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Our people

Meet our Leadership Team


Claire Walker – Chief Executive

Claire Walker has been Chief Executive of the National Churches Trust since 2011. During the past twelve years, the charity has celebrated its work with services at Westminster Abbey and St Paul’s, launched memorable campaigns and published the widely acclaimed ‘House of Good’ report – all of which have helped keep churches open and in good repair. Claire works with the Board, Vice Presidents, Patrons and high-profile ambassadors and meets with churches across the UK to raise awareness of the needs of church buildings and provide strategic direction for the work of the charity.

Headshot of Karl Newton

Karl Newton – Deputy CEO

Karl is our Deputy CEO, responsible for supporting the Chief Executive in providing strategic and operational leadership for the charity. He joined the charity in 2023, having previously worked at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, the University of London and the London School of Economics.

Catherine Townsend

Catherine Townsend – Director of Church Engagement

Catherine became Director of Church Engagement in 2021 having been at the National Churches Trust since 2015. She has a wealth of experience and skill in supporting churches and has worked in several organisations across the church and heritage sector.

Clare Wand Staff Image

Clare Wand – Head of Finance

Clare is our Head of Finance and Governance. She started working at the National Churches Trust in 2014 and is responsible for managing the finances and HR of the charity.

Meet our Trustees


Sir Philip Rutnam: Chair

Sir Philip became Chair of the National Churches Trust in September 2022. He was educated at Cambridge and Harvard, joining the Civil Service in 1987. He served as Permanent Secretary at the Department for Transport from 2012 to 2017 and at the Home Office from 2017 until 2020. Sir Philip was knighted in 2018 and is married with three children. His family are active members of Church of England congregations in London and Herefordshire.


Shirley Adams

Shirley Adams has worked within the voluntary/charitable sector for nearly all of her professional working life. She is currently a Trustee of five grant giving charities within the Greater Manchester area and has been a magistrate for nearly 30 years. Her interest in churches is mainly focused on the historical and architectural elements of the English Parish Church.


Sir Paul Britton

Sir Paul Britton CB CVO is a retired civil servant. He served in various departments in the period 1971-97, chiefly the Department of the Environment, where he was, successively, Director of Local Government Finance and Director of Sustainable Development. Taking partial retirement in 2009, he was Appointments Secretary to the Prime Minister until 2016.


Gerald Corbett DL

Gerald Corbett is a businessman who acted in executive and non-executive roles for some of the UK’s largest and most recognisable companies for over 30 years. After attending the Tonbridge School in Kent, Gerald read History at Pembroke College, Cambridge and pursed a Master’s degree with distinction in Business Studies at London Business School.


Donna McDonald

Donna McDonald has been project manager for several listed churches in the Diocese of London. For seven years she was the London arts correspondent for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, after which she moved into arts management and fundraising. A published author she is also a trustee of the Landmark Arts Centre.


Catherine Pepinster

Catherine Pepinster is a journalist, broadcaster and author. She is a long-standing contributor to BBC Radio 4’s Thought for the Day. Catherine also works as UK Development Officer for the Anglican Centre in Rome, as a research consultant for St George’s House, Windsor, and a visiting lecturer in journalism at City, University of London.


Stephen Sklaroff

Stephen studied Biochemistry at the Universities of Edinburgh and London. After working on the privatisation of the electricity and gas industries, and in the British Embassy in Washington, he served as Director of Communications for the DTI in the 1990s. He is a Freeman of the City of London, a Churchwarden at St Gabriel’s Pimlico, and Trustee of a number of national and local charities.


Henry Stanford

Henry Stanford qualified as a chartered accountant in 1992 and then moved to a corporate finance role at Close Brothers merchant bank. He subsequently became a director of Close Brothers’ venture capital trust business and became a partner of Albion Capital. He has been a Reader in his local benefice in Suffolk since 2008 and was previously a churchwarden of his parish church, St. Mary’s, Earl Stonham.


Sarah Stewart OBE DL

Sarah Stewart has had a wide-ranging career in marketing and business development, holding executive and non-executive positions in the private, public, and third sectors. Sarah is currently Chair of Governors at Gateshead College alongside roles with Beamish Museum, Newcastle Cathedral and Newcastle University. She was awarded an OBE for services to the North East economy in 2016.


Nigel Walter

Nigel Walter is a Specialist Conservation Architect; through his Cambridge practice he works with church communities across many denominations to create a better fit between their buildings and their communal life. He is inspecting architect for some 50 historic churches, mostly listed, many grade I, and a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects (FRIBA).


Revd Lucy Winkett

Lucy Winkett was one of the first generation of women to be ordained in the Church of England. She was the first woman priest appointed at St Paul’s Cathedral, later becoming Canon Precentor. She has been Rector of St James’s Church, Piccadilly since 2010. With degrees in history and theology, she broadcasts regularly on religion, gender and contemporary culture.