Now we are three...
It had to happen, of course. The length of my welcome to incoming telephone calls was beginning to equal the length of the messages some people wanted to leave! Reciting “St Peter’s, All Saints and St Mary’s Nottingham Church Offices, good morning, this is Angela speaking, how may I help?” is no use to the listener if, by the time I have finished, they have completely forgotten what they wanted to say - and who can blame them. So nowadays a brisk and hopefully welcoming “Church Office, good morning” suffices. I was beginning to feel like one of those poor switchboard operators in London advertising agencies, particularly during the seventies and eighties, when because of all the mergers and splits, they changed their names weekly it seemed; “Doyle Dane Bernbach…” or even "Hugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble and Grub" etc. etc.
This month I am celebrating(!) fifteen years “behind the desk” at St. Peter’s and have watched my job and my colleagues change over these years. Of course some things, like Trevor the Verger and the redoubtable Joyce, never change, and thank God I say. Both are so much a part of St Peter’s that you can’t even see the joins - I bet they even have keys engraved on their hearts!
When I first came to work here, the office was in St Peter’s Church Walk on the top floor, and staff consisted of Leslie Morley (Rector), Gillian Deave (Deacon) and Wally Huckle (Commercial Chaplain). Gillian was then replaced by Eileen McLean. They were happy and innocent times in that office, but so completely different to nowadays - for one, the office being at the top of the building meant we had few passers by “dropping in” - you had to be very determined.
I came as Parish Secretary, replacing another Eileen (Foster) who emigrated to Canada, and still keeps up to date with news of us through the Friends of St Peter’s, and the odd email from me. Almost immediately after I started work Leslie took a sabbatical (I try not to think the two events were linked) and went to The Gambia. I had a number of preconceived notions about working “for the church” - one being that all I would probably do was to type up the odd sermon and hymn sheet, something like that. What I hadn’t realised was that most clergy, even fifteen years ago, had computers and used them to write their sermons, and so over the years I can only recall having typed up maybe five sermons in all - probably because a machine had crashed.
As the years rolled by, and Marks & Spencer offered to build us an office and coffee room, which eventually after a number of years became a reality, so my job and my colleagues changed. Leslie departed up t’north, followed by Eileen (is there something up there that we don’t know about?) and Wally (who has never really departed, Radcliffe being down the road).
After my sojourn in Australia I returned just in time for the interviews for a new Rector, which resulted in Andrew Deuchar joining us, fairly swiftly followed by David McCoulough as the new Wally, Wendy Pearce as Administrator, and Chrissie Little as Associate Rector, bringing up the rear. But in amongst that, All Saints’ and St Peter’s became one family and now we are three, with St Mary’s bringing us Stephen Morris, Lecturer, and Sanya Moore, Secretary. Our family has enlarged, and with it comes love, mutual support, and above all, a sense of humour. Laughter is a most important feature of our office - without it we simply could not and would not exist.
The Coffee Room has changed too - from being wedged into the St James’s Room (or choir vestry as it really is) it is now a beautiful and very popular oasis in the city centre, continuing its mission of good friendship and good food.
The offices above are full now, to overflowing on some days. The best room though is the Seminar Room - to look down on the people rushing about is to feel really in the middle of the city and its life. The less said about the street entertainers though - a sore point for us who have to listen to their rather limited, but constantly repeated repertoires day in, day out - the better. Oh, and don’t mention the parking!
It is a joy to be “Angela in the Office” (and I protect my continuing employment here by “knowing where the bodies are buried”, literally sometimes!) Every single day is different and as I have said before, and probably will again, it is so much better working for a “prophet” making organisation than a “profit” making one! A typical day…. (there is no typical day!) can encompass putting together services, rotas, keeping the diaries up to date for bookings of weddings, funeral, baptisms, etc. sorting out enquiries, doing a spot of historical, theological or ecclesiastical research, meeting all sorts of people (members of our congregations, visitors to the city, other clergy) - sometimes the office resembles a venue for a cocktail party - canapés anyone?
The coming months look to be most exciting: the ACC Conference here in Nottingham with visiting overseas Bishops and the Archbishop too, the Petertide Festival, linking in with the City, and of course how our enlarged parish will sort out the nitty-gritties of family life - rubbing along together and sharing our resources, talents, faith and love - just like most families do - “we are stronger together than apart” goes the saying. I, for one, look forward to the next fifteen years, though I won’t probably be answering the ‘phone still - we mightn’t even have such things as 'phones by then!
Thank you, St Peter’s, All Saints’ and St Mary’s.