Jo Cookes has been announced as the new director of communities engagement for the Diocese of Guildford.
Having headed up the team on an interim basis since the retirement of Canon Chris Rich last August, Jo has been successful in being selected against a strong field of external candidates, for the permanent director position.
Through its communities engagement team, the Diocese of Guildford aims to provide resources, information, advice and advocacy to equip Christians to make local communities more accepting and healthier places. Much of their work is funded by local authorities and the public sector. This has enabled the team to build expertise and knowledge that also supports parishes looking to do more in their local area.
Jo said, “I am truly delighted to have been appointed as the Director of Communities Engagement. I am excited by the opportunity to see how we can work more closely with parishes and our partners to support those in our communities who are vulnerable; and to shape, build and strengthen the community engagement work that is undertaken across our Diocese.
“It is important also to celebrate and share the excellent work that is already happening and continue to be the salt and the light in our communities in line with the challenge of our Diocesan strategy Transforming Church, Transforming Lives.”
Cultivating community partnerships
The Diocese of Guildford’s new mission strategy Transforming Church, Transforming Lives, which was launched last year, prioritises ‘cultivating community partnerships’ as one of its key goals. This goal challenges everyone to be a force for good in our communities, with a particular commitment to the poor and disadvantaged.
Jo was previously the Partnership Development Co-ordinator for the Diocese where she worked alongside local authorities, health and the wider voluntary, community and faiths sector to raise awareness of the role that churches have in their local communities and to build and strengthen partnerships across the Diocese. Jo is passionate about tackling social injustice and giving a voice to those who struggle to be heard.
"I am excited by the opportunity to see how we can work more closely with parishes and our partners to support those in our communities who are vulnerable; and to shape, build and strengthen the community engagement work that is undertaken..."
Before being called to the Diocese, Jo worked for the Home Office for many years and ran her own business providing consultancy to local authorities and the voluntary sector. Jo lives in Godalming with her husband, Guy, and their two children, Kate and Charlie. Jo is an active member of the congregation at Busbridge and is part of the Outward Giving team, supports the older persons ministry team and was involved in kids work for a number of years.
The Bishop of Guildford, Andrew Watson, said: “I am delighted to welcome Jo into this role. Those who have already worked with her will know her as a dedicated, insightful and thorough leader who brings a great passion for work in this field, which is founded on a strong and growing personal faith.
“Being salt and light in our communities is vital if we are truly to be a Transforming Church, Transforming Lives, and the role of our communities engagement team is to help us open up opportunities for parishes and communities to increase missional links in their localities and beyond.
“Rather than building walls, we must build bridges, growing partnerships with others where appropriate to be good news and support to the communities we serve.
“After a very competitive round of interviews, I have no doubt that Jo is ideally equipped to take this crucial work and renewed focus forward.”
Communities engagement unpacked
The Diocese of Guildford provides resources, information, advice and advocacy to deaneries and parishes through its communities engagement work, to help:
- Assist parishes to engage effectively with their local communities
- Access accurate and relevant information for partnerships
- Better understand some of the things that unjustly marginalise people locally
- Offer training so that thinking is informed and actions reflect our values
- Access resources, including funding and practical support where possible
- Ensure responses are well managed and sustainable
- Work to ensure churches are kept up-to-date and informed
Find out more about communities engagement at www.cofeguildford.org.uk/CET