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A Mission Community in the Diocese of Exeter


The Shirwell Mission Community comprises eight Churches in seven rural parishes in North Devon:

Bratton Fleming;  Challacombe;  East Down & Arlington; Kentisbury;  Loxhore;  Shirwell and Stoke Rivers.  

The Mission Community

The Mission Community lies within the Shirwell Deanery and covers an area of just under 50 square miles with a population of approximately 2600.


The parishes extend north east of Barnstaple to the Exmoor National Park and the Somerset border.


The Rector is Revd Rosie Austin, who lookes after the six parishes. She is assisted by a curate Revd Martyn Tyrrell, two retired clergymen, Rev Chris Tull from Challacombe and Rev Mike Miller from South Molton. 


Rosie lives in Bratton Fleming, the largest of the parishes and placed centrally within the Mission Community.


Martyn lives in Shirwell, the second largest parish.


All enquiries for weddings, funerals and baptisms should be made to Rev Rosie Austin:

Telephone 01598 711962


Click to open the April edition of the Church News magazine
Click to open the April edition of the Church of England Devon magazine
Click to open the May edition of the Church News magazine
Click to open the June edition of the Church News magazine
Click to open the July edition of the Church News magazine
Aug 20.pdf
Click to open the August edition of the Church News magazine

 Rector’s Ramblings August

Mike Miller has given us this month in his article a glimpse of his journey to the Holy Land along with Lynne. Undoubtedly a beautiful and special place, but more so because of the wondering, ‘could this be the place where Jesus walked’? The land holds history and people’s stories together.

Our church buildings are also places which hold our history and our stories. The local benefactor who donated the pew ends, that amazing harvest loaf, family weddings, churchyards where family and friends are remembered with love. They are places where we continue to create stories, gathering together as we have done – to worship or to eat or to strim the churchyard and try to manage the brambles.

And so the last few months with our buildings closed there might be two reactions. We may have either realised that we don’t need them as much as we thought we did – or come to value them even more. 

For me, there is both. As church – it is the people that make the church and we have continued to gather online or by telephone to connect in new ways. People have joined us who were not able to before. We have got to know each other’s names (zoom has a useful name badge!) and talked with people we have not chatted to before. The kingdom of God, we have re-discovered, is not about the place but about what happens when God joins people together.

But the buildings are immensely precious – apart from being helpful to keep out the rain when we meet. And there are people who we are missing from our online and telephone worship and waiting for us to meet again in church.

A reading I came across this week was from John Cassian, a monk who lived between 360-435AD, says this: “I have said that were it mine to build a city, the first stone I should lay there would be the foundation-stone of a church. But if it were mine to preach the first sermon in that church, I should choose as the text: ‘I saw no church therein.’ I should tell the people that the great use of the church is to help people to do without it.” 

He refers to the verse in Revelations which says, “I did not see a temple in the city because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.” (Rev 21:22)

Perhaps God is teaching us both how valuable our church buildings are – but yet also how we are to rely on God and one another as we move through this time. Through this season we may be gradually beginning to meet again within our churches – but also discover the joys of being together outside and in other spaces when the time is right.




Mike and Lynne's visit to the Holy Land

The trouble with me is that I have a very vivid imagination. Over the years I have built up in my mind a detailed picture of the Holy Land. Does it bear any resemblance to the real thing? For years I longed to find out!

Lynne and I had heard of a pilgrimage led by a minister, which is how we had planned to go. I unashamedly wanted to be amongst Christians, and supremely to have a Christian guide. This was not just a sightseeing holiday!

Jerusalem was noisy, busy, and rather overpowering with its narrow streets and multicultural crowd, selling, arguing, taking pictures, and talking excitedly. Visiting the very old church built on the site of the sepulchre and the place of crucifixion was to struggle through crowds and noise. Three times I made my way to the ancient building at 6 am when it opened, hoping for atmosphere, but it was still far from peaceful.  Elsewhere I was more moved by a first century Jewish tomb called “the garden tomb”, outside the city and probably not where Jesus was buried, but it had the most wonderful “feel”, and it has given me a picture of the first Easter morning I shall treasure.

Descending from the Mount of Olives we were over-awed by the sudden view of Jerusalem, gleaming in the sun. This had to be where Jesus wept! Then down into Gethsemane where the Olive trees are over 2000 years old. Did Jesus pray under the same ones?

I was fascinated to visit the site of the high priest’s house, and the dungeon where Jesus may well have been incarcerated overnight. The steps outside the house are original, and almost certainly Jesus would have walked down them. What an incredible thought!

The “Hill of the Beatitudes” was carpeted with wild anemones; Galilee was beautiful. We crossed the lake in a small boat and celebrated Holy Communion on the beach. We swam in its lovely clear water, and enjoy drinking the local wine, gazing across to the snow-clad Golan Heights in the distance.

Later, we went by coach down the Jordan Valley, visiting the traditional place of baptism, and travelling on down to the Dead Sea, passing the caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. Our guide was a Palestinian Christian who had an extraordinary detailed knowledge of the Bible. 

So many memories, so many pictures in my mind.  Surprisingly some were very similar to how I had imagined them, but others were completely different:  eg. the Jerusalem to Jericho road in a deep ravine! 

Not only was the visit itself an amazing experience, but I think it has had a big impact on me. I have stood where Jesus stood; I have seen where He died.  I have experienced the crisp clear air of a spring dawn in Jerusalem with empty streets….I see it so clearly now….. Christ is risen indeed! 


Mike Miller


If you have a concern about the safety of someone or the actions of someone working with children or vulnerable adults, please speak to someone:


The names and contact details of the Parish Safeguarding Representatives are:

Bratton Fleming:   Terry Squire Tel: 01598 710526  
Challacombe:   Carole Huxtable Tel: 01598 763217 
East Down with Arlington:   Linda Watt Tel: 01271 882376   
Loxhore:   Mike Matthews Tel: 01271 850550 
Shirwell:   Averil Richardson Tel: 01271 850537
Stoke Rivers:  Rev Rosie Austin  Tel: 01598 711962



The link to the Diocesan Safeguarding Team’s contact details -


The following organisations offer helplines: 
 NSPCC: 0808 800 5000 • Childline: 0800 1111 • Stop It Now: 0808 1000 900 • NAPAC: 0808 801 0331 • Samaritans: 116 123 • Family Lives: 0808 800 2222 • National Domestic Violence Helpline: 0808 2000 247 • Action On Elder Abuse: 080 8808 8141