Nicola Thomas took up the post of Diocesan Secretary on 1 September, and here reflects on the challenges and opportunities facing her over the next months.

As St Paul rattles off his list of spiritual gifts in his letter to the Romans, some may be surprised to find ‘administration’ and ‘leadership’ alongside the, perhaps, more obvious gifts of prophecy and teaching. And yet, in order for the staff of our Diocese to lead, enable and serve our parishes, there have to be efficient and well-managed administrative processes – this is where the Diocesan Secretary comes in. After the intensive selection process (one application letter, two presentations and three interviews) I am delighted to be stepping into this role in Southwark from 1 September. Having lived in this Diocese for nearly 25 years, it is a huge privilege to be called to serve in this way and to continue the great work of my predecessor, Ruth Martin. Ruth’s faithful service – and that of the wider staff team – are gifts that I am grateful for and privileged to inherit.

The role of Diocesan Secretary is complex – it has many elements, all of which interact with each other. Governance and accountability are at the top of the list and in my first few months I will prioritise getting to grips with the various governance processes that enable our Diocese to run smoothly and effectively. I am particularly mindful that most of our Diocesan central budget comes from the generous giving of our parishes and must be stewarded wisely and transparently in order to enable and serve our mission and ministry.

There are undoubtedly challenges ahead. The relentless pace of inflation is affecting everyone. Costs are going up: costs of running a parish, but also the costs of running a Diocese, whether paying utility bills, or staff, or materials for property repairs for clergy houses. We are all in a time of change as we learn how to live after Covid, with the ever-growing evidence of climate change around us, and economic inequality that is increasing, rather than decreasing, with time. I am excited about working with staff across our Diocese to support our parishes as together we rise to these challenges, building on the creativity, passion and wisdom I witnessed during my time as Head of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation for the Diocese.

In the face of such challenges, we recall that God is good – all the time. There is an abundance of opportunities as we strive to become ever more Christ-centred and outward-focussed. This autumn, in our Episcopal Areas and Archdeaconries we will be reflecting on and developing our vision for the future as we seek to discern God’s direction for our communities.

In a Diocese that has always been creative and ahead of its time, this is an opportunity to consider together and with the Holy Spirit how we proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ afresh in East Surrey and South London.

As I step into this role I am looking forward to leading a team that is ready for the future, that engenders trust, openness and collaboration as we seek to serve our parishes. No matter what challenges we face, no matter what the future holds, we will face it together – each day renewing our trust and confidence in the God we serve.