All in a Day’s Work

Our parish administrator David gives an insight into the seven-days-a-week life of St James’s and how faith and service is at the core.

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It’s 10 o’clock on Monday morning … I’ve already picked up a voicemail from somebody who left their glasses in the church on Saturday evening, I’ve watered the plants in reception, I’ve checked all the diaries for the day, I’ve reviewed some of the emails that landed over the weekend (including requests for a half-day conference in the church in September, a baptism in October, and a wedding next summer), I’ve started work on the order of service for Tuesday’s Sanctuary Eucharist … but I still haven’t manged to get to the kitchen to make a pot of coffee!

When Lucy invited me to write this blog, she asked me to reflect on how I integrate faith with my work here as St James’s Parish Administrator. I did not see that coming, and it’s given me much to think about.

As Lucy reminded me, I am currently St James’s longest-serving member of staff! I arrived here in 2007 as a freelance marketing consultant (putting together a strategy for the Concerts programme and the Craft Market), and then applied for the role of Parish Secretary when it became vacant in early 2008. The two church wardens on my interview panel were Jane Preest and Cornell Jackson. Both remain active members of our community, and I shall be eternally grateful to them for the faith they placed in me when I was appointed.

I worked alongside Lucy’s predecessor, The Revd Dr Charles Hedley, for a while and then through an 18-month interregnum alongside The Revd Lindsay Meader, before Lucy joined us in October 2010. Lucy inherited me as Parish Secretary at that time and I’m still here nearly 14 years later!

My role has evolved in that time, and my title was re-styled in 2022 when I became Parish Administrator and was given responsibility for managing our site hire and room hire business.

All of this means that I have an incredibly diverse portfolio of daily tasks and relationships. On a typical day in the office, I’ll be drafting or printing the order of service for a weekday or Sunday service; fielding calls on a myriad of subjects ranging from life events, family history, and archive material through to the Concerts programme, the Food Market, and room hire facilities; administrating the ChurchSuite database: ordering stationery supplies; raising invoices; offering IT solutions to staff and clergy:, coordinating Lucy’s diary; and trawling through the tsunami of emails that I receive every day.

However, all of this is incredibly important to me, because it’s important to somebody else. When I reflect on faith and how it relates to my work, I am ever mindful of my duty of care and a profound sense of  ‘service’.

I’m grateful to have this responsibility in all its aspects no matter how challenging they may seem on occasions. Funerals and memorial services, for example, can be incredibly difficult to navigate. As I’m the first point of contact for all ‘life events’, at St James’s, I do find myself occasionally engaged in profoundly sensitive conversations with grieving relatives. This ‘pastoral’ aspect of my work, whilst unpredictable, can often be the most rewarding.

I absolutely have a sense of my faith in action when I have the privilege to support and gently guide those who may be feeling utterly bereft or vulnerable. Of course, I also share the joy of wedding couples and baptism families when assisting them with preparations for these happy events.

One of my favourite things to binge watch on TV in recent years has been the NBC medical drama ‘New Amsterdam’, set in a public hospital in New York City. The main character, Dr Max Goodwin, has a brilliant catch-phrase … ‘How can I help?’

This speaks to me profoundly, and I get a lump in my throat everytime I hear it. No matter how busy he is as the Medical Director of the hospital, Max is unfailingly dedicated to his work and his colleagues, and is always wanting to know how he can help, how he can make a difference, how he can improve peoples’ lives.

I want to be more like Dr Max Goodwin! It’s absolutely my faith that inspires me to want to help people, whether they’re planning a life event, a garden hire, a board meeting, a concert, an exhibition, or needing to engage with a member of staff or the clergy team, our Earth Justice team, our FEAST and Sunday Breakfast team, our LGBTQ+ group, or our Director of Music and wonderful Music Scholars.

I think I may have been a juggler in a former life! I often feel as if I’m keeping about ten balls in the air at the same time and I live in constant fear of dropping one of them. I’m sure there will be several people reading this who will have observed the occasional dropped ball, but I’m keenly aware of the fact that perfection is a journey and not a destination!

I have faith that I will honour the trust that has been placed in me and that I will continue to work to give the best account of myself for all my colleagues, our congregation, and our wider community.

I conclude with this passage from Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians:

‘Work hard, but not just to please your masters when they are watching … do the will of God with all your heart.’