Church secretary honored after 38 years of service

For nearly four decades, Morrow First United Methodist Church (UMC) Administrative Assistant Jean Peacock has been the church's familiar voice on the phone, appointment scheduler, librarian, keeper of historical documents, and information center.

After 38 years of keeping the church on track, Peacock will retire at the end of the month.

In recognition of her commitment, Morrow First UMC will host a special recognition ceremony during its 11 a.m., service on Sunday, Jan. 31. During that time, Peacock will also be presented with a proclamation from the City of Morrow, declaring Jan. 31 "Jean Peacock Day."

Born and raised in the Atlanta, Peacock moved to Clayton County in the late 1950s, after attending Young Harris College, and later, Emory University. In the early 1960s, she began working as a first-grade teacher at East Clayton Elementary School, in Ellenwood.

A longtime member of Trinity United Methodist Church in downtown Atlanta, Peacock went to college with the intention of entering into clerical work, she said. In 1968, she became a member of Morrow First UMC (then Morrow UMC), which had, that year, relocated from a brick building on Old Rex Morrow Road, to its current location at 5985 Jonesboro Road in Morrow.

In 1972, four years after becoming a member, she saw an opportunity to help the new church grow, and took a job as it's secretary.

"It was a challenge, because the church had just recently moved and all of the important documents were packed up in boxes," Peacock said. "The historical data was just here and there. I didn't even have a file cabinet.

"When you start researching, you realize it is important that you keep up with these records, so that they are accessible," she said. "Once it's gone, it's gone. I got all of the important records set up."

As the church's part-time secretary, Peacock answered phones, but took on the added responsibility of organizing the church's records and documenting it's history, dating back to 1870, when the church was called Williams Chapel Methodist Episcopal Church.

Through meticulous effort and hundreds of typewritten notes, Peacock labeled, sorted and organized all of the church's deeds, legal documents, and yearly reports, she said. In 1978, as the church grew, she took on the roll of full-time administrative assistant. Since then, according to Ed Judy, pastor of Morrow First UMC for the last three years, Peacock has become a first point of contact for the public, as well as a central hub of information for church staff members.

"She is a wealth of institutional knowledge," Judy said. "There isn't a file in this church that doesn't have her fingerprint on it. If you ask her a question about something that happened years ago, she instantly has this document in her hand ... She keeps the organization flowing, because she is connected to all the different groups and organizations [of the church].

"Since [1972], she's seen a lot of pastors [come and go,]" he continued. "She understands the personality of the church, which helps the pastor understand the personality of the church. If you think about it, churches are families, so she helps the pastor understand the dynamics of the family."

Diane Ide, a Stockbridge resident, and a member of Morrow First UMC for 41 years, said Peacock has also served as a mentor, helping younger members of the church's staff grow into their roles.

"I have served on almost every volunteer board on the church, and she has been instrumental in training," Ide said. "We usually trade pastors every five years, because we are Methodist. She certainly teaches them the church history. She is a mentor to everybody. She trains the volunteers and ministers alike, because she has been a mainstay in the church operation."

Morrow City Manager Jeff Eady said the city will adopt its "Jean Peacock Day" proclamation on Jan. 26, during its next regular business meeting. The proclamation will be presented to Peacock during the church's Jan. 31, 11 a.m., service, he said.

During her time as church administration assistant, Peacock co-founded the church's library, located –– or took –– portraits of nearly all of the church's past ministers. She also helped members plan weddings, as well as funerals.

While retiring to devote more time to her family and personal writing, Peacock said she is proud of the work she has accomplished in 38 years.

"I've given my best, and I think my sphere of influence has definitely been felt," she said. "I feel very good about it. Growing up, the church was a safe, loving place to be. I felt love and acceptance. I suppose my ministry here has taken that same approach. I want people to feel like they can call on me or the church, anytime."