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Secretary ‘grows’ 6 pastors during her 47-year career

JACKSON, Miss. (BP)–After 47 years as a pastor’s secretary, the time had come for Jayne Woods to call it quits. “I wanted to retire in the fall, but David Sills asked me to stay on until now,” Woods said. Sills became pastor of Woodland Hills Baptist Church, Jackson, Miss., in October 1995 — the sixth pastor with whom Woods has served there.
“I feel led to retire,” Woods said. Recounting James Scirratt, a former pastor at Woodland Hills, said he prayed every day God would let him know when it was time to leave, Woods said, “I feel strongly it is time.”
A surprise dinner was held for Woods in February — attended by each of the six pastors with whom she served.
In leaving the church, Woods was presented with a bonus, a love offering, a lifetime stipend in lieu of retirement funds, a book of letters and other gifts. In addition, the church mission house was renamed the “Jayne Woods Missionary Home” in her honor.
Woods started as the education secretary 47 years ago at First Baptist Church, Vicksburg, Miss., her home church. John McCall, the church’s pastor at the time, told Woods, “If you stay here, you will always be ‘good ol’ Jayne.”
“So, I ventured out,” Woods recounted. Without a job, she moved to Jackson. She found work as the secretary at Duling Elementary School.
A few months later, she was back in church work as the pastor’s secretary at Woodland Hills.
That was 40 years ago this March.
Other opportunities came along. When a local physician opened a new office, he asked Woods to be his secretary. “When I saw that office, small and windowless, I knew it was not for me,” she said.
Another physician in New Orleans asked Woods to come for an interview. She took the train down for her first trip to New Orleans. “I stayed with a friend who had a basement apartment. I decided New Orleans was not for me, either,” she said.
In 40 years, Woods said there hasn’t been a lot of change in the job. The single biggest change is computers, which remained notably absent from her desk.
“When I started, Henry Crouch had a dictaphone and that is how he gave me work to do,” she said.
The job of a pastor’s secretary is mostly a people job, she observed. “People make it interesting,” she said. “No two days are alike.”
Sometimes being a pastor’s secretary can be difficult. Being involved with people who have hurts and needs is not easy, she said, “but it can also be joyous. I like helping people, and I like helping the pastor help people.”
Her 40 years at Woodland Hills are filled with happy memories, chief among which is the staff. “God has been so good in placing who he placed here,” Woods said.
Another source of happy memories is the missionary residence.
“Our missionary home opened in 1961. Most of the time we have had a missionary family in the home. It has been such a happy experience; we all get so attached,” she said.
To younger secretaries, Woods offers this advice: “Love the pastor and take care of him. I’m old-fashioned. I think everything needs to be run by the pastor, whether he makes the decision or not, because ultimately he is held responsible for it.
“The young girls need to realize that they don’t have the say-so in matters. He is their superior,” she said.
A pastor’s secretary is not without influence, however.
“They should protect (the pastor’s) time, encourage him, even cover for him,” she said.
Most of the pastors with whom Woods has served were younger than she. That is part of the ministry of being a pastor’s secretary, she said. “You have the opportunity to grow a young pastor.”

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  • Carl M. White