After beginning as a volunteer in 1981, Schrader has spent 25 years as indispensible member of the COH staff
Most Cathedral of Hope visitors and members will recognize Sue Schrader’s welcoming visage. The mainstay of the bookstore, Sources of Hope, celebrates 25 years of service for the church this year.
“People get burned out so easily, but she’s really endured,” said the Rev. Mike Piazza, dean of the Cathedral who’s worked with Schrader since 1987 when he joined the church as senior pastor. “She has a long and consistent history of activism.”
When Schrader moved to Dallas, she quickly decided that her calling was not outside sales in the Texas summer. However, in 1981, jobs were not floating around in the Dallas market, waiting for the most enthusiastic candidate to come along.
At the suggestion of her former girlfriend, Schrader began volunteering at Cathedral of Hope, then called the Dallas Metropolitan Community Church.
She helped the church secretary with letters to visitors, and did whatever odds and ends were needed.
Shortly, the secretary left, and Schrader was hired to fill the position.
“There was no support staff,” she said. “I was the support staff for everybody.”
The congregation of the church was fairly small at that time.
Schrader reports that when the church still met at the building at 2701 Reagan Street, the current location of the Resource Center of Dallas, the congregation topped out at 300. She wrote bulletins, answered phones and assisted pastors during the three years that she was the administrative assistant.
Schrader then changed hats and became the director of programs. Since the church was still small, there weren’t too many programs for her to direct.
She performed property maintenance amongst her many tasks, from painting rooms to mowing the lawn.
Luckily for her, she said, there was a full-time bookkeeper and director of music, “so I didn’t have to do any of that, which is a good thing, because I can’t sing and I can’t add.”
However, as a former coach and program director at Stephen F. Austin University, she spearheaded the sports programs.
Although the women’s softball team notoriously lost every game their first couple of years, they did eventually make it to a national competition.
“When I was involved with sports before, it was the biggest evangelism tool for women,” Schrader said. “It’s not like that now, but it took us two years to develop those programs before, so that’s what we’re trying to build up to now.”
Her strong involvement in women’s groups led Schrader to help organize care teams when the AIDS crisis hit, according to Piazza.
“During the worst of AIDS, we were the only church out there caring for people with AIDS,” he said.
Many women left their gender-exclusive groups to work for AIDS assistance groups during the crisis, Schrader said.
“And they’ve blended in more, because what AIDS did for us, is that it helped the women and the men to work together better,” she said. “So, there was not as strong of a need, in the last five years, for all-women’s organizations as there used to be. Some of the women think we need more, and I would like to see more women’s programs. I think the good thing that has happened is that now the women have become a more integral part, so that it’s not the women here and the men there.”
As director of programs, Schrader developed two key initiatives, which continue today in various forms and fashions. “Loaves and Fishes” began to collect food for distribution to local folks in need. But her crown jewel was the “Holiday Benevolence” basket program.
Congregation members donate food, toys, baskets and more to create overflowing gift baskets for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. These are then distributed anonymously throughout the community.
“If something needs to be done, Sue will make sure it happens,” said David Plunkett, assistant to Piazza and rector of the Cathedral, the Rev. Jo Hudson. “She’s got a dogged determination and the organizational skills to make things happen.”
Before taking over the bookstore, Schrader had been gradually delegating her responsibilities. When she decided she could take the helm, she told the current employee, “I don’t even know how to run a cash register. Teach me.”
She reports that she picked it up fairly easily, after asking lots of questions from people with retail experience.
“There was no [other] place to get gay and lesbian Christian books and no gay bookstore, like Crossroads,” said Piazza.
The bookstore expanded from a corner project in the fellowship hall to its current status, complete with a publishing arm, under Schrader’s tenure. She now plans to phase out some of the current products and order only fair market products for the store. Fair market companies ensure that the employees are paid a livable wage and aren’t subjected to inhumane treatment.
In addition to her bookstore responsibilities, Schrader has also been blessed with the title director of special ministries.
“You know how those things that go around come around?” she asked. “Guess what I’m in charge of now: all sports, or as they say, special ministries, and so, sports.”
She plans to redevelop the sports program to increase participation. Recently, the church has had to shut down some sports, like tennis, motorcycling and mountain biking, due to the weather and a lack of interest or time.
Overall, though, Schrader reported that it has been a blessing to watch the church grow from 300 attendees to 3,500 members and 52,000 global constituents. She attributes this growth to encouraging members’ community involvement.
“I said, just get involved and give something back to the community. You are representing Cathedral of Hope,” Schrader said.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, November 24, 2006.