From Physics to Priesthood

There is no such thing as a typical priest!  God calls all kinds of people from all kinds of backgrounds – here is the story of one calling – from science to service.

Brought up in a non-religious family in a Dutch village, the Rev’d Janneke Blokland’s path to priesthood is unique.

JanekkeAsked to come to Sunday School by a friend when aged 7, she kept coming back as she liked it. She was baptised at 18, and studied Physics to PhD level in Nijmegen, near her home. Her research was on ‘semiconductor nanostructures’. She laughs at the inevitable blank stare. “It was great fun!”, she says, “It involves firing lasers at new materials.”

In 2010 she moved to Berlin to carry out further research. “I wanted to explore an academic career. Also, there’s nothing like a new country to help you find your real priorities.

“The Lutheran Church I first attended in Berlin wasn’t very friendly, so I tried the English Church, St George’s. I felt instantly at home in this cosmopolitan congregation, with people from dozens of countries, including many Germans.

“I soon felt a call to full-time priesthood in the Church of England, and the Diocese in Europe sponsored me. I had only made visits to this country before I started training for ministry in 2012.

Janekke is now in her second year of her training curacy in Marlborough. She loves parish ministry, and how it allows her to spend quality time with people, often during the most profound times in their lives.  “I love how the C of E, through the parish system, seeks to serve everyone regardless of their religious views.”

“I still miss practical science, like soldering and fixing machines, so I often do the DIY in church! I keep my scientific brain working by giving talks and mentoring in two local schools.

Janneke is also in demand for her knowledge and understanding of issues around science and faith.

“I also speak at public debates on science and religion. My usual debate partner is an atheist physics teacher married to a churchwarden. This opens space for more creative conversations on faith than those that dominate the media.  So does being a young, foreign, female, scientist. I certainly don’t fit the stereotype of a market town cleric!”

You can find our more aout Janekke at Marlborough News Online

Janneke  is one of our team of Young Vocations Champions, encouraging other young people who wonder if God might be calling them to ministry.  If you would like to talk to a Young Vocations Champion in the Diocese of Salisbury, please email our Vocations Co-ordinator –

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