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St Nicholas is one of a few of Norfolk’s country parish churches where the vergers’ post is filled.It is an historic post and plays an important role in church life.
Traditionally the Verger was an escort cum bodyguard for the parish priest and other members of the clergy, particularly as they moved around the parish, or to and from the cathedral. He also acted as a messenger, conveying documents for the clergy. The vergers’ official gown and verge (staff) reflect these ancient traditions. The Verge was used to ‘clear the way’ for the clergy and the gown equipped with 3 loose ribbons on each sleeve that could be removed and used to secure rolled documents.
At St Nicholas Dereham in the 21st century, the vergers’ main function is to provide a presence in the church so that it can remain open for visitors.
The verger's post requires him to fulfil duties in certain religious ceremonies in the church when he will ‘robe up’ and carry the ‘verge’ (or staff of office) in procession, leading the clergy and official visitors to and from their officiating positions within the church. The verger performs his formal ‘robed’ function at every funeral that takes place in the church, leading the cortege into and out of the church, he will also be robed during official visits such as by the Bishop.
The verger's day to day duties mean that he is responsible for preparing the church for funerals, weddings and any other function for which the church has been ‘booked’, moving and arranging the furniture and furnishings as required. (Up to 300 extra seats may have to be laid out for special services). Whilst at the church, the verger is expected to carry out such duties as sweeping and dusting the large areas not occupied by pews, also polishing the brass and glass items in the building. He acts in a supervisory capacity over an assistant verger and a team of volunteer helpers who assist in the cleaning and polishing of the pews, altar rails and other artefacts in the church. When ashes are interred in the church memorial garden, he is responsible for the actual interment and maintaining the plan of the garden, recording the details of each plot. If you need to know anything about the garden or the churchyard, or wish to find a particular grave, the verger would be your first point of contact.
You are sure to find him ‘in the church’.
A small team of dedicated members of the congregation take on the responsibility of ensuring that our church is regularly cleaned. The vergers carry out the heavier tasks of high cleaning, sweeping, polishing and vacuuming, whilst a team of ladies share the dusting of the pews and other church furnishings. This work is carried out behind the scenes week by week and the congregation unconsciously benefits from the team's commitment to the upkeep of our church.