Withycombe Rector bades farewell

FATHER Tony Oswin, Rector of Withycombe Raleigh for 18 years, is holding his last ever service this Sunday.

Father Oswin, 66, Team Rector also of St John in the Wilderness and All Saints Church, is reluctantly retiring to Dawlish after a 40-year ministry because of ill health.

“It’s a real wrench to leave,” said an emotional Father Oswin, who was busy looking at hundreds of cross-shaped cards given to him by the children of Withycombe Primary.

“It’s the nicest community. I would love to have carried on for another couple of years.”

Despite contracting polio when a young man, suffering from a heart condition and diabetes, the much-loved rector has worked seven days a week, getting up at 4am and taking calls well into the night for as long as he can remember.

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The relationship with the school is particularly close – his wife is a retired teacher and he is the governor responsible for hiring the staff, including the new head.

“I would like to have worked with the new head, but it wasn’t to be.”

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Born in Coventry, Father Oswin, for 15 years, was a textiles engineer before, at the age of 28, going to Colchester Theological College because of a ‘calling’.

A family man, he and Valerie have two daughters and three grandchildren. He had been a curate in Coventry and Colchester and worked in the East End of London before moving to Withycombe in 1993.

He has been chaplain for Exmouth Royal British Legion, chairman of Exmouth Welfare Trust and affected countless lives conducting, thousands of baptisms, christenings, weddings and funerals.

“Withycombe is a really nice parish that still does many of the traditional things.

“We had 4,500 at our Christmas service and many who have moved away come back to get married.”

Father Oswin is grateful to Father Stephen Hoyle and Father Trevor Smyth and his wife Valerie: “She has been tremendously supportive and I couldn’t have done it without her. She really has been a brick.”

He added: “My ministry has been about making the church a place of welcome for everyone. It’s been a privilege and an honour.”

On Monday, the school held a special communion for him.

Former deputy head of Withycombe Primary, Lynne Jones said: “Withycombe will not be the same again.

“We meet many people throughout our lives and some leave a lasting impression on us.

“You, Tony, are one of those people, so thoughtful, patient and caring.”

Father Oswin’s final service is at St John the Evangelist at 4pm on Sunday.

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