Church secretary enjoys role in preparing services, events

October 15, 2004|HERB BROCK

Pardon the possible sacrilege involved with this analogy, but if you can compare a church service to a major Broadway production, then you can view Gail Singleton as an important member of the production crew.

The pastor, the youth minister and the minister of music have starring roles, and the choir is the supporting cast. While these people take center stage on Sunday mornings, there are the stagehands and others in the production crew that work behind the scenes to make sure the "show" goes on without a hitch.

As church and pastor's secretary, Singleton has been an important part of the behind-the-scenes crew at Lexington Avenue Baptist Church for 15 years. In fact, this month marks the anniversary of her hiring at LABC, which, with more than 600 resident members, is one of Danville's largest churches.

"I suppose there might be some people who believe the church bulletins for every service appear magically out of thin air," said Singleton with a laugh. "I can tell you there is a lot of work involved in gathering the information for them and getting them printed and ready for every service."


In addition to helping to put the bulletins together, Singleton, and other church secretaries working in those behind-the-scenes production roles, also handle the communications between and among the pastor and other ministers and all the other people involved in preparing for and appearing in each service.

"Helping organize church services and other events is an important job for me and the other girls here, and that includes making sure the services are planned and all the necessary supplies, including bulletins and materials used by the speakers, are there," said the unassuming, quiet-spoken woman with an ever-present smile.

"We (secretaries) don't seek (recognition). We're here to serve, and one of our most important functions is to do what we can to make sure services go smoothly for the pastors and other ministers and also for the congregation."

Nerve center of the church

But preparing for services is just one of Singleton's duties. That function reflects the fact that the secretaries' office at LABC, located in a room around which are the offices of the church's ministers, including its pastor, the Rev. Tommy Valentine, is the nerve center of the church.

"We're involved in a lot of communications work, connecting the pastor with other ministers, deacons with the pastor and members, Sunday school teachers with parents, members with other members, and committees with other committees," Singleton said, adding with a laugh, "Baptists are known for their love of committees, meetings and food."

Other duties include keeping records, ordering supplies, typing letters and postcards, and dealing with the public, she said.

"We often take calls or receive visits from people who are new to the community and looking for a church home," Singleton said. "We also receive visits from people who are down on their luck and in search of help.

"Whether it is a minister or a member or a newcomer to Danville, I love working with and helping people. We (secretaries) all do. And a bonus is that I have become good friends with many of the members."

Until October 1989, when she was hired on a part-time basis at LABC as a secretary, Singleton used most of her people-helping skills at home. Although she held a few jobs for brief periods of time, most of her younger adult life was spent working inside her home, raising her two children, Jeffrey Singleton, now a co-manager of a Wal-Mart in Lexington, and Gretchen Jackson, a certified public accountant with the Lexington CPA firm of Humphrey and Lowe. Their father and her husband, Charles Singleton Jr., died two years ago.

One constant has been her Baptist faith

But one constant in her life has been her Baptist faith. Her great-grandfather, B.F. Adkins, and great-uncle, John Adkins, were both Baptist ministers, with the latter serving as pastor of Beech Grove Baptist Church in Washington, which was Singleton's "home church." She now attends a non-denominational church in the area.

While she is not an ordained minister, Singleton views her vital role in the activities at LABC as "something of a ministry.

"Perhaps what I and my colleagues do is in some way a ministry in that we are involved with helping a congregation of Christians worship and serve the Lord," she said. "But I wouldn't go too far (with the ministry label). To me, it is a job at a wonderful place with wonderful people."

And it's a very rewarding job, said Singleton.

"I love organizing, and my job is all about organizing," she said. "When I go home at the end of the week, I say to myself, 'Well, we've gotten everything ready for another Sunday.' There are no limelights or spotlights for what I do, but I get a great deal of satisfaction in knowing that I and my coworkers did our parts in making sure our services go as well as possible and our church runs as smoothly as possible."

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