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After almost 50 years of service Christine Ellis, a stalwart of the office team serving the Diocese of Blackburn, is retiring at the end of March.

Christine began work at the Diocesan Offices in May 1971 at the age of just 16 and she has remained with the Diocese ever since. In those days, the Diocesan Offices were based at Church House in the grounds of Blackburn Cathedral.

She worked in that building for most of her working life only moving with colleagues to new, modern offices at Walker Business Park on the outskirts of the town in 2015.

Christine started as an office junior with the Diocesan Board of Finance (DBF) and held a number of administrative roles in the first half of her time with the Diocese including, in time, supervision of the work of newer junior members of the admin team.

Then, in 1999, the role of Diocesan Advisory Committee (DAC) Secretary was added to Christine’s portfolio.

The DAC gives advice on the architecture, archaeology, art and history of places of worship to the diocesan chancellor, the archdeacons and parishes. It also advises churchwardens, parishes and clergy who are planning work to their churches. 

A few years later, in 2002, Christine took on a more reshaped role with two principal responsibilities … DAC Secretary and also PA to then Archdeacon of Blackburn, The Venerable John Hawley. 

She continued in that capacity until 2015 when Archdeacon John retired; stepping back from the PA work at that time, but continuing as DAC Secretary on a more part-time basis. Christine has also supported other Diocesan events and meetings as and when required, such as the Diocesan Synod gatherings.

Christine said: “It is amazing to think I started with the Diocese in 1971 – where have the years gone? I have seen many changes in that time … things are a bit less formal than they used to be in the old days, when you were expected to stand up to greet a Bishop when they visited the office.

“The jobs I have done over the years have taught me to be adaptable and flexible and I always try to go out of my way to help people in our parishes. I want to say thanks to Archdeacon John who I really enjoyed working for as PA and I’m also really proud of my many years as DAC Secretary.

“It has been wonderful to be able to make a difference in relation to the long-term future of our wonderful church buildings; to act as a guardian of our collective heritage.

“It’s been a hugely varied role … in my time I’ve worked on projects involving everything from the reordering of churches to an occasion when one our taller churches was given temporary permission to fit a trapeze to support a teaching class for future trapeze artists!”

Christine continued: “I also want to thank all the DAC Chairs for their support and particularly Canon Roy McCullough who asked me to take on the role in the first place. Thanks too, to the Chancellors of the Diocese during my time a DAC Secretary, as well as colleagues I’ve worked alongside from the Diocesan Registry and the whole of the DBF.”

The whole of the DAC committee said farewell to Christine at a special Zoom meeting recently. Presents and flowers had been dropped off at her house in advance of the meeting.

Commenting on Christine’s retirement, current DAC Chair, Rev. Canon Andrew Holliday, said: “What Christine does not know about a Church's state of repair is not worth knowing. Her encyclopaedic knowledge of works completed around the Diocese is the envy of us all.

“Christine has worked with three chairs … first Roy, then John Tillotson, who was my immediate predecessor. I am sure that I speak for them and all my colleagues on the DAC, that with Christine's retirement she will leave an enormous void.

“We pray that she will have many fruitful years of retirement and to know that as a Diocese we owe her a huge debt of gratitude.”

Archdeacon John said: “Christine did a fabulous job and was a wonderful and professional PA to me throughout my entire time as Archdeacon. She quietly got on with her very important and at times technically and legally challenging work, but at the same time with a genuine care for colleagues.

“I could not have done my job as Archdeacon without Christine. She has been a gift to the Diocese of Blackburn and a good friend. May God bless her with a most wonderful and richly deserved retirement.”

Diocesan Secretary, Graeme Pollard, said: “It is rare indeed as a Diocesan Secretary to get the chance to mark the retirement of a colleague who has served for so long and so well. 

“Christine has been a key figure in the Diocesan staff team for nearly half a century. Across the years she has seen many changes and many developments.  

“Throughout my time as Diocesan Secretary I have valued her insights and her understanding of the day-to-day work of the Diocese. Her knowledge – particularly in relation to the work of the Diocesan Advisory Committee – is second to none. 

“I want to take this opportunity to thank Christine most sincerely, on behalf of all Diocesan Secretaries from the past 50 years and all current and past colleagues, for her work in the Diocese of Blackburn in a number of roles.  

“She will be much missed. I wish her a very long and very happy retirement … a retirement I hope will be filled with plenty of the cruise holidays that I know she so loves!” 

Christine does indeed plan more cruise holidays with friends, when Covid restrictions are lifted, as well as holidays to Cyprus – her favourite destination. At home she is making plans for some redecorating, as well as making more time for hobbies, such as gardening and walking.

The Bishop of Blackburn, Rt Rev. Julian Henderson, was a surprise guest at the DAC’s farewell Zoom gathering. He said: “It is a privilege to be able to thank Christine for her service to the Diocese of Blackburn. Fifty years working for the same organisation is a rare and wonderful achievement we want to mark and recognise.  

“I have heard many stories of Christine’s patience and unflappability while fulfilling the responsibilities of a number of roles over the decades she has been in our Blackburn offices. 

“I am the sixth Bishop of Blackburn Christine has worked with since her first day in 1971; there have only been nine in total! She joined us in the last few months of Charles Claxton’s tenure as Bishop and has served all my predecessors with distinction.  

“The work of colleagues like Christine often goes unseen, taking place in the background, but it is absolutely vital to ensure we function well as an organisation. So, on behalf of all my predecessors; the whole of the current Bishop’s Leadership Team and the entire Diocese, I wish her many years of happiness in retirement.”