The traditional role of the verger is that of the protector of the procession. In the Middle Ages, the verger preceded the procession, pushing aside any animals or persons that might have interfered with the procession. In the modern Church, the verger leads the procession, helps ministers of the service to their posts, and helps out behind the scenes with logistics and planning for services. The verger is also a welcoming presence for visiting clergy, helping them with the specifics of worship and liturgical movement at St. Peter’s.
The virge is the traditional symbol of the verger’s office. The virge (from the Latin virga, meaning “branch; staff; rod”) is typically a wooden rod or mace, topped with a cross or other symbol of the Church.
The virge is held in the right hand and in one of two positions - “at rest” and “extended”. The “at rest” position is with the virge resting against the right shoulder, and is used whenever the verger is in motion but NOT leading a person or persons in procession. The “extended” position is with the virge out in front of the verger at a 45-degree angle, and is used whenever the verger is leading a person or persons in procession.
Responsibilities and Conduct
The verger is expected to arrive no later than 30 minutes prior to his or her assigned service. Repeated tardiness will result in probationary status and possible dismissal from the Guild.
Upon arriving, the verger should vest in cassock and verger’s chimere.
The verger leads the procession, proceeding at a stately but not slow pace up the center aisle of the nave. Upon reaching the sanctuary, the verger pauses to acknowledge the altar with a slight bow of the head, and then the verger moves to the gospel side between the rail and the gospel cross, facing perpendicular to the entering procession. Once the procession has passed, the verger places the virge in its mount on the outside of the gospel-side stalls and takes a seat in the rear stall closest to the quire screen.
Liturgy of the Word
During the Liturgy of the Word, the verger leads individual lay and ordained ministers, such as the readers, preacher, and Intercessor, to the appropriate location to fulfill their appointed duties. It is the responsibility of the verger to identify who those persons are and to locate where they are seated (if in the congregation) in advance of the start of the service.
During the Gloria, the verger takes up the virge (in “at rest” position) and moves across the choir toward the gate next to the organ console, reverencing the altar when passing in front of it. Going through the organ console gate, the verger moves to the place in the congregation where the Old Testament reader is seated. At the conclusion of the Salutation and Collect of the Day, the verger escorts the reader to the lectern, now with virge in “extended” position. While the reader is reading the lesson, the verger stands left of the lectern facing the congregation. At the conclusion of the lesson and during the psalm, the verger leads the reader back to his or her seat and then proceeds to the seat of the New Testament reader. At the conclusion of the psalm, the verger repeats the process with this reader, escorting the reader back to his or her seat at the start of the Gradual hymn.
At the Gospel
After escorting the New Testament reader, and during the Gradual, the verger returns to the quire (or sedilia) and takes up position next to the preacher to await the start of the gospel procession. When the gospel procession departs the quire, the verger leads the preacher to the pulpit, where he or she remains standing through the reading of the gospel. As the returning gospel procession passes back up the steps and into the quire, the verger is seated in the front row pew facing the pulpit for the duration of the sermon. Once the sermon concludes, the verger escorts the preacher back to the quire (or sedilia) and returns to the verger’s seat.
During the Peace, the verger forms up with the crucifer and torches (and thurifer, if present) and proceeds to the rear of the nave to await the Offertory procession. At the end of the Offertory anthem, the verger begins the Offertory procession, following the same order as the entering procession, peeling off to the gospel side of the quire once the procession reaches the altar rail. While the offerings are being presented, the verger should return the virge to its mount and return to the verger’s seat.
Canon of the Mass
During the Canon of the Mass, the verger participates in the normal ritual of the service from his or her seat in the quire.
At the administration of Communion, the verger should assist the ushers and altar party in closing the gate and moving the kneeling cushions into place, and then lend aid any communicants who require direction or who need help moving down the stairs after receiving Communion.
Post-Communion Prayer and Retiring Procession
The verger prays the Post-Communion Prayer and receives the blessing from his or her spot in the quire. For the retiring procession, the verger exits in procession after the choir and ahead of the sacred ministers, holding the virge in “at rest” position.