John Campbell, former Dean's Verger of Lincoln Cathedral shares some thoughts on his former role. (Pictured are the 'three wise monkeys' (his words!) from L-R John Campbell, Paul Birkinshaw the Canon's Verger and Jim Newton, the Bedel who were taking break from stage building in the cathedral when "things just weren't going well". 

John writes:

History has not been too kind to the verger in today's church, Arnold Bennett in his book Anna of Five Towns refers to the verger as 'The chapel keeper who always wears an injured expression', the majesterial writers of Dad's Army do a brilliant job of portraying the bumbling subservient reverence to 'His Reverence’ by verger Mr. Yeatman. And again Alice Tinker, the verger of Vicar of Dibley fame is an enormous tribute to the kind-hearted general factotum who doesn't quite get it. But rest assured, vergers do get it; sympathy, empathy a sense of order and yes, the ‘black comedy of everyday life’.

The ancient junior officers of the early church, chosen for practical service [Acts 6 2-4] developed into; Parish Clerks, Door Keepers, Sextons, Caretakers, Vergers, Beadles and more, resulting in the potpourri of what we commonly call the verger today, whether by name or not there a,re many who serve the church in this practical ministry.

The rewards are out of this world we are told, but the joy of serving; people, the church and God is ever with us; Faith Fun & Fellowship is a sub-strapline of the Church of England Guild of Vergers, and plenty of all three exist in a vergers’ day whether members of the guild or not.

Working in pairs, large teams or individually the ‘verger’ is ready for the unexpected as well as preparing for the expected. Handling Yahweh’s hardware, the tools of liturgy, serving the temple and guarding the sacred are all important elements of our ministry as is dealing as is the human contact with both congregation and pilgrim. From the humdrum to the hilarious the vergers’ lot is a happy one.

The Guild of Vergers offers, support in dry times, fun in the flourishing times and continuity throughout, meetings include worship, instruction, entertainment, much food - sometimes we just meet to gossip.  Members of our local branch come from far and wide from; Skegness to Sutton Bridge, Gainsborough to Lincoln and beyond and we look forward to welcoming new numbers.

Back in the literary world and the cautionary tale of Somerset Maugham ‘The Verger’ where he writes of Albert Forman the verger of St Peter’s church, Neville Square in Mayfair who is dismissed for not being able to read or write. Albert, dismayed, goes out into the world to an unknown future, a future in which he makes his fortune.  On a visit to his bank he is asked to fill in a form, unable to do so Albert’s bank manager ponders; ‘Mr Forman, you say you can’t read or write, and you are almost a millionaire, just think where you would be today if you could read and write? To which Albert replied, ‘I know exactly where I would be, I would be the verger of St Peter’s church, Neville Square’.

If you would like to join the Guild of Vergers Lincoln - Southwell Branch, please contact John at [email protected]