Norfolk Rev Janice is prolific online shepherd
2011: With a treasure box of ideas and a computer, Norfolk priest, Rev Janice Scott, is working on her latest novel. Sandie Shirley reports.
The retired minister, and one of the first Anglican women priests in the country, is a prolific writer. Through various websites, two novels and a host of children’s stories and sermons, her work is available in book form and on the internet, as the Village Shepherd.
All this activity goes a long way to putting the gospel into the hands of thousands worldwide and her fiction is proving a gentle, absorbing way to share her faith message with many.
Yet all this would have seemed unlikely a few decades ago when the mother of three, who had sat in the pews since she was a small girl, had a crisis of faith. “I remember being asked to write down what God meant to me during a Lent course and I suddenly drew a blank.”
The former physiotherapist, who had helped at the London Mission, and moved to Fakenham to set-up a health business with her husband, walked away from church as her faith was lost in an instant.
“I realised I did not have any evidence of a personal understanding of God’s love but for the first time I felt marvellous and was able to be myself,” says Janice.
It took soul-searching and communication, through a new spiritual realisation, before her belief was restored. It came when she recognised her huge, unlocked potential could be given to God, the one that lived within her, for it to be outworked. “That realisation brought into focus all sorts of richness,” she recalls.
It included a call to the priesthood that she initially tried to ignore. But in 1985, Janice began studying theology and her writing began in earnest. “I had always loved to write; together with sport it was the only thing I could do at school and some ten years before I had won a writing competition.”
The essays for her training easily flowed. As a curate in Fakenham and later Eaton, near Norwich, her sermons continued to flow. Her writing gained momentum when she took over a rural benefice in South Norfolk for ten years. Children’s stories, with a simple gospel truth, were unleashed. Her first volume, which will also strike a chord with adults, has since hit the bookstalls and two subsequent ones are due for release.
“They are an ideal resource for school assemblies,” says Janice. With a hotchpotch of characters and talking animals they also help address the problems that children face today including bullying, she explains.
A new marketing strategy came when she was approached by a small American family business that had spotted her prolific material on the internet. It took over the running of the site, and became a book publisher for her children’s stories. Having retired, Janice has put the pen to work again, writing about the ups and downs of parish life. Her latest fiction - Heaven Spent and Babies and Suckling’s (available from Jarrold, Norwich) is set in a rural Norfolk benefice and were published during the last 12 months.
Janice reflects on her real-life adventures as a minister in a country benefice: “I learnt so much from the people there and the collaborative work of encouraging their talents that included joining six churches within two small benefices together for increased unity and strength.”
The move also helped inspire the Christmas Tree Festival in Dickleburgh, when 3,000 people make the annual trip to light candles and say prayers. “It became an all-embracing mission that was hard work, using a big Christmas tree as the focus in the church,” recalls Janice who has seen its legacy continue to thrive.