The work of the Diocesan Advisory Committee – a talk for Friends

The Friends of SHCT Annual Meeting at Haughley Park on Monday 6th November 2023

The meeting was attended by around fifty Friends of SHCT and chairman Geoffrey Probert began by giving a short presentation on how we had been celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Trust. Then there were brief reports on finances, Ride and Stride day and Trust publicity. 

Right Rev Graeme Knowles CVO

The guest speaker was Right Rev Graeme Knowles CVO who was there to talk about the work of the Diocesan Advisory Committee (DAC) in Suffolk, which he chairs. He explained that he came to the county after retiring, previously being the Dean at St Paul’s Cathedral (but resigned over disagreements regarding the ‘occupy’ camp that set up there) and Chief Executive of the charity ‘The Sons and Friends of the Clergy’.  

He told us that DAC’s  were set up as a result of campaigns for Church of England churches to be removed from the responsibility of their local worshippers and given to the Government. This was defeated in the House of Lords although cathedrals were left in the resulting legislation, The Ancient Monuments Protection Act 1885. That ruling stated that “every church should be the centre of worship and mission’. 

Churches apply to the DAC when they wish to carry out work on the building and they advise on what is acceptable. The most common request currently is for permission to create small kitchens and toilet facilities. 

“Facilities like a small kitchen can bring life to a parish and give it a future, as well as a past,”  Rt Rev Graeme said.

He also laughingly said that they are often considered like a pantomime ‘baddie’, whom everyone boos, but when they make a site visit they can often give a useful outsiders view of the church. They can show how it appears to non-worshippers, as we all become accustomed to what we see regularly and may not spot something obvious. They can also suggest ways to learn from other successful projects.

The DAC ideally advises churches at an early stage on what may be acceptable (“before the builders move in” ) but the final decision on issuing a ‘faculty’ (permission to proceed) is  taken by the Chancellor of the Diocese. 

Rt Rev Graeme was very complimentary about the work of the SHCT and the grants they award, saying that our churches are in the best state of repair than they have been for centuries due to work done in the 20thcentury, and how churches now are generally open to visitors too. 

He concluded by saying that although our grants may be a small proportion of the amount churches need to raise, they can be a seed for other grants and also give encouragement for a local church fundraising group to take the next step on their journey.

 The evening concluded with supper and conversation. 

More details of how to become a “Friend” of Suffolk Historic Churches Trust can be found HERE

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