Unsung heroes of the Church

I'll be honest here: I have never seen a YDS or BDS administrator look quite this happy about their jobs. Our Deans of Student Affairs come close....

Some of the least celebrated heroes of the Church are undoubtedly the administrators. By this I do not mean simply anybody in an administrative role, but those people who exercise the spiritual gift of administration for the good of the Church (and by extension, humankind).

It has to be the least glamorous of all the spiritual gifts. People are impressed by prophecy (even if they hate  prophets). They are inspired by evangelism, even if they think evangelists are somewhat narcissistic. They admire the good teaching skills and knowledge of catechists, and of course everyone loves the cheerful giver–especially administrators!

But really, how often do you hear someone say, “You know, that person really keeps this institution ticking!” Maybe, occasionally, at annual meeting time, or at a birthday party, someone says, “Now, I know we don’t thank ___ often enough, but she/he did a tremendous job with the, um, long project thingie she/he was doing. What exactly were you doing?”

As a seminarian, I end up hanging around rectors’ offices a lot, so I’ve seen the various administrative duties they handle: bills, budgets, employment issues, committee issues, altar guild crises, roof repairs, etc. Some delegate this work to others, and some handle it themselves, but few of them see it as their spiritual gift. They see it as a necessary evil.

But in my behind-the-scenes role at two different institutions, I see administrators working nonstop at administering all day long. They are directors of church institutions, deans of seminaries, deans of students, directors of development, and so on. They sit at desks all day, fighting fires, calming others’ nerves, designing curriculum, checking budgets, revising letters, signing pile after pile of letters, fostering relationships, fielding students’ complaints.

This does not look glamorous. That’s because it is not glamorous. I can’t even think of a way to make it sound glamorous for this blog. In fact, it is so lacking in glamour that there isn’t even a collect for administrators in the Book of Common Prayer. We have collects for martyrs, missionaries, pastors, theologians and teachers, monastics (yay, celibacy!), but not for administrators. I have yet to see a church have a day of commissioning for the administrators of the church.

Without administrators, I could not attend the Berkeley Divinity School at Yale or Yale Divinity School. Few of my fellow classmates could, either. Without them, my senior class could not go on an all-expenses-paid pilgrimage to Canterbury, England this March. (Insert Happy Dance emoticon here.)

As I watch administrators, it is clear to me that they are exercising a spiritual gift. It’s apparent in the way they are enlivened by the work (usually) and by the way their work unleashes the gifts of others.

And as I sit here, preparing yet another grant application for a hoped-for trip this summer, I am suddenly very aware of the stewardship of funds that has made money available for seminarians’ trips; I am very conscious of the time the administrators will take to read all the applications and make judicious decisions; and I am especially grateful for the relationships these administrators have maintained worldwide so that we are able to make our way. I was astounded when one administrator suggested that I email a contact, and that email turned into an introduction to about eight other people worldwide–in one day.

There is simply no way I could have found all those people on my own so quickly. Little whooshes like that are the work of the Holy Spirit, in my opinion, but never has it been so apparent to me how the Holy Spirit runs along the train tracks of a lot of careful, painstaking administration.

So thank you to Tom, Ruth, Cindy, Joe, Greta, Jeanne, Pam, Gail, Harry, Emilie, Anna, Doreen, Jan, Lisa, Mary Ann, Dale, Julie, Bill, Grace, Sean, Paul, Maggi, Christa, Susan, Lucinda, Marcia and the many others I have forgotten to name. Thanks for greasing the wheels so the rest of us can preach, evangelize, prophesy, teach, etc.

And now, for the General Convention’s consideration, a draft Collect for Administrators:

Almighty God, you have shown us that wherever a throng is gathered in Your Name, an administrator is necessary to manage the mayhem. Equip our churches and institutions with able administrators, and grant them the wisdom, patience, endurance and grace needed to shepherd Your people so that we all may serve Jesus Christ, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, now and forever, Amen.

One thought

  1. Thank you, Janine! We DO often forget these valuable people. Without them the institution known as “the Church” would not be with us.

    It was a great reminder and how we must and do need to help each other though various crises!

    Hope your travels will materialize and be in inspiration for you!


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