Petition to the Dean of Westminster in support of the cartwheeling verger, Ben Sheward
According to widespread reports, the Verger at Westminster Abbey who became a YouTube sensation after he was caught on camera cartwheeling down the aisle following the Royal Wedding has been rebuked by senior clerics at the Abbey.
He has been identified as Ben Sheward, and is reportedly feeling ‘fairly chastened’. He has been forced to take a vow of silence on the matter, forbidden on pain of the rack not to talk publicly about his spontaneous acrobatics.
It is also reported in The Sunday Times (£) that officials from Westminster Abbey have complained to ITV and expressed their disapproval that the excerpt was broadcast. Apparently, it breached the agreement between them, that cameras would be turned off after the wedding service.
Jonathan Munro, the ITV editor in charge of coverage, defended the broadcasting of the clip, saying: “We believe the cartwheeling verger caught the happiness of the whole occasion.”
Not only that, His Grace is of the mind that Prince William's mother, the late Diana, Princess of Wales, would have loved it. The cartwheel was spontaneous and exuberant: it did indeed capture the mood of the nation and was so utterly and unstuffily Anglican. The Lord turns mourning into dancing (Ps 30:11), and King David danced before the Lord with all his might (2Sam 6:14). Why shouldn't a verger?
The Abbey is a Royal Peculiar: that is to say, its clergy are accountable not to the Bishop of London or the Archbishop of Canterbury but directly to the Monarch. As far as His Grace is aware, no complaints have been made in respect of this verger's behaviour - which constituted an act of worship - and it beggars belief that Abbey officials might think he offended the Queen.
His Grace is minded to write directly to the Dean of Westminster, the Very Revd Dr John Hall, in support of Ben Sheward. His Grace corresponded with the Dean only quite recently, and has direct access via email. Although Mr Sheward is apparently facing no formal disciplinary proceedings, in this instance to be rebuked and forced to take a Trappist vow constitute a chastening too far.
The names of all who sign in the thread below and all comments of support will be appended to His Grace's communication to the Dean. Please tell others of this petition (Twitter #VergerWheel): His Grace would like to give Dr Hall a very clear message.
UPDATE (Mon 2 May)
Westminster Abbey have tweeted:
For all those wondering about the cartwheeling verger - there is absolutely no question of Ben being disciplined...His Grace then asked:
His Grace has not reported that he will be disciplined. Was he reprimanded at all and has he been instructed not to speak the media?The Abbey simply reiterated:
Ben the Verger will not be disciplined.To which His Grace politely pressed:
With respect, you're avoiding the questions: 1) Was he rebuked? 2) Has he been ordered not to speak of his exuberance to the media?No response was received. His Grace made the point that there was no suggestion of future disciplinary proceedings: this petition is to make it known that he (and some in the media) consider that a rebuke and prohibition on talking to the media are inappropriate responses to this action. The petition stands.
UPDATE (Sat 7 May)
The Abbey have responded fully (and graciously) to His Grace (HERE). This petition is now closed.