March 7 2014 Latest news:
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
A Norfolk paramedic whose career has been spent rushing to respond to 999 emergencies has answered a different kind of calling – by becoming Dereham’s new Mormon bishop.
Keith George, 50, has been chosen to lead a congregation of 200 people in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in between his day job of saving lives with the East of England Ambulance Service.
Mr George, who has been a member of the Mormon church since the age of 11, is now responsible for a ward which also includes Fakenham, Holt, Thetford, and Watton.
He said his ambulance work had given him added insight that would help him fulfil his religious duties – but he has had to change his shift pattern in order to be available for the Sunday services at the chapel on Yaxham Road in Dereham.
“It was quite a surprise for me to be called, because I work quite long shifts and a lot of weekends and nights,” he said. “But I am very grateful to the ambulance service because they let me swap my shifts around so I can be here for the service on Sundays.
“It has given me a broader outlook on life. Having the job that I have but also having the faith that I have gives me a greater understanding of people, and a greater love for them. You meet people in difficult situations but because of my faith I am able to remain very calm and collected about what I do.”
The Mormon church was established in 1830 in America and its heartland is in the state of Utah.
Mr George said the church is growing in the UK and one of its key foundations is the belief in “continual revelation” – the principle that God still continues to communicate to mankind.
The bishop’s own faith was inspired by a “sacred experience” as a child growing up in West Earlham in Norwich.
“My mother had passed away several years before, but I saw my mother,” he said. “Some would say it was a dream, but I was awake. She didn’t say anything, but she looked at me and smiled at me. I was not scared – what I felt was an overwhelming feeling of love.
“I spoke to my local parish vicar and he put me off, saying this was not something that happened. But I couldn’t deny it.
“It was not until I was 10 that two Mormon missionaries knocked on my door. It was not so much the message they were sharing, but the way that we felt as a family. It fulfilled us.
“When I went to this church (of the Latter-day Saints) for the first time, I was sitting at the back and the speaker was asking: Why are we here? Where did we come from? When she was speaking, I felt that same feeling. That cemented it for me, and everything since then has built on it.”
Mr George lives on Ashley Walk in Dereham with his wife Lisa. They have three children – Melissa, 19, Myles, 17, and Megan, 14.