The Church of England Chase Benefice is situated across the Dorset Wiltshire border in part of the beautiful Cranborne Chase and was formed in 2001. It is currently made up from 12 churches in the 9 parishes of Chettle, Farnham, Gussage All Saints, Gussage St Michael, Tarrant Gunville, Tarrant Hinton, Tarrant Keynston, Tarrant Monkton with Launceston and Rushton, and Tollard Royal. The church in Tarrant Crawford is maintained by the Churches Conservation Trust and is open for one service a month from May to September each year. Tarrant Rawston church is privately owned.
What is happening to the Chase Benefice?
We were in the throes of Coronavirus lockdown when the Rector of the Chase Benefice, the Reverend Dr Michael Foster retired on 12 May 2020 after 20+ years as our Rector. At this point, all the churches in the Chase Benefice had been closed to prevent the spread of Covid-19, so, sadly, the Rector’s retirement wasn’t marked in the way that had been planned; we haven’t yet been able to hold a special service to bid Michael and Amanda farewell.
Normally when retiring, a priest would vacate the property supplied with the job but, due to the Coronavirus outbreak, Michael and Amanda had no opportunity to search for a property for their retirement. Therefore, Michael was granted permission to stay at the Rectory in Tarrant Hinton until such time as they could move to their new home. Fortunately, as the lockdown eased, a suitable property was found, so Michael and Amanda will move out of the Rectory once the purchase of their new home in Colehill has been finalised, hopefully in early September.
When the Rector retired, the Chase Benefice moved into a period of ‘interregnum’, whilst it is decided how the parishes will be organised in the future. This means that the Chase Benefice doesn’t have a priest at the moment. During the interregnum, the Rural Dean, the Revd Justin Pottinger, has oversight of the activity of each church in the Benefice, whilst churchwardens and PCCs continue to look after our churches. All the churches in the benefice work closely together and the Benefice Council meets with the Rural Dean every 6 weeks to discuss the management of the benefice and to provide mutual support.
In common with a number of dioceses, the Diocese of Salisbury needs to cut down on its spending. Vacancies in the Chase Benefice and Blandford Forum Benefice should help this process and enable the diocese to consider reorganisation in the local area (the Deanery). Consultation on reorganisation proposals in the Milton & Blandford Deanery have been halted by Coronavirus. However, the Diocese will shortly be advertising a House for Duty post and the successful applicant will live in Tarrant Hinton Rectory for a period of up to two years. A House for Duty is not a full-time post; the priest appointed will be on duty for Sundays and 1 or 2 other days in the week and will have a role across the Deanery, not solely in the Chase Benefice.
Meanwhile the parishes of Gussage St Michael and Gussage All Saints have expressed a wish to join the Cranborne Benefice, so may be leaving the Chase Benefice. (See more information on the Gussage pages) The parishes that remain will eventually learn what is to happen, although it does look as though what remains of the Chase Benefice will be split up after many years of working together.
As churches are allowed to reopen for worship, we are planning to hold one service a month in each church initially. We are grateful to the Lay Ministers for taking these services and to Revd Foster for taking occasional services in his capacity as a retired priest.
If you have any questions about the day-to-day administration of the Chase Benefice or need support from the church, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me.
With kind regards
Chase Benefice Administrator