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The annual luncheon honors people whose work is often overlooked but vital to the operation of churches.
Photo Courtesy of Leslie Littlefield
Carlene and Earl Powers (middle) attend the annual church secretary appreciation sponsored each May by the Rescue Mission Auxiliary.
Thursday, May 23, 2013
Carlene Powers doesn’t exactly recall why one lady at Midland Baptist Church called her a “smart aleck.”
Even though the comment had to do with Powers’ church secretary duties, it didn’t discourage Powers — it made her more humble and more determined to keep accurate and thorough church records.
Powers has served as secretary and clerk of her small Vinton Southern Baptist congregation for 52 years.
Being a church secretary “keeps me very busy, and I enjoy it,” said Powers, who was among the nearly 20 church secretaries and clerks in attendance at the Roanoke Rescue Mission Auxiliary’s annual church secretary appreciation luncheon this month.
Powers had the distinction of serving as a church secretary the longest, and Bonsack Baptist Church had the honor of having the most secretaries present — five.
During a few congratulatory remarks to the church workers, Travis Wells, sports director for Roanoke’s WDBJ (Channel 7), said church secretaries play a major role in the life of a church.
But, he added, they are often overlooked in a sometimes thankless job.
Powers, 79, has served with 16 pastors, including the Rev. Rodger Hogan, who’s been preaching at Midland the past six years.
Her duties include recording church meeting minutes, keeping membership rolls and handling conference and convention applications and forms, in addition to handling all correspondence. She works mostly from home, using her own computer.
At one time, Powers also was responsible for compiling and printing the church’s weekly bulletins, starting when the church had a duplicating machine to print the weekly publication.
Powers, who is also a Sunday school teacher and choir member, has what she calls “a photogenic memory” and on any given Sunday can tell you who among the 50 or so active members is sitting where and if a visitor is attending a service.
“It’s just one of those little quirks,” joked Powers, who joined the church after marrying Earl Powers 59 years ago.
Her husband’s grandparents helped organize Midland, which will celebrate its 80th anniversary in August. He was very active in the congregation, so Powers transferred her membership from a nearby church to be with him.
Powers thinks she originally may have been elected secretary because of the skills she used working in an insurance office. Plus, she added, “I love typing and shorthand.”
The job is challenging, with “things changing and people changing through the years,” Powers said, “but it’s one way that I can serve the Lord and help the church.”
Hogan said Powers’ knowledge of the congregation, church traditions and the community was extremely helpful when he arrived as pastor.
“She could answer all my questions,” Hogan recalled. “She is very task-oriented. If something needs to be done, it will be done and done correctly.”
Hogan added that Power’s shorthand skill has been a blessing.
Like Powers, the five secretaries at Bonsack Baptist in northeast Roanoke County are all active members of their congregation. Unlike Powers, however, these women are paid staffers at a church that has more than 2,100 members.
Leah Lively, a secretary-receptionist at Bonsack, is the “face of our office,” said Ginger Krantz, office manager.
Lively’s many tasks include answering phones, greeting visitors and keeping up with prayer concerns and hospital visits.
The Bonsack secretaries have varied duties and responsibilities for the church’s ministries and seven ministers, according to Lively.
“We all just kind of help filter information so the ministers don’t get bogged down,” Lively said, adding that the ministers wouldn’t be as effective “if they had to take every phone call.”
Krantz also works directly with the senior pastor, the Rev. Robert Moore, and with the minister of music.
Elizabeth Pierson is the church’s financial secretary, while Carmen Lowe oversees publications, including a newsletter and the printing of at least 1,000 bulletins for the four Sunday worship services. Lowe also works with the minister of youth.
Cindy Herald works primarily with the Sunday school and the education and discipleship ministries.
Other secretaries attending the appreciation luncheon agreed that their jobs require them to be able to take criticism, be firm and be organized.
Plus, emphasized Powers, “you have to love people, and of course love God.”
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