John Smart's Letter - The Beacon, February 2007

Our Rector Michael wrote last month about the challenge within our Diocese of Exeter for congregations to 'move on in Mission and Ministry'. For all Church communities these have always been important imperatives at the heart of the Christian Gospel. In the Church of England (and, I suspect, in many of the traditional churches in our nation) there is an urgency about this challenge because sadly so many people have lost any meaningful spiritual contact with their parish church. But unity has also always been, or should be, one of the hallmarks of the Church. It seems, therefore, extremely sad that the organisational changes often required with setting up 'mission communities' should necessitate the 'disuniting', as Michael describes it, of the two parishes of our present benefice - Belstone with Sticklepath, and South Tawton with South Zeal. They have now been united for over twenty five years.

One of the first steps taken by John Ellis, the first Rector of the United Benefice, was to establish this magazine, The Beacon for the congregations, and, most importantly, for their villages, a vision which has considerably enriched the community life of our four villages. Through this, and many other, often personal, ways close interactive associations have been developed in which the churches can play a vital role. There is also in some places very close geographical proximity so that a number of Church members, for instance in South Zeal (with South Tawton) live little more than a quarter of a mile from Sticklepath (with Belstone). Will all this continue if the parishes are officially 'disunited'? Would it not be possible now for these 'Beacon' Parish Churches to arrange a joint meeting of all their members and, if so wished. of others who are interested, to decide whether it would not be possible to find a structural arrangement by which they remained together, rather than go their separate ways - to the Whiddon Group of Parish Churches, based on Chagford, or the Northmoor Group, based on Okehampton?

Revd John Smart