As she prepares to leave in the coming weeks we asked Bev Forbes to reflect on some aspects of her time in the Diocesan Bishop’s Executive Officer role and share some thoughts with us by answering the following questions.
How long have you been in the Diocese?
I joined the Diocese in 2007 following 20 years working in the Department of the House of Representatives Committee Office as a senior researcher then committee secretary; research and information roles in the water and energy sectors in the APS; and as a librarian at the Lake Macquarie Shire Library and search analyst at the National Library of Australia. During my time in the Diocese I have worked for three Diocesan Bishops (Bishop George, Bishop Stuart and Bishop Mark) and all our Assistant Bishops when they sat in the Diocesan’s chair.
What brought you to work for the Diocese initially?
I came to the Diocese to take up the role as Executive Officer to then Diocesan Bishop – Bishop George. It was a great opportunity to work for just one person after having had four or five bosses in the Parliament at the same time due to the nature of committee secretariat and chamber work I did. As a cradle Anglican I always felt called and wanted to work for the church in some more formal way.
I always felt that I was born to be a librarian, an information specialist, who assisted people to access information to answer their questions from whatever source of information was best. For me the EO role was a variation on that in the context of the church (faith).
In the EO role I worked directly to the Bishop assisting him in addressing correspondence, emails, appointments and meetings; clergy and lay minister licensing; the Clergy Appointments Board process; drafting and reviewing publications such as the Ad Clerum; maintaining records of communication between the Bishop and clergy and ministry units; research; assisting with Synod; and much more.
Librarians say ‘libraries are people places’ and the church is about community and relationships – both serve people. My particular love is public libraries and I loved providing excellent service to the general public who often did not expect much service so I tried to give them the best our library and other information sources could provide in answering their questions. I applied the same approach in serving the Bishop, the clergy and lay ministers and the whole Diocese.
What have been the highlights (or joys) of your time here?
The greatest joy in the EO role has been the people I have met and the opportunity the Bishops have given me to serve them. I still love assisting the person who rings the Bishop’s Office or comes in never really expecting an answer to their question and I have been able to assist them or point them in the best direction. I found the diversity of the EO role astounding. The breadth of matters that your Bishop deals with is enormous and I got to be a small part of that.
My second greatest joy was my study for a Graduate Diploma in Theology at St Mark’s National Theological Centre. I did well. Thank you Bishop Stuart and Trevor Ament in supporting my undertaking. I have been blessed in being able to use that knowledge, experience and contacts on a daily basis to better serve the Bishop and the Diocese and beyond. I am particularly grateful to Bishop Mark for the committee secretariat and research opportunities he has given me.
What have been some of the biggest challenges?
The biggest challenge is that the Bishop’s EO role is diverse, with a heavy, constant, and time-consuming workload that is ever changing and evolving, and that I assist in dealing with the best and worst of times in people’s lives. The constant is God’s presence hopefully guiding my every move together with the guiding hand of the Bishop. In addition, in addressing these issues I have been greatly blessed to have come to this role from the Department of the House of Representatives where I was trained to be flexible and to deal with very high levels of uncertainty. Also as a Novocastrian I am blessed to have grown up in a city that wholeheartedly embraces diversity and equality. These all are qualities needed in these times.
Another major challenge is balancing my personal life and work while maintaining well-being. Fortunately I have been blessed in doing that with a wonderful husband (Alan Wilson) and wonderful parents (Judy and Richard Forbes, both now deceased) who always encouraged me in all that I did. They have revealed for me the extravagant love of God.
What will you miss most?
By now you will know the answer to that question without asking – the people. The Bishops and all of you!