The Diocesan Advisory Committee – Observations from Sue Ratcliffe (Assistant Diocesan Secretary)

On Tuesday 19th March I found myself sitting around the table with the members of the Diocesan Advisory Committee (DAC) for the regular review and progression of current live cases. As a relative newcomer to the diocese (I joined in January 2018), I appreciate I have a long way to go to fully understand how the various parts of the diocese work – indeed, I doubt I will ever reach the ‘fully understand’ stage! However, I do seek to improve my knowledge at every opportunity.

So this meeting was a baptism in DAC business from an observer point of view. The first inkling I had of the breadth (and volume) of work undertaken by this committee was the arrival, by email, of the Agenda. It covered, one matter arising, 20 reports on applications from the previous meeting; 20 new items submitted under rule 3; one faculty application; 15 items relating to quinquennial surveys; and a number of other miscellaneous matters covering correspondence, grants and a report from the Historic Churches Officer. I make no apology for being so specific on the number of items discussed.

It very soon became clear that each case like this requires a good deal of discussion, debate and decision making. The discussions are steered to conclusion by Sally van der Sterren (DAC Secretary), assisted by a good number of experts in the room. I do not know why I was surprised by the level of knowledge and wisdom in the room – from architects to organ experts, a whole range of expertise was covered. No wonder then that each item was subject to a level of scrutiny and debate which, even in my relative ignorance, gave me complete reassurance that the work the DAC do is conducted with the highest possible attention-to-detail – thus protecting the Church Estate for future generations.

Sally is currently managing the DAC workload single-handed; her knowledge and attention-to-detail evident in each of the cases discussed. Since Josh Jackson (a part-time post) left last summer, there have been attempts to replace him with a full-time Assistant DAC Secretary as we acknowledge the workload requires two full-time posts – but this is proving a difficult task due to a lack of suitably-skilled applicants coming forward. However, not to be deterred, we started a process again in April in the hope that we can fill the vacancy soon.

In the meantime, I would ask us all to keep Sally in our prayers for the difficult task she has; that we can all be compassionate and understanding. I have certainly had my eyes opened from the limited amount of time I spent observing. While resourcing issues (which are being addressed) are proving to be a difficult barrier to overcome at this time, the desire to provide an effective and efficient DAC service is absolutely still there.

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