Church Lady: Storyteller and Assistant Pastor
Name: Virginia Wesley
Job Title: Storyteller/Assistant Pastor
Where: Indianapolis, IN
Years of Experience: A lifetime
Salary: My average wage ranges from volunteer to $300+ per 45 minutes
Church Lady: Storyteller and Assistant Pastor
Virginia Wesley, a refined and passionate church lady with storytelling power to boot, is unique. From working as an assistant pastor to telling stories to kids and performing short true stories on discrimination for adults, Virginia is always coming up with solo performance ideas. Her favorite is becoming a living Harriet Tubman biography for kids. Her wage can range from working as a volunteer to an average wage of a few hundred dollars for less than an hour.
In addition to storytelling, she performs assistant pastor duties at her church. This is a volunteer position – which, as we all know, has no average wage. In fact, there is no wage at all. But, her assistant pastor job duties are truly a labor of love; wages are the last thought on her mind. Whether preaching or performing her version of a Harriet Tubman biography, her performance ideas are creative and inspiring. So toss away your preconceptions about storytelling or pastors – Virginia broke the mold.
Assistant Pastor Duties:
Preaching, teaching the bible, visiting adults and kids who are sick; I also marry and bury people at church.
What is your work background?
I quit high school in the 11th grade because my mother was ill and needed help. The Vice Principal encouraged me to stay in school, but my mind was made up; I was going to work. The Assistant Principal told me about a job opening in the library at the high school; my wage rate was $16 dollars a month. At the end of the day, I would help my mother out with work at home.
At age 19, I worked at the Indiana State House as a clerk and keypunch operator. I owe the beginning of my professional career to my mother for allowing me to leave high school when she heard about the job opening. My mother had only gone as far the 7th grade in school; she did cleaning and day work.
Her employer wanted her to apply for that job opening, but my mother said to give the job to her daughter, me. A big part of the job was using a Remington Rand key punch. I never had seen one in my life, but I got the job. Afterwards I asked the interviewer to show me what a keypunch was and how to work it! That job paid me a better wage rate than the high school library position.
For 35 years I worked at Ft. Benjamin Harrison Finance Center as a keypunch operator, an accounting clerk, peripheral operator… whenever they had a job opening, I was interested. I finally retired as a computer operator. When I retired, I thought I would just work at home, but the Lord had other ideas!
How did you become an Assistant Pastor?
The Bishop of a local church encouraged me to get a degree and took me to see Central Baptist Theological Seminary in 1971. I said I didn’t have the money to go and the Lord had not told me to go to school, but my church ended up paying for half of the tuition. It took me 10 years to graduate because I was also working and had to take off a year to recuperate from surgery. I got my Bachelors Degree in Religious Education in 1981; I learned a lot about the bible in those ten years.
Of all your Pastor job duties in the church, which ones do you love?
Ever since I was a child I loved reading the bible and church. I just love people in general. If someone is down I try to encourage him or her. I love being able to assist in whatever area is needed. I love to help. I like to help others understand the bible.
As a storyteller, how do you come up with solo performance ideas?
First, I work at home, I learn the part and come up with original ideas to portray the period of history. That’s how I get my solo performance ideas. Then for the peformance, I dress the part and use music. I love sharing with people of all ages; from kids to 100-year-olds. Tales give people an opportunity to escape from the drudgery of life. Some people have some repressed emotions and storytelling helps them.
How did you get into storytelling?
The first time I told a story was at church for my niece Connie. Khabir, a storyteller, became my mentor. As a volunteer, I created the characters of Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth for Ft. Harrison in 1995 and for Ameritech too.
While I was a volunteer at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, I met Jill Meisenheimer. She convinced me to share a story or two with the kids in the Hamilton County Juvenile Detention Center. My daughter Annamaria sang spirituals as I told story after story. I was nervous about telling stories to strangers, but the kids said that I made history come alive. The kids learn from short true stories on discrimination and overcoming it.
What do you love about telling a story?
I love telling stories to kids and watching them be attentive. It’s exciting to make Harriet Tubman come alive for kids. I create a Harriet Tubman biography for kids. I take on her character and I am no longer Virginia. I dress like her. I rehearse and try and copy her mannerisms and speech. I do the rehearsal work at home and then go and perform. I give the kids important information about Harriet Tubman, so that if their teacher asks them, “What states did Harriet Tubman travel through?” They will know!
What is your wage rate for storytelling, when you’re not a volunteer?
When our show is not volunteer, our wage rate is more than $300 for 45 minutes of performances. It’s awesome working with my daughter Annamaria. She is such a dynamic singer and puts so much feeling into what she does.
Virginia’s salary increased greatly when she found her calling, what would your dream job pay? Find out with our free salary survey.