Our Benefice

United benefice of Stanton, Hopton, Market Weston, Barningham, Coney Weston, Hepworth, Hinderclay and Thelnetham

Our Benefice

Our Benefice consists of eight beautiful village churches situated in the district of St Edmundsbury in Suffolk, each with their own individual identity (Stanton, Hopton, Market Weston, Barningham, Coney Weston, Hepworth, Hinderclay and Thelnetham).

The Benefice is situated in the district of St Edmundsbury in a rural part of Suffolk, close to the Norfolk border. Traditionally an arable farming area, this is now less important in terms of employment. There is a rising population with employment in local services as well as in nearby larger towns. Despite these changes, farming and the rural nature of the area are still important for, and valued by, many of the population. The larger villages of Stanton, Barningham and Hopton, have shops and services, and in all the villages there is a thriving sense of community.

All the Churches are beautiful, with their foundations going back to and beyond Norman times. Please do visit them, and when doing so please sign the visitors’ book and let us know what you think. Alternatively come and join us for a Church service or an event – you’re always welcome.

What is a Benefice?

A Benefice is an ecclesiastical office which, under Canon law, carries certain duties and conditions (called the spiritualities) together with certain revenues (called the temporalities). The office holder is known as the Incumbent.

A Rectory was a benefice in which the Tithe was paid to the Incumbent. The Incumbent was know as the Rector and the Benefice house, where he lived, was also known as the Rectory. Technically a Rector is an Incumbent whose ‘tithes are not impropriate’.

In Medieval times many Benefices were owned by Monasteries. The Monastery was entitled to receive the temporalities (i.e. the Tithes etc) but they also had to assume the spiritualities (the spiritual care of the parishes). The Monastery would use part of the Tithe (typically a third) to pay for someone act on their behalf (vicariously) and such a person was known as a Vicar. Their place of residence became known as a Vicarage.

When Henry VIII dissolved the Monasteries their Benefices were often passed to local landowners who became known as lay rectors.

In practice today, apart from the names, the only difference is that the freehold, though not the legal possession, of the Chancel belongs to the Rector rather than the Vicar. (The Chancel is the main part of a Church building). There was a court case not long ago where a Lay Rector, who became such when they bought some land, did not wish to be responsible to repairs to the chancel. Information taken from Church Society.

The Benefice we have is made up of 5 parishes all who report to the Rector who has ‘ownership’ of the Chancel or Church. Distinctly the Rector works closely with the Bishop’s representatives the Churchwardens. In effect he holds quite a lot of authority over what can and cannot happen within the churches. Although our Rector believes in delegated responsibilities and the building of teams with specific responsibilities reporting back to the churchwardens and himself. If we were in Interregnum the Rural Dean becomes responsible for the Benefice and the PCCs take responsibility for maintaining and running the church and all associated services.

Please take a look at our Facebook page: facebook.com/unitedbenefice for regular updates, events, thoughts and prayers; as well as our Twitter feed twitter.com/UnitedBenefice.

Further information on our United Benefice?