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:  Rev. Joanna Porter

Associate Vicar:                     Revd Stephen Jones

Readers:                                 Sue McKen, Brian Crudge, Clive Hayward (Reader Emeritus)


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 safeguarding officer to oversee the policy for the safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults. 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







10am Parish Communion

10am Worship for All

Evening services

1st Sat




HB Village Hall

4-5.30pm Messy Church

1st Sun

Stoke St Mary

Curry Mallet

Staple Fitzpaine

Hatch Beauchamp

Orchard Portman


2nd Sun

West Hatch

Hatch Beauchamp

Stoke St Mary

Curry Mallet


3rd Sun


West Hatch 10.30am Benefice Communion 



3rd Wed




Staple Fitzpaine 6.30pm Reflective Worship

4th Sun

Hatch Beauchamp


Orchard Portman

Stoke St Mary


5th Sun


Beercrocombe or Orchard Portman Benefice Service




























There has been no tradition of regular weekday services in any of the churches but during Lent  a themed talk, followed by lunch, is held in Hatch Beauchamp Village Hall.

Occasional Offices:

There are Baptisms and Thanksgivings for the Gift of a Child*; weddings and funerals.

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

To make arrangements for Occasional Offices please contact the Ministry Team.

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

Home and Study Groups: Two home groups, both Lay lead, are held regularly.

A Alpha Course aimed at those wishing to explore Christian faith is run as appropriate. 

Other regular groups:

Women's Family Focus group (Hatch Beauchamp)

Round Window Club (for the elderly - Curry Mallet)

St. Peter's Singers (Staple Fitzpaine)

Mums and Tots (weekly at Thurlbear School)

Areas of particular ministry:

The three Benefice primary schools (governorship and weekly assemblies)

Two nursing homes – monthly Communion

Home Communions 

Men's and women's breakfasts (outreach)

Farmers' suppers (also outreach)

Children and youth (see vision and priorities below)


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 occasional united services with the Congregational Chapel in Stoke.

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 the Benefice we have worked together to employ a part time youth worker. 

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. The current Benefice Development Plan was the output from this exercise; it is constantly being reviewed and updated.


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. Periodically Stoke's all age service is held in the school hall and this has proved successful. We have run a number of Alpha courses and would expect to continue them 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 being embraced by the PCCs and wider congregations. 

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 children's worker 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 Benefice is represented as 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 Staple Fitzpaine (toilet – servery already installed)  so that it can better serve not only the church congregation but the wider community too. 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 18 8
Curry Mallet 26 17
Hatch Beauchamp 32 14
Orchard Portman 20 13
Staple Fitzpaine 23 16
Stoke St Mary 39 26
West Hatch 24 8


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 

Rector:  Rev. Joanna Porter

The Rectory, Ash Road, Stoke St Mary, TA3 5BX

Tel:  01823 974716


Back to Home Page