A new shepherd for the flock

Fr John BloomfieldAS the son of a shepherd, looking after a flock runs in Fr John Bloomfield's blood - and so does Norfolk.

The new priest in charge of the Flegg coastal group of churches that includes Winterton was born and brought up on the Holkham estate near Wells-next-the-Sea, once home of pioneering agriculturalist Thomas Coke.

Fr John grew up with both the Church of England and Methodism in his family and both churches benefitted from his love of music. He started piano lessons at the age of seven and was asked if he wanted to learn to play the organ. Eventually he found himself the organist for both the village churches.

And although he didn't realise it, he was making his first steps on the path to his vocation. "I think God got me through the music," he explained.

While he had ambitions to be a teacher he went to work for Norwich Union after he left school for three years. "But there was still this feeling that I should be doing something about being a Christian."

So he applied to the National Children's Home and went down to look round a school for disabled children in Hertfordshire - or so he thought.

In fact they wanted to interview him. He was totally unprepared but ended up being offered the post of assistant house master.

He was there for four years and thoroughly enjoyed the job, but still there was something missing. "I thought I was doing what God wanted me to do," he said. "But during that time the feeling grew that God was calling me to do something more than just working with children."

It was a school picnic and a chat with a priest that led him finally to decide to join the clergy and after studying at theological college he became a deacon in Chichester and then a curate. Ordained in 1987, he became a vicar at Littlehampton in Sussex until a meeting with the Bishop of Lynn gave him the opportunity to return to his home county in 1998 and take over as vicar of St Edmund in Hunstanton.

Now after two decades of ministry he has made the move around the coastline to Winterton.

"I was feeling it was time for a move after 20 years in one place. I thought the people needed a change and I needed a change," he explained.

He arrived in the village at the tail end of February accompanied by Dixie, his faithful assistant.

She is the latest in a long line of canine companions. His father bred collies and he has always had dogs of one breed or another. "If you have a dog to walk you meet so many people. They know the dog and they get to know you through the dog."

In fact it was Dixie who first introduced Fr John to Winterton. She penned his introduction letter in the Somerton newsletter. "She's very enthusiastic," he said. The pair have already started getting to know the dunes on their walks.

Coming from a dog-friendly church at Hunstanton Fr John is also happy to welcome well-behaved dogs at church services in Winterton. He is even open to the idea of a pet service for all creatures great and small, although he admits the last one he did was 99 per cent dogs and one per cent tadpole.

His official licensing service is at the parish church on 7th March, 2019 at 7pm.