Benefice Background


The following information will, we hope, give an idea of the breadth of ministry of the seven churches in the Benefice:

Curry Mallet
Hatch Beauchamp
Orchard Portman
Stoke St Mary
Staple Fitzpaine
West Hatch


Rector: Revd Paul Reynolds

Associate Priest: house for duty - current vacancy

Assistant Curate: Revd Christabel Ager

Readers: Brian Crudge, Clive Hayward

The Ministry Team (consisting of the above) meets approximately every six weeks to pray, discuss and plan. Every Tuesday some of the Team meet for prayer.

Lay involvement:

There is significant lay involvement across all the churches. All of them have lesson readers and several have intercession leaders.There is a choir at Hatch Beauchamp and ringers at all the churches although at some they are not rung at every service. There is a Benefice pastoral care team with members in each parish. As part of the care offered by the team meals can be provided to individuals and families who have been in hospital. A number of people are involved in keeping the churches clean and decorating them with flowers. Several adults are involved in children and youth work (see below for details) and there is an "appointed person‟ to oversee the child protection policy. The churchwardens do a fantastic job dealing with the administrative matters of each church and relieving the incumbent of endless form filling! There is a monthly Benefice magazine which covers both church and community events.

Service Pattern

In May 2008 a revised service pattern was introduced which ensured there was an all age, informal service in at least one of the churches every Sunday (called "Worship for All"). These services are normally lay led. A united service was also introduced on the third Sunday to provide the opportunity for the Benefice to worship together on a more regular basis. This works out as follows:

Sunday Worship Pattern: Sunday


BCP Communion


CW Parish Communion


Worship for All




Stoke St Mary

Curry Mallet


Staple Fitzpaine

Hatch Beauchamp

Orchard Portman

BCP Evensong


Orchard Portman

West Hatch

Hatch Beauchamp

Stoke St Mary

Curry Mallet

Staple Fitzpaine

Informal Worship



West Hatch


"Sunday Gang‟ in West Hatch Village Hall

Stoke St Mary

BCP Evensong


Hatch Beauchamp

Staple Fitzpaine


Curry Mallet

Orchard Portman

Stoke St Mary

West Hatch

BCP Evensong


There has been no tradition of regular weekday services in any of the churches but during Lent a devotional service with a themed talk is held every week, circulating around the churches. In Advent a short reflective service entitled "Advent Islands‟ is held each week is lay led.

Occasional Offices:

In 2010 there were 10 Baptisms and one Thanksgiving for the Gift of a Child*

There were 8 weddings and one service of prayer and dedication, and 15 Funerals 

*It is our policy to offer a Service of Thanksgiving to every infant baptism enquirer

To make arreangements for Occasional Offices please contact the Rector

For further inforamtion about Marriage within the Church of England, click here.

Home and Study Groups: Four home groups spread across the benefice (lay led) - contact Rector for details 

A "Journeys‟ course aimed at those wishing to explore Christian faith is run as approprioate and there have been Alpha Courses. 

Other regular groups:

Mother's Union (Stoke St Mary)

Women's Family Focus group (Hatch Beauchamp)

Round Window Club (for the elderly - Curry Mallet)

St. Peter's Singers (Staple Fitzpaine)

Cubs and Scouts (Curry Mallet)

Mums and Tots (weekly Hatch Beauchamp)

Sunday Gang (monthly for up to 11 year olds - West Hatch)

Hatch Beauchamp Kids (weekly for 7-12 year olds)

The Crew (monthly for 11-16 year olds who then attend the informal service at Staple Fitzpaine)

Areas of particular ministry:

The three Benefice primary schools (governorship and weekly assemblies)

Two nursing homes – monthly Communion

Regular Home Communions (currently 6)

Prayer ministry following combined service at West Hatch

Men's and women's breakfasts (outreach)

Farmers' suppers (also outreach)

Café Fitz  – a weekly café at Staple Fitzpaine church for the local community

Children and youth (see vision and priorities below)

Benefice weekend away with guest speaker (every 18 months) 


The majority come from the local community although we do attract some people from the outskirts of Taunton. We have encouraged movement around the Benefice and this has been accepted by some. The third Sunday combined service does attract people from across the Benefice and has been appreciated by those who attend.

Inter-Church links:

There is one other denomination in the Benefice, a Congregational chapel at Stoke St Mary (the Baptist Chapel in Hatch Beauchamp closed in 2010). There are bi-monthly united services with the Congregational Chapel in Stoke.

Women’s Ministry:

Women's ministry is welcomed and appreciated throughout the Benefice. The associate priest was a woman as is the Assistant Curate and a hospital chaplain who helps with services and other activities.

Vision and Priorities

The Diocese has an ongoing commitment to an initiative "Changing Lives, Changing Churches for Changing Communities" (referred to as "Changing Lives…" for short). This is informing thinking and action in all aspects of ministry and mission and has informed our own thinking and planning in this area of vision and priorities. In particular a "School of Formation" has been set up to support parishes and equip lay people in a drive to help each church community, whether large or small, to be a "ministering congregation". Part of this is the formation of parishes into Local Ministry Groups (LMGs), to share resources, to support one another, to work together on specific projects, and to strengthen each other‟s ministry. Each group has at least two clergy, and often readers, administrators, youth specialists. A key tenet of "Changing Lives…" is "no one alone‟.

In our LMG we have worked together to employ a full time youth worker and this appointment was made in August 2009 for a three year period.

For more information on "Changing Lives…" see the Diocesan Website:

In the light of the Diocesan initiative our Benefice has the following priorities:

Working together:

The current Ministry Team has developed over the last five years and has sought to model a collaborative approach to leadership and ministry which we hope to see worked out across the Benefice. The church wardens of all the churches meet once a term to share thoughts and ideas and explore ways in which we can work together more closely. In 2009 they discussed a paper from the Ministry Team on Benefice vision and this then went to the PCCs for further consideration and action. We are looking to develop and extend lay involvement in worship and other areas of church life.


Following two visits from the Diocesan Missioner in 2007, each parish was asked to review its outreach and consider new initiatives. The revised service pattern described above provides more opportunities for regular all age worship and new families have been attending as a result. Three times a year Stoke's all age service is held in the school hall and this has proved very successful. We are seeking to develop the same pattern at Curry Mallet. The "Journeys‟ course, run for the first time in 2009, has been very well received and is now a regular part of our programme (we have run a number of Alpha courses and would expect to continue them at some point in the future). The Ministry Team is committed to providing forms of worship and events that engage those who currently have little contact with the church. This vision is gradually being embraced by the PCCs and wider congregations. Click here to view our Vision Statement

Young People:

We already offer several groups and activities for children and young people, led by lay people, some of which are growing and reaching children who have no other contact with the church. The appointment of a youth worker with our LMG partners has been a very exciting initiative which has helped develop our work with children and young people.


We are fortunate in having three very good church primary schools in the Benefice with which we enjoy close relationships. School services are held in church and weekly assemblies are taken by members of the Ministry Team. Bibles are given to all school leavers from the churches and the Scripture Union booklet "It's your move‟. We are looking to develop a stronger connection between the schools and the Worship for All services held on a Sunday. The Rector is a governor at two of the schools as are several members of the church congregations.

Church Buildings:

All seven buildings are either Grade 1 or 2 listed. Their maintenance is a constant challenge for small congregations. There is a general acceptance that they need to be "fit for purpose‟ and to that end work has been undertaken in some of the churches to make them warmer and hopefully more welcoming.

There are plans afoot to improve the facilities at Stoke St Mary (toilet – servery already installed) and Staple Fitzpaine (servery and toilet) so that they can better serve not only the church congregation but the wider community too (eg Café Fitz at Staple). PCC members are aware that we are not curators of museums but responsible for providing places of warmth and welcome where people should be able to draw closer to Jesus.

The Churches

Electoral Rolls and Membership count for Parish Share:

Church Electoral Roll Membership
Beercrocombe 16 10
Curry Mallet 41 20
Hatch Beauchamp 41 25
Orchard Portman 27 15
Staple Fitzpaine 29 25
Stoke St Mary 50 35
West Hatch 31 20


Ecclesiastical Tradition:

All the churches stand in a fairly broad tradition. There are a range of services across the churches from BCP to a fresh expression of church which is interactive and attracts a small group of teenagers. The ministry over the last twelve years has been open evangelical and this is reflected in the present Ministry Team.


There are some exciting initiatives being undertaken in this rural Benefice and the Ministry Team is committed to seeing God's work here grow and develop, both within the church and wider community. .


Please contact the Rev Paul Reynolds, Tel: 01823 444023 or email


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