Administrator Christine Spalding Is in the Business of Serving
Posted on: 03/21/2008
by John Carlisle
Across the street from the west edge of San Diego�s Balboa Park sits St. Paul�s Cathedral, a stunning Episcopalian edifice. The oldest non-Catholic congregation in San Diego calls itself “St. Paul�s for the City,” and lives up to its tagline, often hosting community marches and providing services for the poor and homeless. The church is one body with many appendages, and one woman � whose own heart guides her leadership � never takes her hand off the
Christine Spalding, canon of administration for St. Paul�s, calls herself a “cradle Episcopalian,” born and raised in the church, even though it wasn�t St. Paul�s. She grew up and spent some time apart from church life, focusing on her career, coincidentally honing her skills to serve as a savvy church administrator. She spent 30 years working as a manager in financial services.
“God�s hand was in all of that,” she says. Even to this day, Spalding describes herself as tenacious and relentless when it comes to conducting business for the church � characteristics that are no doubt a by-product of years in the corporate arena. That sharpness is important, as St. Paul�s has plans to develop its adjacent lands into multiuse residential properties, a campaign for which Spalding has been at the front. She�s also a leader in facilities management, which is quite an undertaking for a campus of historic buildings and limited parking.
The 1,150-member church is currently undergoing a development project. Spalding is always reminding the congregants that the expansion is good and necessary, albeit inconvenient at times.
Spalding serves as the president of her local chapter of the National Association of Church Business Administrators. It was here that she noticed how important her presence as a woman is to the church-business community. “Of the first national conferences I attended, I was very surprised at how male they were,” she relays. “I belong to a denomination that ordains women. We believe in women�s ministries and contributions. It�s easy to forget how important it is for young women to see that.”
When Spalding was in her 40s, her mother died. It was an experience that served as a catalyst, drawing her back to church. “I had been away from the church for a long time before a friend invited me (to come to St. Paul�s),” she says. “It was our annual St. George�s Day celebration, which has bagpipes and it�s a big festival. People were friendly and nice, so I decided to come back the next Sunday, and I�ve never been away since.”
After reacquainting herself with worship, Spalding saw the opportunity to get active in the church. As the church expanded, the need for a full-time business administrator arose. In the past, a priest had handled those duties, but church officials were looking for someone with more time to devote and more business experience to share. Spalding�s spiritual gift of management was no secret, so she was offered the position and she accepted.
At 56, Spalding certainly wasn�t retiring to a cushy position in a church office. “There�s an expectation that working for a church is not like a �real job,�” she says. “I managed departments that had more than 100 people in them, and I�ve never worked harder than I work here.”
Spalding describes herself as fair, consistent and risk-averse � qualities developed from years of banking. She says the biggest challenge of her current position is money. “There are always more dreams in ministry than you ever have the resources to fund,” she says. “The second biggest challenge is time.”
But who better to help her with time struggles than her husband Robert, her daughters Lisa and Kelly, and her two young grandchildren.
“I can�t say enough about what a loving and supportive partner I have,” she shares. “His understanding of the long hours and commitments is so appreciated. It�s easier to see the needs for those things in corporate jobs, for men and women.”
To summarize her journey, Spalding points to Zephaniah 4:20. “I�m reminded of the verse, �And I will bring you home.� I feel like God has done that for me.”
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