Revd Sherry Bloomer
It was with great sadness that we learned the passing of alumna Revd Sherry Bloomer on Monday, 6 March 2023. Eulogy is by fellow alumna and friend, Revd Maureen Hobbs.
Sherry was born on 11 March 1950 in Chester, the second of two daughters for her parents, Ethne and Arthur Bloomer. She attended a grammar school in St Asaph, North Wales as the family had moved from Chester to Prestatyn while she was a young child. She missed being baptised as an infant …. (Something about a falling out with the local vicar!) But she herself requested that she be baptised at the age of 9.
On leaving school at 18 Sherry tried a couple of office-based careers before settling on the Nursing Profession and completed her studies in Liverpool, becoming a Registered General Nurse in 1973 at the Liverpool Royal Infirmary, and then qualifying as a midwife the following year. She toyed with the idea of emigration, spending a year in Canada as an Obstetric Nurse but the pull of home and family proved too strong. On her return she moved into community-based nursing as a Health Visitor – experience which I know opened her eyes to the levels of deprivation that could co-exist beside relatively affluent neighbourhoods.
Alongside her civilian nursing career, she also joined the Territorial Army – Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps, and this continued to occupy much of whatever ‘spare’ time she had through the 1980s. It was also highly significant in her personal formation, instilling a deep sense of duty and service to an already compassionate nature.
Returning to hospital nursing she moved into the education of others, becoming a Nurse Tutor, acquiring teaching qualifications to add to her medical ones.
In 1990 she responded to the call to volunteer for service in a field hospital in Saudi Arabia as part of the Gulf War. It was a controversial war for all sorts of reasons and Sherry was one of the least war-like people you could hope to meet, but duty was duty. When she returned from the Gulf in 1991, it was to a country deeply divided as to the ethics of our involvement there. She was not alone in finding that very few people wanted to hear about her experiences – experiences of living in a desert land and amid a foreign culture which had affected her profoundly.
I don’t think that was the only influence, but it certainly contributed to her questioning her life and vocation. Although she had achieved the rank of Major – one of which she remained rightly and enormously proud, she decided that her time in QARANC had come to its conclusion, and she was becoming more disenchanted with the NHS and her role within it.
Meanwhile she had become a regular member of the 8am congregation of St Thomas’ Church, Rhyl. The Vicar there, the ebullient Revd. Herbie Lloyd, encouraged her to talk and suggested that she met with his curate – Revd. John Lomax (now a Bishop) – for bible study, prayer and eventually to discuss the possibility of ordination. Which – eventually – is how I came to meet her in the final week of September 1995 when we both enrolled as ordinands at Westcott House Theological College, Cambridge. Both women of ‘a certain age’ with very different but varied careers to bring to our experience of formation as Anglican priests, we soon became firm friends. Many were the ‘essay crises’ that we helped one another through – bolstered by a mutual love of dark chocolate digestive biscuits! Sadly, Sherry’s parents both died before she completed her ordination training.
Sherry was by nature an intensely private person always interested in the lives of others but finding it difficult to give much away about her own. She was however a loyal and generous friend, both of her time (she was de facto the medical authority of choice for many fellow ordinands!) and her resources, as many of her friends will attest.
After ordination, she returned to the Church in Wales, serving her curacy in the parish of Llangollen with Llantisilio and Trevor. She then moved to be the Rector of Nannerch with Cilcain and Rhydymywn near Mold in N Wales, and during this time began to develop an interest in and practice of the ministry of spiritual accompaniment, for which she was very well suited. Interests outside of ‘work’, centred around her love of animals – pet cats and dogs being the outlet for her affection and who also gave much to her.
After a few years, she decided to move into the Church of England and was offered a post in Worcester Diocese, combining two parishes to the west of Worcester itself combined with the role of chaplain to the university of Worcester – then rapidly expanding. I recall one of my colleagues being very envious when he discovered she had the Worcester County Cricket Club within the borders of her parish!
Her work was demanding. The university chaplaincy was under-resourced and not fully appreciated by the university administration. But she pursued a ministry of ‘loitering with intent’ and she thoroughly enjoyed her one-to-one encounters with students and staff.
Sadly, as she reached her early sixties, her health began to suffer and she was strongly advised by her doctors to retire from full-time ministry which, reluctantly, she did. Initially returning to her own home in Prestatyn, she then moved into England in order that she could continue to visit an NHS specialist in Birmingham. Much house-hunting around Chester led her eventually to Neston on Wirral where she enjoyed a happy retirement. That was, until the dreaded Pandemic hit. Realising that she was in the ‘highly vulnerable’ category, Sherry self-isolated very effectively and had successfully avoided Covid until the middle of February this year, taking every opportunity to receive all the vaccinations that she could. When it finally struck, her immune system was not able to fight the infection and she died on 6 March, just a few days short of her 73rd birthday and a few months short of her 25th anniversary of ordination.
Sherry’s dry sense of humour was legendary – and she particularly enjoyed wit – although not if directed against another. She hated all forms of cruelty and held herself – and other people and institutions – to high standards. When they sometimes failed to live up to her expectations she could be wounded and deeply hurt, although she would never voice her disappointment. She was a sensitive soul – those of us who loved her recognised her many virtues and her complexity. This world has been a richer and more compassionate place for Sherry’s presence and her loss will be felt keenly in many quarters. May she rest in peace and rise in glory.