Tuesday, 30 November 2021 16:31

Kate Godfrey is new diocesan secretary

The Diocese of Derby's new diocesan secretary is Kate Godfrey, Bishop Libby has announced.

Kate joins the diocese on 1 December and will be based at Derby Church House.

Derbyshire born and bred, Kate is the daughter of a local teacher and GP. Following university, she moved to Kenya as a research trainee working for The Guardian, before transferring to work in research and advisory with international organisations including the United Nations Development Programme and UNESCO, focussing on education and multi-lateral infrastructure development.

Married to David – an enthusiastic gritstone climber - Kate is mum to two-year-old Fred, and babies Harry and Tilly.

She relaxes by writing mostly unpublished mystery novels under a pseudonym.

On her appointment, Kate said: “I am honoured to have been appointed as diocesan secretary; and moved by the trust that Bishop Libby and her colleagues on the appointment committee have shown in me.

"It is particularly meaningful to be able to join the diocese at this special time of year, and I look forward to working with my new colleagues across the diocese and in Derby Church House.”

Bishop Libby said: "Kate is wholeheartedly committed to our Vision of ‘the Kingdom of God: Good News for all’, and to working with us as we proclaim that good news afresh in this generation in transformed lives, growing church and building community.

"Please join with me in welcoming Kate to her new role and hold her in your prayers.

"Finally, may I thank Martyn Marples, acting diocesan secretary, who has sustained the diocesan secretary role for the past fourteen months with integrity, honesty and determination, whilst simultaneously retaining his substantive head of finance post.

"It has been a pleasure to have Martyn on my senior staff team, and his continuing service to the diocese is a blessing."

Kate Godfrey - in her own words

Tell us about your professional experience. What do you bring from your professional background to the work of the diocese?

I started my career overseas, working first in Sub-Saharan Africa and then across the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

I worked for international organisations leading the research behind major development projects, including in infrastructure and education, and developed a focus on women and girls’ democratic and economic participation.

In development terms, funding women’s empowerment is smart economics, reducing inequality and increasing productivity. It is pragmatic and it works.

Twenty years later, I am still trying to find answers that are pragmatic and that work – although more recently my focus has been on charities and trust leadership, working with community organisations and campaign groups in London and the East Midlands.

Why the Church? And what does the work of the diocesan secretary involve?

For something that has rapidly become a calling, I can honestly say that the post came as a surprise.

Having had twins Harry and Tilly this year, I wasn’t expecting to be working in December 2021, let alone stepping into something so significant in terms of stewardship and leadership.

And I have joked that if I expected to join the Church formally at any point, it would have been either twenty years ago or twenty years in the future.

That said, I was in a role which seemed to me to be a good parallel for the work of a diocesan secretary, working with an outstanding local education trust specialised in working in areas of complex and multiple deprivation across Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire.

I’m not a teacher – I led operational work including governance, professional administration and learning and development, and establishing the trust as a delivery partner for government in everything from apprenticeships to mental health.

I was lucky to work with an outstanding executive team, and to receive a thorough grounding in safeguarding; to build on my knowledge of charities and trust law and management, and above all, to have been responsible for our community relationships, with our schools talking every day to 100,000 people across the East Midlands.

Academically, I have legal training and am increasingly pleased that my first degree is in history, particularly ecclesiastical history.

My university college is unique in having its own cathedral, and I studied at one point under church historian Diarmaid MacCulloch – I hardly expected that to turn out to be vocational training.

Lastly, I would say that joining the diocese from maternity leave has been a gift.

I have been able to spend significant amounts of time at Church House over the last weeks and months, and to thoroughly understand my responsibilities and the work of the Parish Support Office before formally taking up my position.

Can you tell us more about your time overseas, and some of the countries that you have worked in?

A country I worked in regularly, and the one which will always carry the greatest personal resonance for me is Syria.

I found enormous warmth and kindness working across Syria, including long spells in Damascus and Aleppo, and if I now have a personal calling within a life of service, it is to work on behalf of refugees and displaced people.

Otherwise, I recommend Istanbul, Lebanon and Jerusalem. If I had to pick the stand-out experiences from my time overseas, it would be touring the ruins at Petra; spending time at the shrine of St John the Baptist, now part of the stunning Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, and writing a proposal to preserve the buried Roman city of Leptis Magna in Libya.

Have you continued to work overseas?

In short, no. I don’t fly any more, for one thing.

Sustainability and climate justice is very important to me personally, and not just in terms of climate justice – although clearly that is critical – but in terms placing the principles of sustainability and equity at the core of how we live and work.

I take up my role with personal determination to oversee our sustainability journey locally, and within Church operational work, including the transition to net zero by 2030.

An eminently achievable target, net zero is an opportunity to work creatively within our communities and to show what can be done with commitment, sustained hard work and a touch of grace.

For me, the principles of sustainability captures what the role of the diocesan secretary and Parish Support Office is about: community value and support; impact and ambition for ourselves and others.

Can you tell us about some of your personal priorities?

Staying with that broader definition of living sustainably, an area that I am personally keen to explore is social housing.

This work precedes me – our approach to land use and land bank has been driven by ethical principles for some years, and feasibility on active development approaches is underway.

Early years is another area on which I am individually focused.

Coming from a teaching family, I understand how much of life opportunities and outcomes is established in the first few years of a child’s care.

I am inspired by the work of churches and parishes on behalf of families, including early years.

In the context of our growing family, this is an area in which I want to increase my personal commitment.

…a few words about faith?

I’m aware (and sometimes not aware) that God is slowly working transformation in my own life – I’m very far from a finished article.

We are all on our own journey and every Christian story is different and valuable. For me, the time around having children was deeply profound. It marked a sea change in how I saw my life and chose to engage with the world around me, and a renewed sense of spirituality, and of responsibility.

My faith is a practical thing, expressed by the words of Jesus in Matthew 25:35-36. With three very young children I am time poor and I navigate decisions on how to use that time every day. On most evenings I am more likely to be found in the foodbank than the nave, and I’ve been known to take comfort in the reflection that it isn’t where we are on a Sunday that defines faith, but who we are and what we do every day of the week.

I believe God has led me to the Diocese of Derby at this time and am excited to see how my personal faith will grow and change as I work more closely with the structures of the church.

Anything else?

Just a thank you for the warmth of my welcome to date.

And of course, a big thank you to Martyn Marples, who has been a model of grace and unflappability as interim diocesan secretary over a sustained period.

I am grateful both for Martyn’s legacy of leadership, and that I continue to benefit from his counsel as head of finance.

I’ve come to value my new colleagues highly over recent weeks, and to be impressed by the sense of shared purpose and urgency that I have found both at Church House and across our parishes and deaneries.

I’m excited to get to work!

kate godfrey