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Between now and the end of the year we will be hosting a number of Bishops including the current and past Archbishop of Wales.

We welcome back Dr Rowan Williams on Saturday December 16th for the Vision of Hope Carol Service. A former Archbishop of Canterbury & Wales, Dr Williams is Patron of this charity which works with ex-offendors.Based on Wenallt Farm near Gilwern, the Vision of Hope Animal Assisted Therapy project is run by Dinah Sansome and her husband David.They have opened up their home and farm so young people with substance misuse issues and former offenders can benefit from on-site treatment and therapy relating to the care of animals. This will be the third year we have hosted this service.

Also returning for the third time for their Carol Service are St John in Gwent. On December 4th the current Archbishop of Wales, who is  a Sub Prelate of the Order of St John will preach at the service at which St John Badgers  and Cadets will read the Christmas Lessons.

On the Feast of Christ the King (November 26th) we welcome the Bishop of Cyprus and the Gulf. He will Preach at the Patronal Festival of our daughter church Christchurch at 9.30am and here at the Priory Church at 11am.

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Bishop of Cyprus and the Gulf with our Royal Patron

For our Advent series of Sermons on Bishops and the Sacraments we  will welcome: The Bishop of Monmouth, Bishop Dominic Walker OGS, and Bishop Roger Jubb (Superior of the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament) .

  • December 3: Bishop Dominic Walker OGS ( author on Healing Ministry) on Healing
  • December 10: Christmas Food Festival
  • 17: Bishop Roger Jupp (Superior-General of the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament) on The Holy Eucharist
  • December 24: Bishop Richard (Ministry Bishop of the Church in Wales) on Ordination..

The Bishop of Monmouth will also be with us on November 21st for the ceremonies in the Lewis Chapel.  This weekend (October 21st) we welcome the Bishop of Wakfield. 

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We will host the Credo Cymru Festival of Faith on Saturday afternoon, October 21st.

During the Festival there will be presentations from the Additional Curates Society and from a number of Religious Communities. Proceedings will start with the Mass at 12noon at which the Principal Celebrant and Preacher will be the Bishop of Wakefield ( Chairman of the Society’s Council of Bishops).

Again this November we shall be pausing to Remember 

All Souls

On November 2nd at 6.30pm we will have a Requiem Eucharist to remember those whose Funerals we have conducted this year, along with the departed loved ones of our regular Congregation.

Remembranctide

Parish Clergy will be leading Acts of Remembrance at 11am on November 11th at the Town’s War Memorial and in the Castle grounds. Two days earlier Fr Mark will have lead an Act of Remembrance at Kings Henry VIII’s School, and on Friday he will mark Remembrance at County Hall, Usk.

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On Remembrance Sunday Fr Mark will lead the Town’s Act of Remembrance, while in the Priory Church the main Morning Service will start at 10.50am to allow their to be an Act of Remembrance.

International Abolition of Violence Against Women Day

We will host the Gwent WI Service  to mark International Abolition of Violence Against Women Day on November 24th.

 

 

 

Fr Tom Bates our new Sub Prior and Associate Priest preached at St Mary’s Priory three times today, his first 11am Sermon is published in full.

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Fr Tom said:

Receiving an invitation is exciting! Indeed, receiving any piece of post that is not a bill is exciting, but an invitation especially so. An invitation can be a means by which we receive some news: It may be some good news: perhaps a couple we love have decided to get married, or are having a baby, and want to share their joy with us. Perhaps someone we know is receiving an honour or an award, or graduating and is inviting us to celebrate their achievement. We hurriedly look through our diary to save the date so that we can be a part of that joyful celebration. Indeed it is increasingly popular now-a-days for couples to send out ‘save the date’ cards. A kind of pre-invitation invitation: That really heightens the excitement, because you know then that an invitation is on its way to you, and you start checking the post and looking out for it. And what will it be? How will that couple choose to celebrate their love? What exciting things will you be able to have to eat? Will you need to buy a new hat? All the questions and possibilities that can come from an invitation.

However, sometimes we receive invitations we don’t like to receive so much. We call these ‘reminders’. Perhaps the dentist will be ‘inviting’ us to grace their chair, or from the accountant ‘inviting’ us to come for a meeting, or from our boss ‘inviting’ us for an appraisal. Perhaps we are not so keen to put those dates in our diary.

And then there are those invitations we’re not so sure about. Great aunt Ethel’s tea party: We wish her well, but we could do without those whiskery, lipstick heavy kisses.

The themed family barbecue with obligatory dress code of Hawaian shirts and Bermuda shorts. Or those invitations where you suspect you may only have been invited out of courtesy. Do you accept, or decline?

So we have three categories of invitation: the immediate ‘yes’, the impulsive ‘no way’ or the indecisive ‘perhaps’…

The parable Jesus tells in today’s gospel is all about an invitation, and an exciting one at that. A king is throwing a wedding feast. It’s not every day one receives an invitation from a king, and receiving a ‘royal’ invitation places this in a league of its own.

This is the third week now we have heard Jesus preaching in the temple. The gospel reading falls in the context of Holy Week, when Jesus has entered Jerusalem in triumph amid cries of ‘Hosanna’, and the chief priests and the elders are turning out every day to try and find out if this man is either mad, bad or dangerous to know. They are becoming more and more incensed at these parables as Jesus rides rough shod into Jerusalem and sits in the temple telling the ‘holiest’ people that tax collectors and prostitutes are going to enter the kingdom of heaven before them. He has told them to their faces that they are like the son who rushed into the vineyard and shirked off, forgetting the purpose to having a vineyard in the first place, not working towards the harvest or creating that new wine which is the new life of the kingdom.

Jesus has told them that they are wicked tenants who want to use the vineyard for feathering their own nest, excluding others rather than bringing new life to ALL people.

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Fr Tom also Celebrated & Preached at the All Age Eucharist today

And finally, today, he tells them that they are rejecting God. His purpose is not outright judgement but a challenge for us all to change our lives and not to live like the lack-a-daisical son, or the wicked tenants, or the conceited guests, but his parables tell us that he knows his fate that will come at the end of the week. He knows that teaching these truths, giving it to the chief priests and elders straight, will lead him to the cross. They would rather kill the truth than repent and change their wicked ways. Jesus’ judgement on them is not condemnation. It is a warning. An opportunity for repentance. But they ignore it. They are happier with their distortion of God’s truth, than with the wonder of what it really means. Jesus’ parables are clear: the kingdom of heaven is good news for all people, not just a few. Yet instead of repenting they subvert what rightly belongs to the poor, the lowly, and the sinner.

The image Jesus uses today is clear: If the entitled have missed the point of God’s saving love, and taken it for granted, then he will bypass them and go straight out to the poor and needy. The invitation we receive from God is an invitation to relationship, love and forgiveness. It is the covenant relationship that is referred to in the psalm which tells us how God will accompany us as a shepherd guiding us into the fullness of life which he promises to all people. But how will you respond to that invitation? The chief priests and elders of the people declined. They thought God’s goodness and mercy were theirs by right. Paul encourages the Philippians to accept: send your RSVP by return of post: ‘by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God’. To what end? ‘That the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.’

So the people on the streets have been granted a place at the feast that was reserved for the entitled. However we encounter an unsettling codicil to this story: the man without a wedding garment.

When we receive an invitation to a party there may be a dresscode. The dresscode tells us something about the ethos of the party. A family barbecue may be advertised as ‘Hawaian themed’, and you may stick out like a sore thumb if you went there in your best wedding clothes (you may get ribbed by your family and labelled something of a Hyacinth Bucket). But if you went to a wedding in fancy dress, against the dresscode on the invitation then you are signalling your unwillingness to participate in the celebration to which you have been invited. Instead of celebrating the love your hosts have found as a gracious guest, you are making yourself the focus of attention.

The moral here is also clear: Jesus invites all people into the covenant relationship with the Father in the Kingdom, yet the only way into the kingdom is by following Jesus. God has invited us all to the banquet, and the dresscode is Jesus: to literally ‘put on Christ’. The trespasser in the parable has not entered into the ethos of the feast, the ethos of Christ, and therefore cannot remain. ‘For many are called but few are chosen’.

That is to say that all are invited to the feast, but few are committed to the ethos of the kingdom. So, how will you respond to this invitation? Will you rush to change what is not the ethos of Christ in your life? Or will you put the King’s invitation on the mantelpiece and go off to your farm, or about your business?

I wonder if you have ever had the frustration of putting a lot of effort into an event, or a meal only to have your guests cancel on you, or find that nobody turns up. It’s very frustrating, and hurtful. It can feel like people don’t care. When the food goes to waste the cost falls on the shoulders of the host. However the feast to which God invites us has already been paid for. He has humbled himself, emptied himself on the cross, and given up everything to pay the price so that we can come to feast with him in his kingdom. Who loses out if we don’t accept? All are invited, but we must choose to come.

The Bishop of Monmouth will dedicate the new Lewis Chapel Altar to St Joseph on Tuesday, November 21st (the 6th Anniversary of Dean Jeremy Winston’s Death). The Bishop is also expected to Bless the new plinth for the Jesse effigy at that service.

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Artists impression

The Altar and Plinth was made by Joachim Tantuar a honours graduate from The Prince of Wales School of Traditional Art.

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Joachim at work on the plinth

Fr Mark commented,”It has been decided to Dedicate the Chapel and Altar to St Jospeh as he was the Husband or our Patron Saint, The Blessed Virgin Mary and a descendant of Jesse.  Interestingly Mary’s father was called Joachim, as is the designer of the Altar.”

Holywell Community

Preaching at the Service of Evensong at which Fr Tom Bates was Licensed as a Cleric within the Abergavenny Team the Bishop of of Monmouth, our Episcopal Visitor took 1 John 2:24-25 as his text.

Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is what he has promised us, eternal life.

FrTom Our Sub Prior, Fr Tom

Bishop Richard said:

In a shifting world it would seem hard to find rock solid certainties. Images are manipulated.  False news created and it seems you can tweet what ever you want!

What can you believe, and who can you trust?  The first letter of John reflects on the nature of truth and how it relates to our Christian faith. His views are non negotiable.  Jesus reveals the nature of God…

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Preaching at our Harvest Thanksgiving Service this morning Fr Mark Lawson-Jones, Mission to Seafarers Chaplain for South Wales said, “There is something of the beauty of God in a ministry which drives us from the comfort of our own surroundings to meet those in need of any kind”.

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Fr Mark’s full address :

John Steinbeck wrote; “A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find that after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us”. 

It was not long after I started to work for the Mission to Seafarers’ that I read these words of John Steinbeck. They then proceeded to float around in my thoughts for a few weeks. This was largely due to the fact I had started a new journey myself, far from the usual steady pace of parish life, and it felt as if the journey was in control.

After seventeen years of ministry with the Church in Wales, finally as Rector of Cyncoed in Cardiff, and Area Dean of Bassaleg, the sense of being taken by the journey, called to something different – and all these far from the certainties and norms of parish life.

Of course, most of my clergy friends believed I had some sort of mid-life-clerical crisis, one commented that he thought I should have just ‘bought a sports car or motorbike’ like the rest of them, and be done with it.

So, 100 days later, as a priest with permission to officiate throughout Wales, and as the South Wales Port Chaplain for the Mission to Seafarers’, the journey continues. Each day I put on my steel toe-capped boots, my safety glasses, hard hat and hi-viz equipment, a life jacket, and most importantly, my clerical shirt, then I climb aboard the Merchant Shipping in seven ports in South Wales. I meet the officers and crew of who bring us 95% of the imports we enjoy, whilst taking away our exports, which serves this economy of our island nation.

We remember the current Merchant Navy on Sea Sunday, and also those who gave their lives during wartime on Merchant Navy Day. Today, this his special time of the year, Harvest Thanksgiving, is an equally perfect time to think about the Harvest of the world, brought to us, and those who work in dangerous and difficult conditions. Food, wood, steel, feed for animals and fuel. I have even visited a ship in Cardiff delivering Cat Litter from Tunisia, if you’d ever wondered where that came from. It has been quite a voyage of discovery for me as I travel the M4 each day, not quite knowing what I will learn.

Then there are those other Seafarers’, the crew of the TRINITY HOUSE vessels, who maintain the safety and security of our shipping lanes and Lighthouses, the crew of the Balmoral and other vessels that take us to sea for pleasure, and the crews of tug boats, pilot boats and supply vessels. Each day of my journey brings something new.

As Annual Diocesan returns, Clergy Chapter and Faculty Applications disappear over the horizon of my memory, I value the quote about the journey somehow taking us, not us taking the journey – however, the 100 days has told me that this quote serves seafarers better than it serves me.

Imagine, if you will, standing on the deck of a ship looking out over the hidden landscapes of our coastal towns and cities, those places where the public no longer wish to (or cannot venture) your journey is not simply measured in distance between ports, continents and nations visited, but in the way the journey itself has informed you about life, faith and humanity. This is the life of a seafarer.

Steinbeck’s keen social perception of being ‘taken by a journey’ is present for seafarers’ in their daily lives. Older seafarers who are forced to return to sea to support their families, because their children and grandchildren can’t find work in their own land; or younger seafarers, full of excitement as they visit new lands for the first time, have all told me that there is a ‘different way’ of thinking about life when at sea.

Close to the beautiful and terrifying power of creation, far from the assurances of family life at home, seafarers rarely know what the next day might bring. It is common for seafarers to have no knowledge of where the ship is sailing next, until the current cargo has been loaded and the ship is leaving port.

For us ashore this would be a disaster, as we place our events and appointments in diaries which stretch into the next weeks and months. Those of us ashore seek certainties in our lives, if nothing else to give an illusion of control. It is not so for seafarers. As the days remaining in their contracts count down, time and waiting feature prominently.

 

I have found myself taking souvenirs on board ships for seafarers; fridge magnets, postcards and badges, anything that represents the nation, city or port. Initially, I thought this was just a hobby for a few seafarers who collected such things. Recently, I discovered that these have a much more important task, they are to mark the passing of time, reminding seafarers of where they have been, so that the days, weeks and months don’t become a blur. A wise and almost mystic chief engineer said “If you can’t remember where you’ve been, the journey seems to be never-ending.”

The work of the Mission to Seafarers’ is much more than distributing information about ports, transporting seafarers to city centres or helping with mobile phone top-ups, it is a ministry of presence, a priest being there and listening. Beyond the barriers of culture and language, there is that shared humanity – we visit to hear of their journey, physically, mentally and spiritually. It is a ministry of advocacy also; if seafarers’ rights are denied, then we act on their behalf to engage the correct authorities. It is common pay to be late or not appear at all, ships can be arrested leaving them thousands of miles from home.

Mental ill-health is common amongst seafarers’ and is difficult to spot – over 2000 seafarers commit suicide each year, taken with the dangerous working conditions, it is one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. Then there is the fear of piracy, which is increasingly common. Cultural differences mean that some might be less likely to explain how they feel, for some the concept of pastoral care is distant on their own difficult and dangerous journey, for others the challenges of the job mean that some have little time to speak. The role of chaplain is one that takes time and patience if we are to serve seafarers well.

There is something of the beauty of God in a ministry which drives us from the comfort of our own surroundings to meet those in need of any kind, never quite knowing what we will find. There is also something of God’s purpose in seeking out those who serve us well, although we rarely acknowledge their service.

There is also something very British about the work of the Mission to Seafarers’, with Her Majesty the Queen as our Patron and the Princess Royal as our President, whenever Seafarers’ tie up on our shores, they are greeted by an Anglican Priest, in safety gear, enquiring after their welfare, with port information, newspapers, knitted hats and doughnuts or Welsh Cakes, I find these are always well received. If you visit Wales, you must have Welsh Cakes.

There are many ways people help in supporting the work of the Mission; Prayer, knitting, becoming an accredited ship visitor or by other donations, which are always gratefully received. If anyone has a few dozen Welsh Cakes, I can certainly cheer up some seafarers before they sail across the oceans on high water tomorrow.

So, Steinbeck said, “We find that after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us”.  Of course, to perceive this, you won’t be surprised that this Nobel Prize winning writer was a lifelong Anglican, from cradle to grave and all points along his journey.

St. Luke’s Gospel speaks to us of God’s bountiful provision for us here in Britain. Christ also implores us not to worry about such things. However, at Harvest Thanksgiving as we thank God for his loving kindness to us, we should always be mindful of those who serve us, those we never see, but without whom life as we know it would be impossible.

May we all, in our own journeys feel the presence of God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit.