Our Ministry Team
Reverend Simon H. Leigh
Dear One and All,
It is good to be back in North Devon, having only taken 41 years to return after leaving Shebbear College in 1979! Since then I have served in the Metropolitan Police as a detective, and for the last 26 years as a Methodist minister. My wife Donna and I have recently moved to Chilsworthy, having previously been in Plymouth where I was the Superintendent. Donna is also a Methodist minister and is now Chaplain at Shebbear College. We have three adult children, four grandchildren and a Westie called Mr Wesley.
My essential calling as a minister is to preaching, teaching, sacramental worship, pastoral care and enabling the people of God to thrive and flourish. I am a Methodist and in that tradition I am keen to work ecumenically and to enable Christians of all denominations to work together. Over the years I have developed a deep interest in practical theology, the healing and wholeness ministry, and a ministry of reconciliation. I have also been involved in hospital and prison chaplaincy throughout my ministry. I serve the Methodist Church in the field of complaints and discipline, as a governor at Shebbear College and St.Petroc’s in Bude, as Rural Officer for the Plymouth and Exeter Methodist District, and as a Trustee for Methodist Church Purposes (TMCP).
I follow Crystal Palace FC, Exeter Chiefs and I enjoy watching cricket.
Debbie (known as Deacon Deb) was ordained in 2013 in Southwark Cathedral after two years as probationer Deacon in the Barnsley Circuit. She trained at the Urban Theology Union in Sheffield and the Queens Foundation Birmingham. Debbie serves as Area Secretary for the Plymouth and Exeter and Cornwall districts' Diaconal Order. She also serves as Chaplain to the British Legion in Bude and Stratton.
I am passionate about serving people on the margins of society and making the Church a place where all are welcome.
In my previous appointment in Barnsley I served five churches in a rural district of ex-mining villages which have suffered due to pit closures. In my career I have gained first hand experience working in communities with high levels of deprivation and a breakdown of social order.
In every aspect of my role I aspire to reach out to those who are struggling in their lives and help them to become aware of God's love for them. I believe in the narrative gospel that teaches us to find God in the ordinary and in other people’s stories.
I feel a love and desire to preach the good news to all; not only from the pulpit but from the pavement as well. I strive to share the news not only through words but, more importantly, through action. As John Wesley stated “There is no holiness but social holiness”
My hobbies are sewing and any craftwork. I'm a DIY fanatic and love anything to do with a drill or hammer (I have pink tools!). I also enjoy being by the ocean and walking our two Jack Russells.
Reverend Stephen Hill
I'm happily married to Betsan (Bee) and we have 3 children, one grandchild and, at the time of writing, one on the way. We also have a white Jack Russell called Kelly.
I started my ministerial training in 1981, after having a year at Cliff College and 2 years working in a church in Exeter. Over the years my ministry has taken me to diverse circuits and places, from inner city to island life and rural to coastal, although I am more comfortable when I can feel the grass under my feet and wearing jeans and wellies.
When I met Bee, I did promise her that life would never be boring, that's certainly true! I come from a traditional background but I've always believed in exploring new ways of sharing the Gospel to all ages by using music, drama, puppets and painting. I would class myself as a good GP where both Bible based preaching and pastoral support go hand-in-hand and working within both the church and community is crucial. I wouldn't describe myself as a technophobe but using Facebook and Zoom is still a learning curve! My interests include DIY and gardening, both with varying degrees of success, and family.
Neal entered his 15th year as presbyter in the Bude and Holsworthy circuit in September 2020. He undertakes pastoral duties for 18 churches in the local towns and villages, working closely with the ministry’s lay team.
I hope to lead worship that is authentic, honest and earthed. I love to tell stories and draw inspiration from The Jesus Gospel which is full of simple illustrations and parables that points to the amazing and profound truth that we have a God who loves us, who cares for us and stands alongside us. In Jesus, God reveals what it’s like to be a human being striving for holiness in a troubled world. He makes an amazing success of it and invites us to emulate him by committing to being his disciples. I currently serve in a pastoral capacity for all 18 churches in our circuit. This may sound like a lot! However, we have a gifted and focused lay team who work alongside the churches to chair business meetings and provide pastoral support in various ways. Together we strive to work ecumenically wherever we can.
Working well as a team is crucial to performing effectively as a ministry. So let us pray for all Methodist ministers who work together to bring about God’s Kingdom.
The United Methodist Church is currently questioning its role in society and asking if it's necessary to maintain a physical presence within in every community. Similarly, in our circuit we continually assess the best ways to carry out our mission. Should certain work by carried out from the actual church building? Or could we have more impact in other ways? The answer is not obvious and depends on the situation and goal.
Michelle joined the ministry in 2018 and works in a supportive capacity with all churches in the circuit.
Having been a homemaker and raised three children with my husband full-time, I was delighted to be offered the role and I have embraced the new challenges and opportunities that comes with serving as Pastoral Lay Worker. Previously I was Community Care Supervisor in Bude.
I have served in local church ministries over the years as a Sunday School teacher, leading bible study groups, church stewarding and organising local events and conferences. Being part of the Church inspires me to come alongside people wherever they are in their lives and to listen and support them. For me, being a Christian is about how I conduct my relationships and live out my faith in practical ways.
I enjoy my role and getting to know lots of new people. It is lovely to be welcomed in as part of the church family and have the opportunity to start some new ventures alongside them, including prayer meetings, a friendship group, Messy Church and bible studies.
Tim Stokes joined the ministry in January 2010 and undertakes administrative duties for the circuit. His role has increasingly encompassed pioneer work, reaching out to those most in need and marginalised in the community.
A large part of my role is facilitating community engagement and partnering with various groups to help improve people's lives. This has been a key focus in my work and life for the past six years. It still feels like early days. But everyday is a new opportunity to follow Jesus with passion, which always excites the socks off me.
I love Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity: “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting change”. This sums up my outlook on life which is to find solutions to problems and do more of the things that actually work.
In 2017 I was part of the Arthur Rank Germinate programme: Entrepreneurial Leadership in the Rural Context. This project was about trying to better understand the history and new challenges in the countryside.
As our circuit comes to terms with the realities of a changing church environment it helped me in recognising and understanding the bigger picture and the challenges we are all going to face in the future.
I enjoy wearing shorts and the warmth of the sun, watching rugby and the occasional real ale. You can usually find me around Holsworthy at the Youth Centre or the Men’s Shed. Please feel free to get in touch.
Andy serves as Rural Support Worker within the farming community. He is also Market Chaplaincy Coordinator and attends Holsworthy Market every Wednesday where he carries out pastoral duties.
I was born in Bristol and raised in Devon. I also lived abroad for five years (in Cornwall!) and currently live with my wife near Crediton. Having lived in the circuit area for many years I have a good knowledge of local farming issues and communities from Black Torrington, to Bideford and Bude.
I am an experienced agricultural worker and have previously worked for the Environment Agency. I began carrying out rural lay work during the BSE epidemic when many small, family run dairy farms were seriously affected. My role was created by a need to help those families who were plunged into hardship and isolation. I have since sought to widen the chaplaincy role and extend support to the cattle markets and farm sales.
I see the core purpose of my role as delivering the Church’s message of love and compassion that Jesus had for all. Admittedly my role as Rural Support Worker can be difficult to define: at times I'm called upon to support forestry and conservation workers, at other times in the farming community.
Mary has worked as a pastoral visitor, and a circuit administrator, since her arrival in the circuit in 2006. The emphasis of her work is now in visiting the elderly, the housebound, and the sick.
I am primarily a listener. I seek to get alongside people in their own homes, and in their own circumstances. I feel I provide a quiet and confidential place for people to express themselves. I regularly visit at all the local nursing homes, and in the hospitals.
In my capacity as an administrator, I create and deal with the quarterly Preaching Plan, and offer support to my husband Neal.
I am also a church organist, a keen walker (preferably by myself and with my camera), and I'm an avid reader.
Reverend Donna Leigh
Before I became a Methodist minister in 2015, I was a nurse and midwife in the NHS for 30 years. I trained in London as a nurse which is where I met my husband, the Reverend Simon Leigh, who was then a young detective in The Met and had lots of hair in those days!
I completed midwifery training in Cornwall and in Plymouth. I grew up near Truro so it was good to come home to be a midwife. After Simon was accepted in the Methodist ministry, we left Cornwall. As a family, we moved to Bristol where I worked at St. Michael’s Hospital, and then we moved on to Southwest London where I was a midwife at St. Helier Hospital in Carshalton in the Borough of Sutton.
After 13 years in London we moved to Plymouth and following my sense of calling I trained at Queen’s College in Birmingham from 2012 to 2015, and was subsequently stationed to the Plymouth and Devonport Circuit, where I had pastoral charge at Crownhill, Compton and Pomphlett. I was ordained at Coventry Cathedral in 2017.
Since August I have been chaplain at Shebbear College. It’s a totally new experience for me and I am learning a great deal. It’s a great privilege to work alongside the young people, teachers and staff at this great Methodist school. I feel I have always known the College as Simon went there as a boy and has talked about it a great deal over the years. Starting a new role under Covid-19 conditions has been a challenge.
I am the first female chaplain the school has ever had, and I work alongside the first female head teacher in the school’s long history. Simon and I have three adult children, four grandchildren and a very bossy Westie called Mr Wesley.