First impressions are so important, aren’t they? We’d like you to meet the two women who so often are the first contacts of our church, or rather parish….
Jackie Burton is the Administrator at St James’s Church, where Juliet and I usually worship. In 1991 she volunteered to be the church caretaker. “After a year I applied for Church Secretary, and later the two jobs were amalgamated. So I do admin, cleaning, caretaker work – all sorts of things!”
Of course, she has a daily routine: check the diary to see who is coming in, read emails, make sure the heating is on and chairs and tables and equipment are in the right place. There are frequent visitors: wanting to find out about booking the hall, asking for directions, requesting food or money.
She always wants to provide a listening ear – sometimes that is the most important thing. “If I don’t, people might go away thinking ‘I went to the church and they weren’t helpful’. They may come for a particular reason, but you can often offer to pray (or they might ask). That’s why it’s different from any other job. Even when I’m cleaning, I’m looking after my Father’s house. If work hasn’t gone well, I can always go to the sanctuary and have a pray. I’m in God’s house, and I always remember that – whatever particular role I’m doing.”
Stephanie Fletcher became Administrator of Aston Parish Church (where she and James usually worship) in December 2009, having had no previous experience of office work. Her confident personality is well suited to meeting visitors and taking phone calls: couples wanting to book a wedding, people researching family history, repair men…. “and today I only had three emails, all sensible ones!”
Steph’s work is more office-based than Jackie’s but possibly more varied, partly because the church building is much older and so attracts more visitors. One of her tasks is to keep the parish website up to date (www.astonnechellscofe.org.uk: check it out!).
She’s also now helping with the accounts for the three churches in the parish, which can get quite complicated. “God definitely has a sense of humour: at school my two weakest subjects were ICT and Maths, so if I’d been told then that I’d have an administration job doing accounts, I wouldn’t have believed them!”
Her most stressful day so far? “Trying to collate and produce 150 reports for last year’s parish AGM. because the photocopier and printer both broke down! The clergy are great, particularly my boss Andy (Jolley, our Vicar – he’s also chairman of our Community’s Local Support Group). They’re always very supportive if I’m struggling with things they’ve left me to do.”
Neither Jackie nor Steph ever quite know what’s in store for them each day – “expect the unexpected!” But there’s no doubt about the value of their contribution to the life and witness of the parish.