing and communion), the dimming of lights to be synchronized and helping the Altar Guild when the clergy strip the altar.

And so we come to Good Friday and I am about to take my turn, at 6:00 am, in The Garden Watch at the Altar of Repose. Back to church for our midday Downtown Way of The Cross"and our Good Friday Liturgy this evening.

The Altar of Repose - simply beautiful.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Into Lent

Three services on Ash Wednesday saw this verger at the church for most of the day.  Preparing future service bulletins and attending a meeting between the services meant that it wasn't the services that took up the time.

The Imposition of Ashes went well, pleasing for me as I had produced them in advance from last year's palm fronds.  The results of my attempt at this were rather good, despite me looking like a chimney sweep by the time the process was completed!

The three services in which I was involved were well attended, as was the children's version in the late afternoon.  Being part of each, slightly different service makes one more aware of our vulnerability and of our mortality in this life as we prepare for the penitential season.  Early morning was a said service with no Eucharist.  At noon we did have a Eucharist, as did the evening choral service. Our choir singing Gregorio Allegri's setting of Miserere mei, Deus (Psalm 51), during the Imposition was so beautiful.

A particular sentence from the sermon has stuck in my mind. "Dust is a wonderful antidote to arrogance." Okay I had heard it three times, but perhaps that was just as well as to me this is such a powerful realization of our limited time in this life, no mater who we are, what we have achieved, or what material goods we have accumulated.  It reminds me of a favorite expression of my late mother-in-law, "there's a reason they don't sew pockets in shrouds."

And so Lent begins.  No meat on Fridays?  Well that's easy.  Giving something up?  That's not too bad.  Taking something extra on?  That's more of a challenge.  Is Lent the "uncomfortable" season?  That's currently a matter of mild debate, but to me it definitely is, and so it should be.  It should be a time of silent reflection on the suffering and sacrifice,  life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It should be a time of penitence, spiritual discipline and  of preparation for Holy Week.

The First Sunday in Lent includes "The Great Litany". This is said to be the first prayer composed in the English language (i.e. not an English translation from another language) for use in public worship.  It is used in Anglican worship at various times and seasons, but is probably most frequently experienced during the season of Lent because of its distinctly penitential nature.  In our church it is chanted in procession around the perimeter of the worship space.

For the Verger this procession, sometimes called "the Holy pretzel," can be fun(?)  It takes some planning, as we need to complete the procession as the last part, the Kyrie eleison, is chanted.  Ours went well, despite some choir members deciding to take a detour, and we were all in place by the Kyrie.

And so whilst most get involved in the Lenten season and look forward to Holy Week so does the Verger.
There is one difference however.  The Verger is preparing, or is to continuing to prepare, for what is the busiest week of the liturgical year.  Our medium sized church sees thirteen services during the week, although to be liturgically correct, from Passion Sunday to the Great Vigil is all one service.  This includes a joint Episcopal/Presbyterian downtown "Way of the Cross" procession, which is such a moving experience.

I better get on with the planning.

Pax Christi

Saturday, February 2, 2013


"Candlemas" is a word we Episcopalians use for the liturgy to remember Christ's Presentation in the temple, which occurred 40 days after his birth, and where Simeon encountered the Christ Child.  Candles are an integral part to this service, serving as a powerful symbol of Christ bringing light to an otherwise dark world, and which helps us to remember how we are called to carry that light within us as individuals and as a community of Christians.

Our Candlemas service was more beautiful than ever this year with many candles, a glorious liturgy and wonderful music. 

Set-up for Candlemas

I wonder how many can spot the not-so-deliberate mistake in the above photograph.  It did not spoil our worship, but this verger is peeved, to say the least.  With probably the best Altar Guild in North America, it is still up the verger (however much he or she has to do) to spot and correct mistakes early.

Last year's palm fronds have been burned in readiness for Ash Wednesday and the "Holy Pretzel" to look forward to, as well as planning for Holy Week, keeps me in a state of readiness that is the verger's calling.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

A joyous time

With just one more Christmas service (Christmas Lessons and Carols) to celebrate before we reach The Epiphany, this verger is glad of a few days rest.  Not that I’m complaining, but after a hectic Advent (including two funerals in eight days) and six services over Christmas, I have been relaxing by making a start on the service bulletins for Epiphany.

After much hard work preparing for our Christmas worship I have to say that one of my favorite moments of the year is on Christmas Eve lining up the procession for the opening hymn “O Come All Ye Faithful”.  The opening bars of this wonderful hymn set the hairs on the nape of my neck a tingle.  Now I know Christmas is here and as I move off to clear the way for the procession I fight hard to concentrate and to keep the tears of joy at bay.  Believe me, it’s a difficult task. 
With a full corps of acolytes, a full choir, and the Thurifer doing his best to distribute the incense evenly, I am overjoyed that we now get to celebrate the Incarnation. 

Thanks to our wonderful Clergy, Eucharist Ministers, Acolytes, especially the indefatigable Acolyte Master, children (who performed in the Pageant magnificently), our Music Director, Choir, Altar Guild, Ushers and the whole St. Philip's community for making the Eve of the Incarnation so joyous.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The color purple

Is it already the third Sunday of Advent? The past few weeks have been busy with two weddings and two funerals in addition to the regular weekly services.

All weddings are special, but on the Eve of Advent, our church made history. A same sex blessing using the recently approved liturgy was, to the best of my knowledge, the very first in the nation. It was my privilege and an honor to be verger at this beautiful and moving service.

The verger is always concerned with making worship look seamless. Things do go wrong, but mostly they go unnoticed by the congregation, or indeed, by anyone other than the one who makes the mistake and/or the verger. Of course, the verger makes mistakes and I could list many, but I like to think that it is not what we do to correct them, but how we do it that makes the difference. In the event of mishaps I always tell acolytes and chalice bearers not to panic, keep calm, carry on as if nothing happened (where I have I heard that before).

That is not always as easy as it sounds. Last week, a teenage acolyte was making his debut as Crucifer. I was not processing and had expressed the need for him, as lead in the procession, to keep to a steady, dignified pace. This he did, but at the final step before the sanctuary he missed his footing (and a couple of heartbeats) and tripped, but recovered magnificently and  I’m sure no one on the congregation noticed. The liturgical color for Advent (in our church) is purple – very near to the shade of the Crucifer’s face!

Do I take my own advice? Looking calm is one thing. Dealing with the inner panic is another - but we won't go into that.

God knows we are not perfect, so He gives us the strength and courage to get over and learn from our imperfections whilst we strive to serve in in worship.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Episcopal lists

I first posted this a few years back to Norfolk Boy in NC.  It never hurts to remind ourselves who we are:

A Dozen Reasons for Becoming an Episcopalian, or At Least for Checking Us Out

1. It's one of the few denominations that allow alcoholic beverages to be served on the grounds.
2. The options: Rite One or Rite Two; back-to-congregation or facing congregation; traditional or contemporary music; all are allowed and welcome!
3. We used cool words like 'verger', 'thurifer', 'amice', 'warden', 'aumbry' and 'columarium'.
4. Otherwise, I'd be unchurched.
5. I ask too many annoying questions.
6. One is expected to ask all irritating questions and to use their brain.
7. It has a beautiful Liturgy.
8. I do not have to understand; I only have to believe.
9. Here laughter and fun are appropriate.
10. The 'fashion police' don't come to our church; the Holy Spirit does.
11. The clergy are not only smart, gifted and spiritual - they are fun!
12. Episcopalians spend less time beating on the Bible and more time actually reading it.

All of it true, and there's more. I have a tee shirt with the following on the back:

Top 10 Reasons for Being an Episcopalian (according to Robin Williams, that is)

10. No snake handling.
9. You can believe in dinosaurs.
8. Male and female, God created them; male and female we ordain them.
7. You don't have to check your brains at the door.
6. Pew aerobics.
5. Church year is color coded.
4. Free wine on Sunday.
3. All of the pageantry, none of the guilt.
2. You don't have to know how to swim to get baptized.
1. No matter what you believe, there's bound to be at least one other Episcopalian who agrees with you.

You just cannot argue with that.

Oh, and just how many Episcopalians does it take to change a light bulb?
Two answers to this (well, there would be, right? ) . . . . .
1. Change?
2. Three - one to change the bulb, two to mix the cocktails.

I am an Episcopalian (as if you hadn't guessed).

Monday, December 3, 2012

A tall yarn

Those who know my beloved Gail also know that I live in a house of yarn!  I needed a knitting needle this morning for a job on the aquarium pump (don't ask). In Gail's absence I searched for said object. Wow! Even I was amazed at how knitting yarn has taken over our home. Save for the bathrooms and kitchen (although there may be stuff stored there too - well, you don't look for a knitting needle in those places do you?), there was an avalanche of yarn everywhere and countless in-progress projects. It's as well yarn doesn't weigh much as I would live in fear of subsidence! 

Oh, the needle? I didn't find a single one that was not in use on the aforesaid projects. 

No doubt I'll be in big trouble on her return, especially when she shows me where she keeps her stock (although that might not happen if she finds out what I wanted one for)!

She will also, I know, comment on how, as a Verger, I have an eye for detail, but unless it involves my computer, books or tools, I am blind to things around the home. Fair comment.