A few weeks ago I posted an entry about my mother’s career as a church secretary. Recently I visited her and my father in New Concord, Ohio, where they still live in the family home they built in 1964. Mom mentioned that she had read my post and brought to my attention a few inaccuracies. For instance, she served as the church secretary for only 24 years, not 25 years.
Did I mention that mom was a stickler for details?
More substantive was a clarification that mom ran the church office, not the church. That’s quite a significant difference. It’s what I really meant, but the wording in my post is misleading. I stand corrected. Mom never ran the church, never tried to run the church, and never got in the way of those who ran the church. She did indeed run the church office with a strong, methodical and predictable hand, always aware that she served under the authority of the pastor. She worked hard to please each one. She viewed her work as service to God.
I had speculated – inaccurately to her knowledge – that mom may have nearly gotten herself fired because of her competence. On the contrary, mom reports that she got along very well with every pastor she served, which was a long string of them.
The final pastor desired more control of the office than the previous men. Mom sensed that she didn’t please him and decided it was time for her to retire, believing the pastor desired a younger assistant in the office. I don’t know if changes in technology played a role in any of that, but it was the era in which office computers were beginning to replace typewriters as primary office equipment. Is there a mimeograph machine still in use anywhere? Mom could cut stencils which produced printer-quality results. But those days are gone now.
Mom might rebut my speculation by saying she has done very well with changes in technology, thank you very much! She uses a computer every day, even in her mid-eighties. After she tells you that, she might mention she learned to type on a manual Royal typewriter (as did I). I remember she was both fast and accurate with a keyboard. She could spit out a page rapidly with few or no mistakes. If she did make a mistake, she was as likely to start over as to try to clean it up. But she did have liquid paper on hand or correction fluid for stencils, something I haven’t used in decades.
After mom recited her list of corrections to my post, I told her she had just proved my point. She didn’t let mistakes slide as a secretary. She was alert for errors and fixed them wherever possible.
This morning Thom Rainer posted an blog entitled “Seven Traits of an Excellent Ministry Assistant.” He began by saying, “The days of the church secretary are waning.” That’s probably true even in rural areas. Then he listed seven qualities which I think are found in my mother. Both then and now. Here’s a link for the seven traits:
Mom has been retired now longer than she served as the church secretary. But her mark is still on that congregation. She set a standard of office excellence they still remember today. As an office secretary, mom did things right, which is commendable. It’s even better to do the right things. I think mom did that, too. She always put people first when she was a secretary. She still does.