“I believe our identity comes from what we give rather than what we have. Our materialistic world is about our possessions, how big my house is and what car I drive. I’ve thought about why I have committed my working life to the Church a number of times and it’s because I believe in this church”.
Dulce Ferguson began working for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in 1967 as a bindery hand and then receptionist at Signs Publishing Company and then as part-time receptionist at Avondale College. She eventually transitioned to the Division; the SAN; back to Signs Publishing and then to the Greater Sydney Conference, where she has served as the secretary to nine presidents. Now, in her 48th year of service and her 40th in Greater Sydney Conference, she is planning to retire. Her presence in the office brings a sense of stability, proficiency and continuity. As the longest-serving member in the Conference, she is seen as a great resource, a listening ear and a bedrock. A conversation with her makes it evident this sense of service was received as a gift from her parents.
“My parents did a lot for the church and community so I guess it was modeled for me. Mum helped run the children’s programs and concerts; dad was an elder from time-to-time. They ran a branch Sabbath School as well. We’d all pile in the car and go off and do Sabbath School for people in rural areas. They were always inviting the needy home for Sabbath lunch”.
But stronger than obligation and tradition is a deeply flowing love for her church. In dreaming for the church in Sydney, Dulce says, “I would love to see our church take over this city. I believe our church has the answer to all of this world’s problems because we follow Scripture so closely. We have the perfect doctrine of love –we do need to work on it a bit—but it’s there if we follow Jesus and are true disciples for Him”. Further strengthening her commitment to the church is the commitment of her husband, Graham, who she describes as being “very committed to the church as well. I’m really blessed that we both have that same focus.”
As time has passed, Dulce has seen many changes occur. In addition to being the President’s Secretary, she’s also worked as the Membership Secretary and Departmental Assistant to the Ministerial Association Secretary and Trust Services Director. Improvements in technology have caused her role to shift over the years. “Because things have changed so much, it changes the way an office operates – manual typewriters were replaced by electric ones. Post was a major way of communication. Carbon copies, wax stencils and Gestetner copying machines were a nightmare! What a blessing the electronic age has become”!
During the conversation, Dulce shuffles through old session books, church membership records and photos, sometimes thoughtfully, other times with a smile. “I’ve seen lots of people leave our church,” she says wistfully, “if only we could recapture all of those talented people – what a mighty force we could be”. As Membership Secretary, she’s constantly reminded of church attendance versus the membership. “The children – the lost children. The people who come but don’t feel at home in the church. They disappear because they don’t feel connected. If every member could embrace the challenge to make them feel welcome”.
And to Dulce this is key –every member being involved, not expecting the pastor to do everything. “We expect a lot of our pastors – to visit everyone; to preach a sermon every week and do a multitude of other things. We have to encourage everyone to become disciples, which is very much the focus of our Conference at the moment”.
How can we all become disciples? How can we express love for God and His church? Dulce believes it’s easiest to give to the church when you “find your passion where you can serve”. She shares, “I guess I’ve been able to do a lot more because we don’t have children. But the real key is to find where your passion lies and use that God-given passion for Him”.
“I think working in the Conference has actually blessed and helped my spiritual journey as well. It’s not the case for everyone, but I’ve found the environment nurturing for my own spiritual life. I’ve been privileged to work with many wonderful men and women and to serve a very gracious God”.
As Dulce prepares to embark upon the next step of her journey, we welcome Gayle Sleight to the team at the Greater Sydney Conference. We look forward to getting to know her and welcome her into the team.
After working for 48 years for the Seventh-day Adventist Church (40 for the Greater Sydney Conference), Dulce Ferguson is preparing to retire from service. Her presence, patience, continuity, dedication and proficiency will be greatly missed in the office.