Bishop's Secretary, Sue Taylor, retires this week after 15 years in the hot seat at the Diocesan Bishop's House in Salesbury, north of Blackburn and not far from Ribchester.
Sue arrived there in August 2002, leaving a job at Marconi in Chorley behind.
She is a long-standing member of the congregation and a churchwarden at St George the Martyr in Preston city centre, having worked for the last 12 years with Rev Canon Timothy Lipscomb, who also retires from his role in October.
"I saw the job advertised, and decided to apply. I didn’t think I would get it; for some reason I thought my role as Churchwarden at St George’s would work against me – but I applied and was really delighted to get the job,” said Sue.
Sue’s role is supporting the Diocesan Bishop (the Bishop of Blackburn). Her first boss was Bishop Alan Chesters and since then she has successively worked for Bishop Nicholas Reade and now the current Bishop, Rt Rev Julian Henderson.
In addition, Sue has also worked with two Deans, five Archdeacons, four Suffragan Bishops, four Honorary Assistant Bishops and four Bishop’s Chaplains.
The mum of two and grandmother of five originally hails from Bamber Bridge (‘I’m a Brigger’ she says with pride) and now lives in Penwortham.
When she arrived at Bishop’s House it was to an office which was ‘like stepping back into the dark ages’.
Sue says: “Information technology was in its infancy there at that point; there were no kitchen facilities and we had a single page photocopier. There was only one computer with a dial-up modem.”
Shortly after her arrival, in 2004, a major refurbishment began which saw the conversion of the basic facilities into a 21st century office: “We converted the garage into an archive room and all the offices were modernised and restructured, including the latest IT equipment.”
So, what has been the most interesting part of the job?
Sue says: “It’s the sheer variety of the work – you never know what is going to come up from one day to the next; from the process of bringing in and meeting new clergy to the Diocese to looking after retired clergy including Honorary Assistant Bishops, as I am responsible for administrating what is called ‘permission to officiate’.
“I look after the Bishop’s diary, manage his time and take his telephone calls from all manner of people, to make sure that he is not inundated.
“Many queries come from individual members of the public, and I can redirect people to the right place. It may be that an Archdeacon or an Area Dean or a Parish Priest might well be the right person to speak to on any given issue or query for example.
Sue continues: “The Bishop’s Secretary also has to make sure the Bishop is properly prepared for all his appointments, whether services, meetings, conferences, interviews.
“The official car and chauffeur is now history, and Bishop Julian tends to be responsible for driving himself in his Ford Focus; so, knowing where he is going, and what is involved when he gets there, is fundamental to my role.”
Sue remembers some highlights from her 15 years: “We had Aled Jones fronting an ecumenical service in a circus tent for Preston Guild in 2012 in the presence of the Archbishop of York.
“Sadly, he was less happy with the reception he got when he mispronounced Avenham and was corrected loudly by 3,000 people!”
As a lifelong Preston North End fan, Sue also treasures meeting the legendary Sir Tom Finney on more than one occasion and was privileged to be churchwarden at his funeral in 2014: “Sir Tom was an absolute gentleman, I only saw him play once, in the 1960s. My dad once said that the only player possibly fit to lace Tom Finney’s boots was George Best.”
In summary, Bishop’s Secretary is a big role to fill and Sue wishes her successor well.
“It is a job of endless variety and satisfaction, with many moments of humour, and the chance to meet so many interesting people,” she concludes.