Contact the Church Buildings and Pastoral Department

The Church Buildings and Pastoral Department is based at the Diocesan Offices on Barton Road in Ely, but we can often be seen out and about throughout the Diocese, working with parishes and churches to care for, maintain and develop their buildings and to offer support and guidance where pastoral reorganisation is under consideration. The Church Buildings and Pastoral team has been in place since April 2016 but has recently undergone changes to staff responsibility and areas of expertise since the departure of Frances Godden, Deputy Diocesan Secretary, and DAC and Pastoral Secretary.

Each of the team members bring with them relevant qualifications, skills and experience to enable the Diocese to offer an enhanced level of professional service and support to the DAC and to parishes and churches throughout the Diocese. We will be welcoming a Church Buildings Advice Assistant in September, who will be the first point of contact for the Department for all enquiries relating to building works and will also be handling routine casework.

Please feel free to contact any of the team at any time.

However all initial enquiries about works to your building or churchyard and queries about the faculty process or applying for consent should please be directed to the Church Buildings office on 01353 652729 or via

The Team

Click on any of the team members below to read more about them.

Geoffrey Hunter: DAC Secretary and Head of the Church Buildings and Pastoral Department

Holly Isted: Historic Church Buildings Support Officer

Sue Dickinson: Assistant DAC Secretary and Grants Adviser

Poppy Crooks: Church Buildings Advice Assistant

Sally Gilson: Pastoral and Elections Secretary

Geoffrey Hunter
DAC Secretary and Head of the Church Buildings and Pastoral Department

DD: 01353 652737

Geoffrey heads up the Church Buildings and Pastoral Department with overall responsibility for the operation and smooth running of the Department and the support and services offered to clergy, church volunteers and their professional advisers.

Geoffrey joined the team in April 2016, having worked for the Diocese of London since 2006 in a variety of roles. Geoffrey, working with Sue Dickinson, acts as a central advocate for churches wishing to re-imagine their buildings through projects of re-ordering and extension. Geoffrey and Sue guide parishes through the Faculty process, including Diocesan Advisory Committee and other statutory consultations.

Geoffrey has oversight of the fourth lever of the diocesan strategy Ely 2025 and works on the project Re-imagining our churches as community assets for the common good - in association with the Cambridge Judge Business School.

Geoffrey spent five years as a churchwarden himself, at Thorpe Market in the Diocese of Norwich. Since 2012 he has been a member of the National Church Buildings Council and is also a committee member of the Association of Festival Churches.

Geoffrey is a history of art graduate of the Courtauld Institute of Art and also holds an MSc degree in Conservation of the Historic Environment, and is a member of the Association for Studies in the Conservation of Historic Buildings and the Norfolk Churches Trust. Outside of work, Geoffrey is an amateur musician and enjoys playing with old cars.

Holly Isted
Historic Church Buildings Support Officer

DD: 01353 652720

Holly joined the Diocese of Ely as the Historic Church Buildings Support Officer thanks to a partnership with Historic England and Cambridgeshire Historic Churches Trust. Holly works with churches where the heritage is considered to be most at risk, and as a result, is listed on Historic England's 'Heritage at Risk Register'. Her work focuses on assisting parishes in understanding, managing, maintaining and making the best use of their buildings, with an emphasis on community consultation, heritage engagement activities and grant applications. Holly also organises training events, open to all churches in the Diocese, on topics such as maintenance, bid writing, open and welcome churches and heritage interpretation. She is also helping Cambridgeshire Historic Churches Trust to promote Ride and Stride.

Holly is a qualified secondary school teacher with a degree in Heritage Conservation, which she has combined over the last decade to become a specialist in Heritage Learning and Interpretation. She has worked for museums, the National Trust and most recently The Churches Conservation Trust, creating and delivering a number of activity and engagement programmes, including three major projects supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund (formerly the Heritage Lottery Fund).

Away from work Holly enjoys calligraphy, yoga and walking along the riverbank near her home in Guyhirn.

Sue Dickinson
Assistant DAC Secretary and Grants Adviser

DD: 01353 652705

Sue joined the Church Buildings Department in April 2016 after spending most of her career in the heritage sector. Her role is principally to act as a case officer for major DAC projects in terms of repair, conservation and development of new facilities in churches. This involves advice on the faculty process, site visits, presenting cases at DAC meetings and feedback to parishes. Her role also involves advising parishes on grant applications for building and community engagement projects, where funds cannot be raised locally. This can range from general assistance on likely sources of grant, and general good practice when preparing grant applications to proof-reading bids prior to submission, and selectively, assisting parishes with the writing of funding bids.

Sue was born and brought up in Liverpool, where she attended a Church of England Grammar School. Sue graduated from the University of Hull with a joint degree in History and Latin. She also holds a Diploma in History of Art from Birkbeck College, University of London.

A keen visitor to historic properties since childhood, Sue pursued a heritage career from the outset. She worked for thirteen years for English Heritage, assessing funding applications for historic building repairs, and working closely with architects and other historic building professionals. She was then Secretary to English Heritage's Commissioners, organising their meetings and annual tour. Shortly after the creation of the National Lottery, she moved to the Heritage Lottery Fund (now the National Lottery Heritage Fund) where, for six and a half years, she assessed a wide range of grant applications for all types of heritage projects, and monitored their progress through implementation.

Taking a break from heritage to indulge her love for animals, Sue ran her own boarding cattery for a while, but returned to historic buildings in 2013, to work for the Borough Council of King's Lynn and West Norfolk, where she wrote two successful funding bids to the Heritage Lottery Fund, securing £1m for a townscape project in the historic heart of King's Lynn and over £800,000 for the Victorian seafront gardens in Hunstanton.

Outside of work, Sue's interests include animal welfare, knitting, sewing and gardening.

Sally Gilson
Pastoral and Elections Secretary

DD: 01353 652727

Sally joined the team on 22 August 2017 as Department Administrator and Assistant to the Pastoral Secretary. Sally came to us with a long history in local authority working at senior level in education (school organization and planning) and social care (for the Learning Disability Partnership), and has built on her organisational skills and the training she has received from the previous Pastoral Secretary over the last two years.

Sally can offer procedural advice on matters that arise under the Mission and Pastoral Measure 2011 in her capacity as Secretary to the Archdeaconry Mission and Pastoral Committees, and is also Elections Secretary for the Diocese.

Sally holds a PRINCE2 qualification in project management and a Diploma in Business Administration. Her interests include travelling and spending as much time as possible with her two grandchildren.

Poppy Crooks
Church Buildings Advice Assistant

DD: 01353 652729

Poppy joined the Church Buildings department in September 2019 as part of the Historic Environment Advice Assistant Level 4 Apprenticeship - the first of its kind in the country. As part of her role as Church Buildings Advice Assistant, she will be guiding parishes through the process of acquiring List B Archdeacon's consent. She will also be the first point of contact for the department, maintaining the quinquennial reporting system, assisting in preparing documents for meetings of the DAC, and acting as case officer for minor works. She will also be managing the operation of the online faculty system, the Diocesan website and social media channels. On Thursdays, she attends the Building Crafts College in London to study Historic Building Conservation.

Before joining the Diocese of Ely, Poppy worked as a design, marketing and administration contractor for a variety of organisati8ons in the private, state and charity sectors - including faith based organisations around Cambridge. She studied at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge and was awarded a BA in Human, Social and Political Sciences in 2016. Along with being the first Historic Environment Advice Assistant Level 4 apprentice in the country, she is also one of the youngest church wardens in the Church of England. Poppy has been serving as church warden at St Paul's, Hills Road in Cambridge since March 2019 and has been a team leader, and volunteer youth leader for the past two years.

Away from work and church warden duties, Poppy likes to spend her time writing comedy sketches, making a fuss of animals and organising other people's weddings.