Norfolk landlady Janet swaps pub for church
By Mike Wiltshire
A Norfolk pub landlady has swapped last orders for holy orders and become a parish priest after an amazing experience in her local church.
Running a Norfolk village pub was the dream job of husband-and-wife team, Janet (pictured right) and David Wyer. But after 11 years of hard work and exhausting hours, Janet felt ‘something was missing’.
Eventually, with David’s support, Janet discovered her ‘real call in life’ – and today Janet is an ordained minister in the largest parish church in Norwich: St Peter Mancroft, opposite the Forum, and adjacent to the Open Market. She is also chaplain for YMCA Norfolk, whose accommodation facilities are close-by.
Janet’s remarkable journey into Christian ministry may have been triggered by the influence of two ‘incredibly faithful Christians’ who helped out as stand-in staff at ‘The Golden Dog’ in Shipdham. The pub was almost next door to the village church – and one day Janet, seeing an open door, ventured in – “and it was like going home . . . it was where I belonged. I was pretty amazed.”
Janet’s faith came alive. Although in teenage years the Bible had been hard to understand, now “it was as if the words were written in gold and they made sense.”
With her husband David’s blessing, Janet – who was confirmed as a Christian in 1996 - began a course in the social sciences and, later, did a degree, believing her future was probably social work. “I love working with people,” she says.
The call to ordained ministry came as Janet sat at the dining room table, reading a centre-page feature in the EDP newspaper about a long-serving woman verger at Norwich Cathedral.
Surprisingly, the next day Janet saw a job-share advert for a verger at the city-centre church of St Peter Mancroft. Janet, to her amazement, was given the job and also worked with the church youth department until 2007, when she began the Eastern Region Ministry Course.
Janet worked out her curacy among ‘the wonderful people’ of the Chet Valley Benefice which serves in parishes of Chedgrave, Hales, Hardley, Heckingham, Langley, Loddon and Sisland in Norfolk.
Then, the Rev Janet Wyer was licensed by the Bishop of Norwich on March 31 this year, and now is associate priest at St Peter Mancroft, working with a team headed by the vicar, the Rev Peter Nokes.
People come from far and wide to the historic church which John Wesley described as ‘very large and beautiful . . . and surprisingly cheerful.’
Janet admits she has a tough job, ‘but is much blessed’. She has a big heart for vulnerable and marginalised people and those outside the church. In her early years, Janet grew up on a council estate in a loving home that was overshadowed by the loss of her four-year-old brother, Derek, who died of meningitis. The family were not church-goers, “though God-aware,” says Janet. “It was a home of sadness.”
Today, Janet and David (a former accountant) are parents of three grown-up children. Janet’s first-hand experience in the pub trade has given her insights into alcohol abuse and binge drinking by young people, especially at Christmas – “for some, it’s one of the demons we face.”
“It appalls me that we live in a culture where this happens,” says Janet who believes that parents must try to set a good example. “How will our children learn if we don’t model it right?”