Mike Cope's blog

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Today, I'm remembering with thanks all the wonderful women I've worked for. Or with. Decades ago they would have been called secretaries; now we prefer administrative assistants. My first coworker was Dorothy. When I first moved to the College Church, I was 27 and was WAY over my head. She was much older than my mother and gave me much-needed guidance several times. It was before the days of computers (at least in most work places), so she typed everything. After a Jimmy Allen meeting, if 200 people responded, she'd faithfully type 200 letters to encourage them. After Dorothy was Brenda. Funny, loud (in the good way), competent. One of those laughs you don't forget. But didn't last too long because Harding stole her away from me. Or I should say, a wonderful opportunity came open on campus. Then came Cecelia. A dear friend. She and Rowan are two of the best folks I've ever known. He's still working at Harding and serving as an elder at Covenant Fellowship Church in Searcy. Cecelia, "Uncle Travis," Jody and I had a blast together in the office. I remember thinking when we decided to leave Searcy that one of the worst parts was not having her in the next office every day. When I moved to Abilene in 1991, Brenda worked with me. What can I say about this godly woman? When I've called her the "church mother" it's only because she nurtures everyone in her path. Shortly after this she became a full-time minister. (If I'm forgetting someone else here, it isn't intentional!) Camille was a calm, steady, spiritual presence in the office. She made everyone glad they'd called or dropped by. Like others to follow, she wasn't there long enough because when her husband finished at ACU they were off. Then there was Trellis. Working with Trellis, who had such a passion for the people of Haiti, was a constant reminder that what we're doing isn't just about "building a church." It's about participating in the kingdom of God that is breaking in through Christ. Trell was joyful and deeply spiritual. It was while she worked with me that we made the big transion to powerpoint (in 1994). I still remember that one funny little typo that slipped past us both. We became better proofreaders after that! Deana was next. What can I say? Those who follow this blog have choked laughing over her comments many, many times. She is the daughter of a minister and now the wife of a minister (plus an accomplished writer herself). Witty, fun, godly. My biggest mistake was in not asking her to actually write my sermons for me. I've asked her to write something that I'll put at the end of this article. Any time I see her or Chad in the audience, I just want to smile over great memories. Then Lora and I worked together while her husband was in school. She was the organizational whiz I needed to bring greater order to my life. She's one of the most put-things-in-a-place-where-you-can-find-them people I've ever know. Chemaine was next--again working here while her husband was finishing up at ACU. Our lives intersected in ways I didn't even known about. When she was a teenager, she was in a car heading toward Youth in Action in Alabama, where I was speaking. She was in a horrible wreck that dramatically altered her life. A less courageous person might have wilted. After they left Abilene, she wrote to tell me she and Roger had given their firstborn my name as his middle name. She was incredibly, wonderfully kind. And . . . then Gina. My dear friend. If I preach until I'm 100 I'll never work with a better person. Her maiden name is Cope, though we know of no relationship. Her husband, Mark, is one of my elders (though quite a bit younger than I am) and is an amazing minister to students on the ACU campus. Her kids, Casey and Patrick, are wonderful. And it was her niece, Sarah Lynn, who ministered to me during a time of deep loss -- through her voice, her worship leading, and her spirit. Gina knows what my weaknesses are and she constantly makes me look better. When I'm tired she steps in. When I'm testy, she smiles and makes the calls that I'm in no mood to make. When I'm traveling too much, she kindly tells people who call "he'd love to, but he can't" and then tells me that I declined the invitation. Does she work for me or do I work for her? I couldn't really tell you. I've told her that I'll stay at Highland as long as she will. For several years now she has made me appear to be a better minister than I really am. Diane and I are leaders of the Gina Fan Club. And now . . . a few words from my dear friend (and former coworker) Deana. I invited her to share a bit about my type-A quirks. (I wasn't asking for the kind words at the end, but thanks, my friend. You and Chad will always be special to Diane and me. You sat on the other side of the wall during the darkest time in my life and helped me survive in my ministry. In fact, you had to take over a few of my jobs for a while--like signing letters!--because I couldn't function. Gracias.) It was fall of '94. My husband Chad was starting his last undergrad semester at ACU and I didn't have a job. Whenever Chad would start to panic, I would remind him that God would take care of it. Then God called. And his voice sounded a whole lot like Brenda Chrane's. Would I like to work in the Highland office? Answering phones and keeping up with Mike Cope? It sounded great. I started the day after Labor Day. Answering phones was a breeze. Keeping up with Mike Cope was a different story. He was known as Mike, the Amazing Disappearing Minister. I was convinced he had a trap door under his desk or in his office closet that led to the outside. I even went in there and looked for it a couple of times. Once I saw Mike walk into his office and close the door. Just as the doorknob clicked shut, the phone rang. It was Jack Reese. "Deana," he said desperately. "Please tell me Mike is there. I have to talk to him right now." "Well, you're in luck," I said proudly. "He's right here." I buzzed into Mike's office. "Mike?" Silence. "Uh...Mike?" Crickets chirping. I got up and went into his office. Lights out; computer off. Mike was gone, and he wasn't coming back. Mike's disappearing acts were something I got used to. I also grew accustomed to his outbursts about the temperature in his office. This was in the old building. In the dead of winter, I would sit freezing at my desk by the front door. Mike would come charging out of his office and say, "Do you want to guess how hot it is in my office?" Then, while Abilene's Arctic winds blew everything around on my desk, he would prop the front door open and say, "I'll come close this in a minute." Then he would disappear. Sometimes for days. The real fun started when I had to take calls from salespeople. Mike didn't have the heart to tell these guys no, but he didn't have the stomach for their sales pitches, either. So they just kept calling back. I got to know one guy named Norm pretty well. Sometimes they tried posing as Mike's friends, hoping I'd put them through. "Let me talk to Reverend Cope. He's an old friend of mine," they'd say. I thought everybody knew the Church of Christ has about as many reverends as topless nursery workers, but apparently, these guys didn't. Mike also had a hard time saying no to speaking engagements, even when he had promised to quit traveling so much. One day, a coordinator for a major lectureship was on the phone. Mike was on his way into his office to take the call when he turned to me and said, "Will you come sit with me and hold my hand and make me tell him no?" At the time, I thought he was kidding. Looking back now, I don't think he was. Mike is one of those people who tries to be everywhere, all the time. (Except for when he's trying to be nowhere, which I've already addressed.) I tried to help him out with that. He showed me how to sign his name in one of his blue pens. He was fanatic about this certain kind of pen and had them stashed all over the office. When signing his name, he was "Mike Cope" to most people and "Michael W. Cope" to people who had written him up in some brotherhood rag. "Just don't make it look like a girl signed it," he would say. As Mike's assistant, I was privy to all kinds of sought-after information about him. At one point, I had his date of birth, social security number, driver's license number and all of his phone numbers -- including the ever-elusive cell phone number -- memorized. And I knew that he liked his files numbered with the multiples of three going up the right side. I also witnessed the heartbreak of that year. I remember staring through tears at a blank computer screen pretending to work while Mike sat on the other side of the wall from me -- lost in grief over Megan's death. I remember every 21st of November, Mike. I want you and Diane to know that. People have asked me what it was like to work for Mike. It was, short of staying home to raise my children, the best job I've ever had. He was adamant about calling me his "co-worker," never a secretary. I worked with him, not for him. He's the definition of the Type A personality, but he puts all that energy into the work of the Lord. It's his passion. "He has the best heart," I tell those people. "I love his heart." And I always will. Now if I could only get the guy on the phone. Thanks, Deana. When you call just lower your voice and tell the receptionist you're Norm the Sales Guy. That'll get you right in! (My cell phone is 325-668-. . . well, you know.) I've been blessed to work alongside all these wonderful, godly people. My life has been richer and my ministry has been stronger because of them. Anyone else want to tell about a coworker who has blessed your life?

21 Comments:

  • The case of the disappearing pulpit minister, wait I see his coat, his coffee is steaming hot and sitting on his desk, his pen still warm, but no Ris, I bet Mike and Ris had the same gift, which was doing about 20 things at one time, pleasing hundreds of parishners (or atleast pretending to try), studying for their numerous lessons, sermons, and Bible classes, hospital visitation, and I haven't even gotten to the phone calls yet. I never knew what a pulpit minister did with their week, and when I worked at Southern Hills I was overwhelmed what one man could do in one week without losing his mind...granted their were men who were on staff who could have done all those same things, and did, Robert O., Steve Thomas to name a couple, but the parishners get to know a man in the pulpit and that is who they relate to, that is who they want to help them put their marriage back together, counsel their teenager for drug abuse, and visit with when they just drop by the office. Even though the other well qualified, loving ministers were there, unless the parishner knew them well, then they wanted Ris. I was blessed to work for great men and with great women in the office, I learned what spirituality really was during my 5 years there. It was like God hand picked a job for me....oh wait He did, but that's a different story.

    By Blogger Tammy M., at 11/16/2005 04:58:00 AM  

  • What beautiful tributes! I always wondered what it was like, to be Mike!

    By Blogger David Michael, at 11/16/2005 05:06:00 AM  

  • I just have to say this! My husband is known as Reverend Stead to the boys I babysit. Their family is Episcopalian. Try explaining to a 3 year old where Mr. Stead and Reverend Stead sleep. I also was once a topless nursery worker. We had the only child in the nursery and I was breastfeeding.

    By Blogger Angel, at 11/16/2005 05:21:00 AM  

  • Mike,

    What a great post, thanks to you and Deana for sharing this. So encouraging.
    I couldn't agree more, the the folks I have had the opportunity to work with in our our offices are the most godly people I have ever met. They have all done so much for me and my famlily like: keep me from quitting, help me with my ministry, keep me from quitting, encouraged me to push for what is right, kept me from quitting. OK, well you get the point.
    I, like you, just don't know what I would do without all of these special people! Most definitely one of Gods blessings!

    By Blogger CL, at 11/16/2005 06:32:00 AM  

  • Today my dear friend Kathy is having surgery to remove part of her thyroid. A biopsy will be performed to see if it is cancerous. Kathy lost her husband to cancer about 3 years ago. She began ministering at Missouri Street over 25 years ago as a secretary and is now an administrative assistant. Actually, she's mom to the three of us ministers in the office.

    When things were stressful, I would find a well-timed card with a gift certificate in it to go some place. During a difficult day she would place a "shot in the arm" on my desk in the form of a Coke or Dr. Pepper. She is always there, quietly working, never offering unwanted advice, but humbly offering her wisdom when the three of us wisen up enough to ask. I pray for "mom" today and thank her for 5 amazing years I've had working with her.

    By Blogger Chad, at 11/16/2005 06:58:00 AM  

  • That was great. As an MDiv student who has done a few internships, I keep wondering when I get to learn the disappearing pulpit minister trick. The closes I've come is Father Scott (across the street from you at Highland) letting me out the side door in his office anytime I visit.

    Does Deana have a blog?

    By Blogger Jared Cramer, at 11/16/2005 07:17:00 AM  

  • Mike, as an aspiring minister can you give some tips for performing the disappearing minister feat?

    By Blogger Harry, at 11/16/2005 07:41:00 AM  

  • Jared - Thanks for asking. Yes, I have just linked to Deana's blog. Check it out. She's the Church of Christ Erma Bombeck (except for the part about having already passed away).

    By Blogger Mike, at 11/16/2005 07:44:00 AM  

  • Harry and Jared - What ARE they teaching in seminary these days? It should be part of the curriculum. Basically, it's the ability to get away to some place of refuge and sanity so you can think, pray, read, or be with a few friends long enough so that you don't feel like you're becoming empty. If you don't do this, you're running on fumes. So where do I go? I have my own Narnia. Recently, I've found the art of disappearing into a McDonald's to read, write a sermon, work on Spanish -- while listening to the buzz of people all around. It's a unique thing to write a sermon while you hear real people all around. Ah, well. Maybe I need to write more about this. Real pastoral mentoring. :)

    By Blogger Mike, at 11/16/2005 07:53:00 AM  

  • Rita is my wonderful secretary (she prefers to be called a secretary). I don't know what I would do without her. She knows everything that's going on, she knows where everything is, and she knows how everything is supposed to be done.

    The disappearing act is a bit easier for me -- my office is in my house (unless the rest of my family is home, then it can get a bit tricky). I go to a local coffee house that has big, comfy chairs and wireless internet.

    By Blogger Jeff Slater, at 11/16/2005 08:28:00 AM  

  • One more thing.....

    Some of you may have seen this -- I don't know who wrote it. I heard it a few years ago.

    Minister Descriptions

    Pulpit Minister: Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound; Is more powerful than a locomotive; Is faster than a speeding bullet; Walks on water.

    Associate Minister: Able to leap short buildings in a single bound; Is as powerful as a switch engine; Is just as fast as a speeding bullet; Walks on water.

    Education Director: Able to leap short buildings with a running start; Is almost as powerful as a switch engine; Is faster than a speeding BB; Walks on water if he knows where the stumps are.

    Youth Minister: Runs into small buildings; Able to recognize locomotives two out of three times; Knows how to use the water fountain.

    Church Secretary: Lifts buildings to walk under them; Kicks locomotives off the tracks; Catches speeding bullets in her teeth; Freezes water with a single glance.

    By Blogger Jeff Slater, at 11/16/2005 08:33:00 AM  

  • I have been off-line for several days and have had so much reading to catch up on. You guys have been busy. I am going to comment on the last several days postings because if I put those comments on the right days...they will never be seen.
    I am reading Lauren Winner's Real Sex right now. I had been wanting to buy it because I loved Girl Meets God...then Mike quoted it on Sunday so I went out to buy it. But of course I didn't just buy Real Sex...I had to buy Mudhouse Sabbath also and read them in the order that they were written. I am weird like that. I have finished Mudhouse Sabbath and I highly recommend it. I think that Lauren is right when she talks about sports helping girls to inhabit their bodies in a positive way. I think that can happen through dance, sports, music, drama but it happens so intensely with sports....but I would say mostly with team sports. There is something about that experience that is unique and empowers girls...even if they aren't the stars on the team but they are part of the team.
    And hey! Who are you Camp WaMaVa people out there? Do we know each other? I don't have any problem with swimming with the opposite sex but I loved that separate swim time at WaMaVa...we could be crazy and talk about life and not worry about our appearance and just chill at the pool...it was better without boys. Some of our best conversations happened at the pool.
    The people you work with can make or break your job. I was assigned a preceptor when I first started in labor and delivery. There were two other nurse orienting at the same time but I got the best preceptor. Not only was she smart and an excellent nurse but a follower of Jesus. She became my closest friend at work. We prayed together about our lives and our patients and whatever else happened. I was blessed by her and still think of her today as I continue in labor and delivery...I think...What would Becky do?

    By Blogger julie, at 11/16/2005 08:42:00 AM  

  • I enjoy an escape to Starbucks to write my lessons, read, or just have a dose of carmel macchiato. At least once a month I'm out of the office "on business" which usually means I'm having lunch or coffee with another YM. Mike is so right, the ability to become invisible is necessary at times, especially when the bullk of your days are spent with people.

    And yes, Deana has a blog. It's deanaland.blogspot.com. Check her out. She's a great writer and I've been told she's quite cute, too.

    By Blogger Chad, at 11/16/2005 08:59:00 AM  

  • I am about to leave my current church to work with some wonderful staff in Abilene. The blessings are over the top except for leaving Pat. Pat has been an office assistant at my current church longer than my six year stint here. She is always the wonderfully sweet, gentle presence of Christ to everyone she meets. She works past her hours and doesn't record them. She ministers to ALL people as they come through the door. She plays with the children, listens to the disenfranchised, laughs with the ministers, encourages the custodian, and prays without ceasing. She can put together a bulletin, do EVERYONE's PowerPoint, answer the phones, fix us lunch, and still have time to listen to me whine. We pray together for her children, her husband, and her relationship with God. She prays for my family, the youth ministry, and our leadership. I can't describe the profound loss it is to leave her here. There are few women in the world like Pat. I am glad Heaven is eternal, because it will take that long for her to tour the mansion being built for her. God Bless You Pat and thanks Mike for giving me this last chance to appreciate her publicly.

    -Michael

    By Blogger Michael, at 11/16/2005 09:32:00 AM  

  • Thanks for this incredible tribute. Wouldn't it be fun to have all these women in the same room to tell stories?

    By Blogger Emily, at 11/16/2005 10:58:00 AM  

  • I'm a member of the Gine fan club.

    By Blogger RPorche, at 11/16/2005 11:24:00 AM  

  • I am not a member of the "Gine" fan club but I have been a bouncer for the "Gina" fan club and an avid member. I hope she allows me to maintain my membership even when she gets tired of me.

    I am also a very vocal member of the Brenda fan club. I am convinced her name is in the top ten of the best to walk this green earth.

    As far as the cell number, I have it but am terrified to use it. So, at times I resort to e-mail even though I also happen to know very few of those actually get read.

    By Blogger Val, at 11/16/2005 02:00:00 PM  

  • GREAT tributes! Brenda Chrane--what a dear! And, you're so right about Gina. God bless her.

    I want to give a shout out to Holly McCloud--my admin. asst. She has such a great way of saying things and keeps me laughing. Also--to Trina. She moved away to Denver last summer and nothing's the same. Thanks for reminding us all how blessed we are.

    By Blogger Brandon Scott, at 11/16/2005 02:30:00 PM  

  • Behind every great man....

    Well, having known some of these women first hand I know you have been very blessed and so have they!

    By Blogger SG, at 11/16/2005 08:58:00 PM  

  • MIke,
    I've witnessed your disapearing acts. They're amazing! Watch out David Copperfield!

    By Blogger Todd Lollar, at 11/16/2005 09:12:00 PM  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger Todd Lollar, at 11/16/2005 09:12:00 PM  

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