When I wrote out my alphabet plan on an index card over three months ago (has it really been that long?) I had no problem deciding what I would write for this week's letter. Be warned, dear readers, for this week's blog post is taking a religious slant as I present you with the humble Verger.
My great-grandfather Albert Waters was very active in the Methodist Church of Beccles from his youth until his dying breath. I only have vague memories of him (he passed away when I was six years old) but I remember him being present at Hungate Church when I attended the Sunday School next door. When I was little, my grandmother told me many family stories and one was the story of her father Albert joining the Methodist Church after a rather miserable time at home. Albert's father (my 2 x great-grandfather) liked a drink or six each day and when he wasn't working as a Municipal Superintendent at the Beccles Bathing Place (in Puddingmoor), he would be found next door at the Pickerel Inn.
In Albert's time there were two Methodist Churches in Beccles which he frequented and volunteered for, one in Hungate and the other in Station Road. After researching the duties of a verger I was quite humbled to think that my great-grandfather did these duties without pay and with little in the way of recognition. I also realised that my mother did the work of a verger, on top of her myriad clerical duties, at her local church in the Swan Valley up until last year when she retired.
|Station Road, Beccles (Author postcard)|
Methodist Church spires can be seen on the left
No longer exists today
|Hungate Methodist Church, Beccles|
Still exists today
The following extract is taken from the 7 March 1942 Beccles and Bungay Newspaper:
METHODISTS: A century ago the Wesleyans in Beccles were described as “lively and consistent Christians”. Their chapel was a neat building, and though small, yet it will contain about 200 persons. In front of the chapel is a schoolroom and yard so there is plenty of room for enlarging the chapel without the purchase of more ground. A resident minister in this place would soon make this a work of necessity. This building was the present Salvation Army Hall in Northgate. Originally the Methodists were connected with the Lowestoft circuit, remaining so until their services were discontinued in 1853 for a short time.
A few faithful friends were not satisfied, and still wished to remain Methodists, so they asked the Bungay circuit to take over Beccles. This was done, but in 1855 services were restarted at Northgate.After a few years two families removed from Loddon to Beccles and were dissatisfied with the hired chapel, so they set themselves to work for and provide a better building. Station Road was then being laid out, and on a site given by Mr John Crisp the present chapel was built in 1872, the schoolroom and vestries being added in 1887. Beccles was made head of a circuit in 1890, the Rev TE Sharp being the first superintendent, but there was return to the Lowestoft circuit in 1906.
The Methodist Church in Station Road was pulled down sometime during the early 1980s after the union of the Methodists and the Congregationalists, becoming the United Reformed Church. Now, sadly, there is private housing on this spot.
The Office of Verger is an ancient one and comes from the meaning ‘He who carries the Virge before the procession’. The ‘Verge’ is the rod of office (Latin -
- Opening up and locking of Church premises
- Preparation for various weekday services and Sunday services
- Preparation for Weddings and Funerals
- Setting out vestments
- Changing altar frontals according to liturgical year
- Care of linen and altar cloths
- Cleaning of Chalice and Paten
- Ensuring adequate supplies of Wine and Altar Bread
- Ensuring supplies of Candles
- Housekeeping, cleaning, polishing, floors and furniture
- Keeping entrance to porch or entrance clean and tidy
- Care of churchyard
- Care and welcome of visitors
- Preparation of Service Registers
I'm sure there are many more "behind the scenes" duties that a Verger once had. Sadly, today so many churches are closed to the public, except for special services, due to the lack of people willing to volunteer their time to undertake these weekly (and most often, daily) tasks. Men such as my great-grandfather did them out of love and duty to his Church and to his community.
|Albert Waters, seen on the far right|
With my grandparents, my aunt & uncle and
my three cousins at a Wedding at Hungate Church