Vergers from the Diocese of Atlanta pause for a photo at their January 21 Winter Assembly at the Church of Incarnation in Atlanta with Bishop Keith Whitmore. Kneeling are Music Director, Trey Clegg, MEG Chair, Phillip Knight, and our Host, Rolando Thorne. Flanked on the left is Deacon Chris Faucette and on the right is Canon John Thompson-Quartey
Photo: Bill Monk
The Gathering and Holy Eucharist:
The Mark Emory Graham Chapter of the Vergers’ Guild of the Episcopal Church met for its Winter Assembly on a dark and stormy January 21st day in Southwest Atlanta. We were hosted by The Episcopal Church of the Incarnation. Forty-six vergers, clergy, and guests participated in the gathering. Nine vergers joined the MEG Chapter for the first time when they paid Chapter dues.
After registration, fellowship, coffee, and pastries, we gathered for Eucharist. The Right Reverend Keith B. Whitmore, Assisting Bishop of Atlanta, was Celebrant and Preacher. Bishop Whitmore was assisted by The Rev. Deacon Chris Faucette and The Rev. Canon John Thompson-Quartey with a full complement of Acolytes and Altar Ministers for the service. Trey Clegg was vibrant as the organist and pianist.
Bishop Keith Whitmore’s last sermon to the assembled Vergers of the Mark Emory Graham Chapter proclaimed the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, as written in Mathew 16:13-19. In Bishop Whitmore’s typically adroit blend of wit and pragmatism, the congregation was led on a journey from recognition (St Peter was a stumbling, blind every-man!) to a sense of our own Christ- driven purpose. To summarize and distill this sermon down, to reduce this message of hope and purpose to a few pithy bons-mot would do the reader a disservice. Our friend Bill Monk recorded this sermon, and you can view it here. It is nine minutes well spent.
Information and Fellowship:
During our time with our friend and advocate of the Verger Ministry, the Bishop, we touched on several topics. The session was bitter-sweet knowing that this was the last time we would be enlightened by him. As is his custom, our teacher responded to most questions by turning them into descriptions of our role as Vergers. These were not textbook responses, but rather teaching moments.
Farewell to our Bishop:
Bishop Whitmore has been steadfast in his support to the Ministry of the Verger since his first meeting with us in 2008. Including today, he has graced us with his presence at Assemblies eleven times. The Mark Emory Chapter felt it incumbent upon us to thank him for his service with a suitable set of gifts that would be an appropriate expression of the devoted relationship the Chapter has come to share with the Bishop. Chair Knight presented our Bishop with a Holy Card of St Thomas and an inscribed copy of “The Case of the Dirty Verger” by Malcom Noble. The inscription is as follows:
January 21, 2017
To our friend, Bishop Keith Whitmore:
Perhaps a man’s bookshelf is reflective of his personality. This cheeky little volume then deserves a place on the shelf between the Summa Theologica and Cur Deus Homo, as a reminder of two essential truths:
1) Life without whimsy is wasted.
2) MEG Vergers should be well supervised
With the utmost affection, respect, and gratitude,
The Mark Emory Graham Chapter of the Vergers’ Guild of the Episcopal Church
Following the heartfelt thank you from Bishop Whitmore which brought tears to everyone, the finale was to serenade the Bishop. With Trey Clegg’s fervent musical accompaniment, the Vergers rose to sing an enthusiastic rendition of the Vergers’ Theme song: I AM THE VERGER IN THE MORNING. The entire serenade was captured on video by Bill Monk. Click here to enjoy a chuckle or two.
Following this momentous goodbye, we joined in fellowship by breaking bread with a variety of sandwiches provided by the good people of Incarnation. For dessert, we were treated to a homemade carrot cake adorned with the MEG Chapter logo and prepared by our host Rolando Thorne.
The Cathedral Bookstore, thanks to Chris Palmer, made available a wide selection of reference materials and books to aid Vergers in their ministry. Sales were brisk; clearly our members like to continue learning to become better Vergers. The Bookstore also provided an ample supply of books for our service project supporting Emmaus House.
The Rev. Canon John Thompson-Quartey was our featured speaker. Although metempsychosis is not a tenet of Anglican faith, it would explain a few things about Canon John. This gentleman could have been a snow salesman in Alaska! Seriously infectious in his enthusiasm, he managed to sell a roomful of boisterous, energetic Vergers on the notion of the necessity of daily contemplation on the lessons of the Daily Office.
Canon John was asked to address the concerns of a fretful Board member about the spiritual needs of the Vergers, as they undertake the daily and weekly tasks of their ministry vocation. Oh, foolish Vergers, who thought the solution would be “talk to someone” or “Delegate more” or even “Does your chapter have a Chaplain?” Wrong, wrong, and wrong. The strength and vitality lies within each of us; the fuel for our lives need just be revealed. Again, it would do the casual reader of these lines a disservice to spoil Canon John’s remarks by over-simplification-- here’s the link to a video recording. View it, enjoy Canon John’s wonderful humour and clarity of message. Then dust off your Daily Office Book, and set aside some time each day to charge your lamps with oil!
The MEG Chapter conducted a service project to support Emmaus House by purchasing books for their library. The books are for their middle and high school afternoon program Youth on the Move. The books were carefully chosen, developmentally appropriate, and culturally relevant books for youth. The Cathedral Bookstore brought a large supply of books for purchase. The attending Vergers completely bought out the supply of books; the Bookstore will resupply its inventory.
Kenya Smith, Director of Leadership Development, spoke of the Youth on the Move program which strives to provide middle and high school students with opportunities that will prepare them for success as adults. Students gather in Ezzard Hall at Emmaus House after school, three days per week. Caring staff check in with each student about their day and students receive homework assistance. Students participate in enrichment activities and are encouraged to explore colleges and careers through workshops and presentations as well as engage in discussions and experiences that are motivating and empowering.
After three dozen plus books were delivered to Emmaus house, we received this note:
Dear Phillip and Members of the Vergers’ Guild,
Thank you for the donation of books to the Youth on the Move program at Emmaus House. I was so happy to learn that vergers purchased ALL the books the Cathedral Book Store brought to the winter assembly! You are such a great group! Youth on the Move scholars will enjoy the prize-winning African-American novels and non-fiction books, and Emmaus House will benefit from this excellent collection for years. I appreciate the vergers’ kindness and generosity.
Director of Education Services
Business of the Chapter:
The meeting was called to order by Chair Phillip Knight. followed by an opening prayer, approval of the 2016 Summer Assembly Minutes, and a report from the Treasurer Karl Sachsenmaier. There is over $300 in the treasury with $2500 outstanding loan to the VGEC, which expected to be paid soon.
Training Officer Ruth Anne Tatum reported that, with the assistance of Canon Thompson-Quartey, the Verger Customaries developed in 2014 will be distributed to the current list of Interims and Priests-In-Charge. Chuck Dale gave a brief Communications report, followed by an update on the first three weeks that Conference Registration has been open. Vergers will be attending from as far east as London and as far west as Honolulu. Several Canadian Vergers have also registered.
The Chair announced that our next Assembly will be hosted by St. Bartholomew’s in Atlanta. The first officers of the Chapter were installed at St. Bart’s on May 22, 1992. We will rejoice in the MEG Chapter’s 25th Anniversary with a celebration being led by Bishop Wright. Our Chapter is the second local Chapter of the VGEC and is the largest Chapter, with most number of Vergers of any Diocese in the VGEC.
Vice Chair Martha-Sue Blythe closed the meeting with a prayer.
Bill Monk has created a Gallery for the Winter Assembly including photos and the three videos mentioned earlier.