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The 70th Anniversary of VE Day will be marked at the Priory Church as part of the nationwide celebrations. Our bells will ring out with Cathedral and church bells across the UK from 11am on May 9th.

On Saturday, May 9th – We welcome Abergavenny Borough Band with Youth Band & Choir in a Celebration of VE Day.

The Borough Band Celebrating the 70th Anniversary of D Day

The Borough Band Celebrating the 70th Anniversary of D Day

The Sub Prior & Bishop’s Chaplain Deacon Sarah Gillard-Faulkner preached at Evensong on Ester day following after the Bishop who preached over the Triduum.

Well like any good Bishop’s Chaplain, here I am bringing up the rear! For those of you who are wondering if I’m being totally rude, I’m not, as in any procession of clergy the Bishops Chaplain, which I am, is always the last in.   It has been a tremendous time spent with our Bishop remembering and celebrating what is the heart of our faith as Christian people.

For unlike any other faith ours is one that proclaims and lives by the passion of our Lord and his resurrection. His passion paying the price for our sin and his resurrection giving us hope and the promise of eternity.

But fundamentally what is the point in all this fuss? What is the point in spending a week of the year running round like idiots from service to service? So that ultimately we can be changed by these happenings.

Deacon Sarah preaching at 9.30am

Deacon Sarah preaching at 9.30am

St Paul in the passage we heard from his second letter to the Corinthians tells them that Christ’s death and resurrection is a big change in the landscape of life. The happenings in Jerusalem on that first Holy Week, the news of the resurrection is the Good News that changes the way in which we should see things. These events then, and even so now, give us a new way in which to live. Paul challenges the Corinthians that they should be living cheerfully in this knowledge. For Saint Paul it has changed the way he looks at things from the old order of Judaism to the new life now found in the risen Lord.

The Jews had expected the Messiah to be some purely human king who would conquer the enemies of God, build the temple of god, and establish a purely human kingdom. All such dreams must come to dust; that’s what Jesus’ death and resurrection has taught Paul. The way to the true kingdom is through death, and out the other side into God’s new world.

So if we put together what he has learnt about other people and what he’s learned bout he Messiah, we get what he says in verse 17 one of the great summaries of what Christianity is all about: “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation:” – the new creation he talks about is a reference to both the person concerned and to the world in which they enter, the world which, through his death has been reconciled to the creator.

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What has happened in and through Christ is not a matter of God claiming a world that didn’t belong to him, or making a new one out of nothing, rather it is about God reconciling, to himself his own world, his beautiful and beloved creation, after the long years of corruption and decay.

But it goes a little further than that for us. Because we have been created and called in our discipleship to ensure that others know about the amazing cost and gift that awaits us because of this sacrifice and resurrection. We are called to life our lives in the new happening, to be the Beacon’s of this light and truth.

One of the joys and privileges I as a Deacon of God’s church get each and every Easter is to proclaim the resurrection and to carry the light of Christ in the paschal candle. I have to say I’m paying physically a little for it today, however, we all have been charged with the showing the way of light into the darkness of our world.

We are to be that glorious new way of life in our world of today. I’m always perplexed when I see people on a Sunday leaving church some what sad and down. We have an amazing faith to proclaim that says there is hope, there is light even in darkness.

Christ has paid the price of sin so that we can live lives of hope and light. So as the physical sun of today fades and night comes into being leave this place rejoicing in the new way that Christ has given us, so that all people may know that he is risen from the dead and that life forever is changed.

Alleluia Christ is risen!

He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

In Lent we looked at the Celtic Saints :

The Bishop of St Asaph, Rt Revd Dr Gregory Cameron  preached about Ss Asaph & Kentigern

Bishop of St Asaph

Bishop of St Asaph

Tonight I want to take you to the far north away to the twinned city of St Asaph and beyond. The City of St Asaph is one on Britain’s newest cities, created by the Queen as part of the celebration of her Diamond Jubilee but a few years ago. We have already gained a twinned city; not surprisingly the City of Glasgow in Scotland. You can immediately see why these two cities have been twinned, they are so alike. Glasgow that great metropolis, the largest city in Scotland; St Asaph equal in size and majesty. Glasgow the host of two great football clubs and St Asaph, the home of St Asaph United, for the over 14’s.

These two cities are twinned because they are founded by the same person. In the Age of the Saints, one of the remarkable Saints of the sixth century was Saint Kentigern; Saint Cyndeyrn as we say in Welsh. Here was a Saint so renowned for his miracles and for his work that he became known more by his nickname than his real name, known to the Scots as St Mungo, which means “the beloved”. It was Kentigern or Mungo who founded the monastery on the banks of the Clyde River in Scotland, and who founded a monastery on the banks of the Clwyd River in North Wales. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that the river names are so similar.

Kentigern was of course a Welsh Saint. In the sixth century the Scots did not live in Scotland but in Ireland, and the Welsh lived in Scotland with the Picts. It was a Welsh kingdom, the kingdom of Strathclyde, in which Kentigern lived and bore witness. The stories tell us he was driven out by a king who he had upset and he fled for his own safety to St David, who sent him to the north east of Wales, that most pagan and licentious area, in order to preach the Gospel to the north Welsh, a difficult task indeed.

Kentigern founded a monastery at Llanelwy, at Saint Asaph, and brought it to enormous fruitfulness, living there for 30 years, until at last he was summoned back to the Kingdom of Strathclyde, and left behind his favourite pupil, his deacon Asaph, whom he identified to become the first native Bishop of the See.

St Mungo's Cathedral, Glasgow

St Mungo’s Cathedral, Glasgow

If ever you go to Glasgow you will find the influence of Kentigern or Mungo throughout the city. He is remembered with great affection and with great respect. Even the city’s coat of arms bears reference to the ministry of Mungo. These are his devices: “the tree which never grew and the bird which never flew, the bell that never rang and the fish that never swam”.

The fish is actually quite important, because one of the great stories told of Kentigern was about a fishing expedition the he undertook. The King of Strathclyde, it is retold, probably the very king that exiled him, was angry with his wife. He had given his wife a great and beautiful diamond ring, the sort of present that loving husbands like to give to their wives. However, foul rumours reached his ears: his wife was having an affair and she had given away her ring to her lover. So the king went to see his queen and said ‘At the next feast, I want to see you at the banquet wearing that ring as evidence of your fidelity’.

There was, the legend says, only one problem; the queen had lost the ring. She went to St Kentigern in a state of some distress and Kentigern took the lady fishing. They caught a fish and as they split it open to cook it for their tea, what should they find inside the fish, but the diamond ring, and all was well.

There is a difficulty with this story. In north Wales we tell exactly the same story but about St Asaph. It is about St Asaph and Maelgwyn, King of Gwynedd. It was his queen who was given the ring, it was this queen who was charged with adultery, this queen who was taken on the fishing expedition by Asaph. It was Asaph who found the ring inside the fish, which is why the symbol of our Cathedral to this day is the fish holding the ring in its mouth.

What is going on here? Here is a story told about St Kentigern in Scotland and a story which is repeated almost word for word about St Asaph in North Wales. Could it be that those outrageous Scots have stolen a Welsh legend and adopted it for their Saint? Might it even be the other way around?

The truth is that many of the stories of the saints are told about different saints. Perhaps you’ve heard a story of the Saint who went hunting and in a forest nearly captured a wild hart, but he received a vision of the cross of Christ between the antlers and decided to spare the noble beast. That of course was Saint Giles, or was it Saint Hubert? Or was it Saint Edmund? The same story is told about three different saints. I could go on, regaling for the whole evening, in a way which I’m sure you’d be delighted to receive, about stories of saints, told about one, swapped with another, stolen by a third, repeated about a fourth.

There are those historians who would say that you must treat the whole thing with a healthy dose of scepticism. All these stories are convenient myths: they are stolen for one saint or another by their hagiographers. They’re there to entertain and to instruct and no-one ever imagined that the stories reported in one ancient manuscript would one day become available to and compared by all and sundry through the internet. Indeed, there are some who would say everything I have told you so far about Kentigern and Asaph and their adventures and their foundations were invented by Geoffrey of Monmouth. Geoffrey was a resident of Monmouthshire who went on to become Bishop of St Asaph. Where have I heard that story before? It’s said that in the 12th Century Geoffrey of Monmouth was eager to show how his diocese was actually of ancient foundation, and he made up the whole story of Kentigern and Asaph to show how ancient his see really was.

St Asaph Cathedral

St Asaph Cathedral

At this rate you might be leaving the church this evening wondering whether the Bishop of St Asaph believes in anything at all. But you see for me, in some ways, the stories of the saints are not important, in the sense of their historical truth. The stories of the saints are important because they are there to remind us what sainthood is about. The actual stories may or may not have happened, the actual stories may have been true of one saint or another, but the truth is that the memory of the saints were cherished because they all bore witness to the same things. And the witness that they bore was to the mercy of God and the justice of God.

Look again at that story of the queen and her lost ring. When she was in a right pickle, where did she go for friendship and acceptance and encouragement? To the local Holy Man. That’s why all the Saints of the Dark Ages are remembered, whether it be David or Teilo or Woolos or Euddogwy or Samson or Cybi or Asaph or Kentigern. They were beloved by their people because the saints were people who opened their hearts to all who came to them, whatever their troubles, whatever their goals, whatever their sins. The mark of a holy man is the ability to know that you can go to that holy man or woman, and be accepted for the sake of God: not judged nor condemned, but liberated and affirmed as a child of our loving Heavenly Father.

The mercy of God – and the justice of God as well is revealed for our lady queen in the story. She was in danger of a grave injustice, of being found guilty of an adultery that she had not committed. It was Asaph or Kentigern who was willing to stand up for the truth and for justice and was ready to speak the truth to power. That is another of the truths which is common to the stories of the Saints; that they worked unceasingly for justice and for the cause of truth. One of the fascinating things told about some of the Saints of the Kingdom of Powys is their readiness to stand up to wild Kings. We are accustomed to thinking, for example, of King Arthur as the very model of the perfect chivalric man. That one was actually down to Geoffrey of Monmouth as well. However, if you read the stories of Arthur in the oldest Welsh legends, Arthur is actually a bit of a rogue, a bit of a bandit, and it is the saints of God who must so often keep him in line.

So what is it that binds this noble company of Saints together? What is it that is the common golden thread between all those Saints about who we will learn this Lent? It is the truth that they were a source of the loving affirmation of God’s grace and care. They are remembered and their memory cherished because they stood up for truth and for justice in the society of their day.

Therein is the key to sainthood. Therein I might suggest is actually our vocation as Christians today. Is the Christian Church of today known as a place where, if people have troubles, they can come and be welcomed? Not judged, not condemned, not found wanting, but embraced by the love of God: a love so profound that His Son stretched out His arms upon the cross that He might draw all men and women to Him. Is the Christian community a place where the most needy and the most hopeless can be affirmed and find love? And is the Christian Church today a place where the disciples of the Lord will stand up for justice and truth?

As it was for holiness in the Age of the Saints, so it is for holiness in our own day. For if we would bear witness to the love and glory of God, if you would like the reputation of our church to be cherished and remembered with affection, then let us be bearers of God’s mercy and let us be advocates of God’s justice.

 

St Samson of Dole

St Samson of Dole

St Samson of Dole

To talk of St Sampson [485-c565] is to speak of Celtic solidarity. The Celtic peoples of the far west of Europe, according to recent DNA tests, have far less in common with one another than the Anglo-Saxon peoples of the East of England and Scotland. However, the Celts did have a religious identity of their own. In Church matters they had much in common with the Eastern Orthodox, which meant that they celebrated Easter according to a different calendar from that of Rome and their monks wore a different tonsure from that found in the Roman church. Canon G.H. Doble, who wrote the standard work on the Celtic Saints, reminds us that down the centuries it has been the Welsh language and the Christian religion which have held the people of Wales together. Sampson served this Celtic Christian identity outside Scotland, sometimes ruling as an Abbot, sometimes simply praying, sometimes evangelising and performing the sacramental ministry of a Celtic Bishop. His vocation was to meet various needs wherever he saw them and that surely is the object of all Christian ministry.

Sources for his life unfortunately are the not totally reliable Celtic lives of saints [dating his own life, possibly the earliest of them, remains a matter for controversy] and the even less reliable twelfth century Liber Llandavensis. Nevertheless all these sources speak of a thoroughly remarkable man and it seems right to present him in terms selected from the various sources, in a way which gives coherence to his life. We thus can see him as great grandson of King Tewdric of Morgannwg, who had been martyred in battle with the English and buried at Mathern; as promising pupil of Saint Iltud at the educational establishment at Llantwit Major; and as a monk at Caldey, Llantwit’s daughter house, where he was ordained by the Abbot, Dubricius [Dyfryg]. Here an ancient inscription has been discovered in ogram, a system of lines and bars which served as written Welsh before the Latin alphabet was adopted. This inscription seems to speak of one who was the tonsured servant of Dubricius.

Caldey Abbey

Caldey Abbey

Jealous colleagues made an attempt on Sampson’s life, either as Llantwit or on Caldey. and eventually he left for Ireland to found or revive a monastery. He returned to Caldey as Abbot, but not for long. He set up a small community of prayer with his family on the banks of the Severn estuary, possibly at Mathern, seeking guidance as to his future ministry. Cornwall beckoned; then some islands; and after these, Britany and France. In such places dedications to his name tell of his presence. These places include Padstow, Golant in Cornwall, the now uninhabited isle of Samson in the Isles of Scilly and the town of St Samson in Guernsey’

However it was in Brittany, he made his greatest impact. It was at Dol, Privatus, a Gallo-Roman soldier gave him land for a monastery and here he became influential, intervening when he saw injustice in dynastic disputes and attending a council in Paris. He is regarded as one of the seven founding saints of Christian Brittany and his fame spread among the Anglo-Saxons. His relics, including an arm and a crozier, were in the 10th century, acquired by King Athelstan of Wessex for his monastery at Milton Abbas in Dorset.

There is confusion in his life, basically because so many wish to claim him as their own. Would that our service for Christ could have such an impact!                               ARW.

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Palm Sunday

8am Holy Eucharist            9.30am All Age Worship

11am Blessing of Palms, Procession & Sung Eucharist

6pm Evensong & Sermon

Holy Monday – Holy Tuesday CA7ZG6dWcAAoBic
7.30pm Holy Eucharist

Holy Wednesday
7.30pm Compline

The Bishop of Monmouth will Preside and Preach at Services over the Triduum

Maundy Thursday
7pm Mass of the Last Supper & Stripping the Altars
(The Sacrament is then Processed to Holy Trinity Church, Baker Street for the Watch of the Passion)

Good Friday
10am Ecumenical March of Witness (Town Centre)
12noon Stations of the Cross (Christchurch, North St.)
2pm The Last Hour
6pm Good Friday Liturgy
7pm Choir Sing Schuman’s Requiem

Easter Eve
8pm Paschal Vigil   holy-week

Easter Day
8am Holy Eucharist
9.30am All Age Worship
11am Sung Eucharist

The Parish of Evander Seconda between Johannesburg and Swaziland will be the new link Parish for St Mary’s Priory Church. Canon Mark Soady welcoming the news writes, “I have had pleasure in writing to my twin parish Priest Fr Barnard (Archdeacon of Igwa West) to introduce me and the parish. I have very fond memories of welcoming the previous two Bishop’s of the Highveld to the priory church and look forward to welcoming him soon. From my visit to the Highveld I know they have much they can teach us, I look forward to working with them”.

Fr Mark & Bishop Dominic on a vist to a Highveld Board of Responsibility Project.

Fr Mark & Bishop Dominic on a vist to a Highveld Board of Responsibility Project.

Between 2002 -2013 St Mary’s Priory Church was linked to the Cathedral in the Highveld.

Sir Trefor Morris explains the plans for the Jesse to the then  Bishop of the High veld

Sir Trefor Morris explains the plans for the Jesse to the then Bishop of the High veld

The Feast of the Annunciation  (March 25th) will be marked on Wednesday as one of our Patronal feasts BVM

10.00am Celebration of the Holy Eucharist

12noon – 4pm Welsh Blood Donor Clinic – give something of yourself as the Blessed Virgin did.

 

The Ministry Team and Parish Officials will celebrate  with Lunch at Kentchurch Court  Fr. Mark said, “This is an opportunity for us to give thanks to those who like Mary said yes when they were called by God to a task – a task which the wider worshiping community and town get the benefit of”.

THE PCC (Trustees) of the St Mary’s Abergavenny Parochial Charity have adopted the report below as their official account of  the Charity’s activities in 2014.

Bishop & Vicar / Prior

Vicar / Prior & Bishop

THE PARISH OF ABERGAVENNY

PAROCHIAL CHURCH COUNCIL

Charity number: 1137751

Annual Report and Financial Statements

for the year ending 31 December 2014

Trustees’ report

The trustees have pleasure in presenting their report and the financial statements of the charity for the year ending 31 December 2014. The organisational structure, administration details and governance of the charity are set out later in this report while the activities of the church form the first part.

 

Summary

This year saw a return to the Priory’s monastic roots, with the formation of the Holywell Community, young people who follow the spirit of the Rule of St Benedict to serve both Church and the wider community. It is the first such monastic community to be established at St Mary’s since the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII.

 

The year was again a busy one for the Parish with regular and special services, distinguished visiting preachers, awards, new technology, concerts and visitors from all over the world who came to see the renowned medieval monuments. An estimated 5,000 youngsters from local schools and their teachers, friends and families visited St Mary’s for Christmas and Christingle services. There was also a visit by former Archbishop of Canterbury, the Rt Revd Dr Rowan Williams, during which members of the audience had the chance to quiz him on a wide range of subjects.

 

Activities

The range of activities for St Mary’s with Christchurch can be split broadly into three categories – worship, prayer and pastoral care; mission and outreach; and fundraising, fellowship and hosting events.

 

Worship, prayer and pastoral care

The Revd Canon Mark Soady continues to serve St Mary’s Priory Church and its daughter church Christchurch as Vicar; St Peter’s, Llanwenarth Citra, as Rector; and Holy Trinity Church, Abergavenny, as Priest-in-Charge. This year, he was also appointed Area Dean of Abergavenny Deanery and, in November, installed as a Canon of Newport Cathedral.

 

Canon Soady, Dean & Bishop

Canon Soady at his Installation with the Dean & Bishop

The major event of the year was the establishment of the Holywell Community, inaugurated by the Bishop of Monmouth, the Rt Revd Richard Pain, in September, with Canon Soady as the Prior. The Community has started gently with two members – Ami Pope and Sam Patterson. They work both in the Church and the wider community, running all-age worship, visiting schools, evangelising through a radio show (on the local Hospital radio), and volunteering at a centre for young people in the town and at the Little Footprints playgroup. The Community is based in what was previously the Curate’s House and already owned by the Parish.

 

In November, the Parish and the Community welcomed the Revd Sarah Gillard-Faulkner as Sub-Prior and as Deacon of Abergavenny.

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As well as the usual weekday and Sunday worship during the year, Canon Soady has organised and/or presided over a number of special services and events:

  • In January, a Mass was said for Charles, King & Martyr, using the 1662 service – it was at St Mary’s that Charles is said to have held his last Court.
  • Also in January , schoolchildren from King Henry VIII Comprehensive and Cantref Primary Schools, Abergavenny, came to St Mary’s to commemorate Holocaust Day, when victims of The Holocaust and subsequent ethnic cleansings were remembered;
  • During Lent a series of Evensong addresses saw a number of people whose jobs are sometimes derided talk about how their Christianity informs and affects their working lives. Speakers included a policeman, a politician, a solicitor, a doctor and a journalist;
  • In the 100th anniversary of the start of the First Wold War, the Church hosted a special service for current and former members of the Armed Forces;
  • In March, two programmes in the BBC Radio Wales Celebration series were recorded;
  • In June, the Church co-organised a D-Day concert with Abergavenny Borough Band, members of St Mary’s Choir and youngsters from Llanfoist Primary School. As well as music from the 1940s, the event saw the world premiere of Lest We Forget, a work for Band, off-stage buglers and the spoken word, written by Lewis Wilkinson;
  • The Civic Services for both Abergavenny Town Council and Monmouthshire County Council were held in St Mary’s;
  • In October, the congregations gave thanks for the bounty which the earth brings at their Harvest Thanksgiving services, raising money for the Barnabas Fund as they did so;
  • In November, the Bishop of Monmouth confirmed seven people from the Parish ;
  • Also in November, the All Souls Mass, Remembrance Day and the Road Peace service commemorating those killed or injured in road crashes, took place;
  • In December, there were more joyous occasions as local schools used the church for their Christingle and Christmas services – over 5,000 youngsters, their families and teachers visiting the church in the space of a week.

 

Mayor arrives for his Civic Service

Mayor arrives for his Civic Service

As well as these special services, we continued to try to enable ordinary people to live out their faith as part of our parish community through:

 

  • Worship and prayer, learning about the Gospel, and developing their knowledge and trust in Jesus.
  • Provision of pastoral care for people living in the parish
  • Mission and outreach work.

 

Acts of worship were carried out on almost every day of the year, and pastoral care continued through, in particular, the visiting of, and on occasions taking Communion to, parishioners who through sickness or age were unable to come to church. The average attendance at the main Services at the churches was 150, and the number reported to be recorded on the Electoral Roll for both churches on 31 December 2014 was 260 (2013: 266).

 

In addition to our regular services, we enable our community to celebrate and thank God in the milestones of the journey through life. Through baptism, we thank God for the gift of life, in marriage public vows are exchanged with God’s blessing and through funeral services friends and family express their grief and give thanks for the life which is now complete in this world and to commit their loved one into God’s keeping. This year, the Vicar celebrated 24 baptisms, celebrated 16 weddings in the Parish , and took over 50 funerals in his Incumbency

 

Eucharistic services were held at care and nursing homes and retirement complexes in the town throughout the year, as well as carol singing in the town centre, at the care homes and in pubs.

 

Ecumenically, the parish shared services of Compline and Stations of the Cross with the Roman Catholic Church of Our Lady and St Michael’s, Abergavenny, during Lent, as well as participating fully in the Abergavenny Council of Churches. The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Cardiff, the Rt Revd George Stack, preached at the Advent Carol Service at the end of November.

 

Mission and outreach work

The year saw church members looking even further outward in their mission and outreach, including:

  • The Holywell Community working in Church, Schools and among young people of the town;
  • Again running a marriage preparation course, with 10 couples exploring their relationship and what marriage will mean to them;
  • Members of our Mothers Union volunteering at a contact centre for children suffering family break-up, which opened this year in Abergavenny;
  • The Mothers Union also helping to buy goods for people being re-housed locally; and collecting baby items and food for asylum seekers in Newport;
  • Families who had suffered bereavement during the year being personally invited to the All Souls Service, with many taking up that invitation;
  • At Christmas, the congregations filling boxes with small items as part of the Shoe Box Appeal, sending more presents out to Eastern European countries than ever before;
  • Parishioners contributing staple foodstuffs and toiletries to the Abergavenny Food Bank, which opened its doors in the town this year;
  • The hosting of a weekly Alcoholics Anonymous meeting;
  • Members of the church continuing to be involved with the 7Corners project in Abergavenny, which aims to provide a place for young people to meet;
  • The large number of motorcyclists who meet at Abergavenny bus station on Saturdays and Sundays being invited to a Road Peace service to commemorate those who had died in road traffic accidents;
  • Members of the Mothers Union and other parishioners contributing to Velindre Cancer Care by knitting chicks for Easter, which were then sold in aid of the charity;
  • The Parish Fellowship also contributing over 30 Christmas parcels of items such as toiletries, gloves, and small gifts for older teenagers in Abergavenny who, through no fault of their own, are living by themselves, again an increase on last year’s total;
  • Contributing to the Bishop of Monmouth’s Lent Appeal.

 

Much of the parishes’ mission and outreach work was organised by the Abergavenny Anglican Churches Together group (AACT), established during 2012 and with members drawn from all four churches in Canon Soady’s incumbency  and co-ordinated through the Joint Warden’s Meetings.

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St Mary’s Priory Choir went on their annual Singing Week in July, providing the music at Evensong in Lichfield Cathedral, Malvern Priory and St Mary Redcliffe, Bristol. In April, our Director of Music Tim Pratt was awarded the Archbishop of Wales Award for Church Music. Mr Pratt wrote the Stabat Mater which the choir sang on Good Friday. They also sang with Westminster College Choir during their visit in May. The year was rounded off by the recording of a CD of music for Remembrance.

 

The choir continued to provide grants for Choral Scholars, providing training opportunities for young people of sixth form age, who might otherwise not either be involved in choral singing or come to church.

 

Members of the congregation again joined fellow pilgrims from all over the country for the annual Fr Ignatius Memorial Pilgrimage through the Llanthony Valley in August.

Detailed restoration  work underway

Detailed restoration work underway

St Mary’s was visited by people from all over the world and from nearer home, with many groups such as U3A, local history organisations, Mothers Union and other church groups booking tours to learn about the collection of medieval monuments in the church – said to be one of the finest in the country – and to sit quietly in a church which has been a place of prayer for nearly 1,000 years.

Work on the memorial to the late Dean of Monmouth, the Very Revd Jeremy Winston, who had been Vicar of Abergavenny for 18 years, progressed slowly. In January, the window designer Helen Whittaker was able to carry out detailed measurements, while in November the Diocesan Advisory Committee agreed in principle to moving the world-renowned Jesse figure and to the window itself.

 

The church bells, described as the finest ring of 10 bells in Christendom, were rung each Sunday, at funerals and weddings, and on special occasions. They were also rung by a number of visiting groups of ringers.

 

Fundraising, Fellowship and Hosting events

A number of concerts, for both the Church and outside organisations, took place at St Mary’s, including:

  • Gwent Bach Society performing Bach’s St John’s Passion for Easter, presenting Music for a Summer’s Evening in July and performing The Armed Man : A Mass for Peace by Karl Jenkins for Remembrance;
  • The Dragon Fly quartet performing music by Ravel, Elgar and Debussy;
  • The Erebus Ensemble performing In Quire and Places Where They Sing;
  • A concert by Les Choeurs de St Maur;
  • Pontnewydd Male Voice Choir performing in aid of the Welsh Warrior Charity;
  • Elvis impersonator Keith Davies performing for the town mayor’s charities.

 

The Priory Centre Hall and Christchurch Hall continued to be resources for the community. As well as hosting church fundraising events and after-service fellowship, Christchurch Hall was used by an art group for vulnerable youngsters and as part of the North Street Open Gardens Scheme. The congregation at Christchurch is encouraging the local community to make more use of the Hall, including running a coffee morning each month.

 

The Priory Centre provided the venue for various fundraising activities and celebrations, including St Mary’s Patronal Festival lunch and the parish’s Christmas lunch. We also held a race night, coffee mornings and provided refreshments during Abergavenny Food Festival.

 

The major event of the year was An Evening with Dr Rowan Williams, when he was interviewed about his life and the audience had a chance to ask questions ranging from ‘which book would you like to record for listening books’ to Sharia Law and whether he preferred cheese or chocolate.

Being interviewed by Caroline Wollard

Being interviewed by Caroline Wollard

 

Also in July, a fundraising dinner for the Lewis Chapel development was held at Llansantffraed Court Hotel, with guest speaker Sir Diarmaid MacCulloch, who spoke eloquently about Dr Lewis, the first principal of Jesus College, Oxford, whose tomb gives the Chapel its name, and about the layers of history within the church. Part of that history was brought to life by Canon Soady dressing in a copy of robes depicted on Dr Lewis’ tomb.

 

Fr Mark in copies of robes depicted in Dr Lewis' tomb.

Fr Mark in copies of robes depicted in Dr Lewis’ tomb.

History also featured in the recording of Y Llys, for S4C, a programme about the Wars of the Roses and the rise of the House of Tudor, part of which was recorded in St Mary’s.

 

Looking at the past in a new way was made possible with the installation of new technology at St Mary’s where visitors with Smartphones or iPads (or using ones which are available to borrow) can scan codes which will reveal the history of the church, its monuments, and explain how the Church works today.

 

Reference and administration details

St Mary’s Priory Church and its daughter church, Christchurch, is in the Parish of Abergavenny, in the Deanery of Abergavenny and the Diocese of Monmouth in the Church of Wales.

 

Incumbent and ministers

The Incumbent is the Reverend Canon Mark Soady. From September, he has been assisted by two members of the Holywell Monastic Community and, since November, by Deacon the Revd Sarah Gillard-Faulkner.

The Community praying with its Episcopal Visitor

The Community praying with its Episcopal Visitor

 

The worship in the parish has been made possible through the on-going contribution of our Licensed Lay Ministers Jeff Pearse, Gaynor Parfitt and David Meredith; retired ministers Canon Andrew Willie, the Revd Frances Buxton and the Revd Malcolm Lane In June, the parish bid farewell to Ordinand Philip Godsell the week before his ordination to the Deaconate and his appointment to Cyncoed Rectorial Benefice.

 

 

Objectives and activities

We review our aims, objectives and activities each year, looking at what we have achieved and the outcomes of our work in the previous twelve months. The review looks at the success of each key activity and benefits of activities in a wide variety of cultural areas. The review also helps us ensure our aims, objectives and activities remained focussed on our stated objectives.

 

When reviewing our aims and objectives and in planning and considering our activities for the year, the incumbent and the Parochial Church Council (PCC) have considered the Charity Commission’s guidance on public benefit and, in particular, the specific guidance on charities for the advancement of religion.

 

The objective of the Charity is promoting in the ecclesiastical parish the whole mission of the Church. Encouraging and facilitating the practice of the Christian Faith by the Churches includes the following:

  • Conducting regular Christian worship in both Churches;
  • The celebration of the Holy Eucharist, on at least six days each week at St Mary’s Priory Church; marriages, funerals and baptisms;
  • The provision and maintenance of the fabric of St Mary’s Priory Church, Abergavenny, and of Christchurch, Abergavenny and their associated buildings;
  • Leaving St Mary’s open to the public to enter and benefit from personal spiritual contemplation; and to be able to view the medieval monuments and learn about the Benedictine foundation of the Church and its place in the history of Christianity and of Abergavenny;
  • The maintenance of Christian burial places;
  • Promoting the study of Christian teaching, practices and Scriptures;
  • The provision of means and encouragement to promote fellowship within the membership of the Churches and the wider community;

 

In addition to the above, Christian devotional acts and outreach work is carried out, including:

  • Visiting the sick;
  • Administering the Sacraments to those unable to attend regular acts of Worship, to the sick and dying;
  • Supporting pastoral work;
  • Fostering ecumenical links between differing Christian denominations;
  • Supporting the work of other charities through, among others, the Mothers Union and Mission and Outreach Committee.

 

LLM Jeff and Lay Holywell Community Members lead singing in Cantref Home

LLM Jeff and Lay Holywell Community Members lead singing in Cantref Home

Further achievements in the year

Monies were raised by freewill offertory, fund raising activities and specific appeals. These were used to support the work and administration of the churches and wider mission. Volunteers, who helped at each act of worship to support the clergy, have donated their time. The churches will continue with their acts of worship and pastoral care during 2015 and will continue actively to try to increase its Electoral Roll, through its mission work in the community.

 

The activities of the committees and groups within the churches continued during the year. The monies raised contributed to the general income of the churches. These activities are expected to continue during 2015. All those involved in group activities and who assist with the main functions of the churches are volunteers who have freely donated their time, energy and skills.

 

In order to continue to foster increasing unity between the different Churches and congregations within Canon Soady’s Incumbency, regular meetings of the Wardens from all four Churches were held.

 

The Trustees

The trustees who served the Charity during the period from the Annual Vestry Meeting in April 2014 until the end of the year were as follows:

The Rev’d Canon Mark Soady                     Chairman

Mrs Janet Battersby    JP                      People’s Warden, Representative on the Deanery Conference

and Safeguarding Officer (from July 2014)

Mrs Sheila Davies                           Vicar’s Warden, Representative on the Deanery Conference

Mrs Margaret Dodd                                     Representative on the Deanery Conference

Mr Stephan Grabner                                    Representative on the Diocesan Conference

Mrs Anne Griffiths

Mr Steven Lamerton                                    Gift Aid Treasurer

Mr Vernon Lewis

Mr David Marsh MBE

Mrs Eunice Marsh                            PCC Secretary

Ms Louise McLeod                           Safeguarding Co-Ordinator (until July 2014)

Mr Jeff Pearse                                   Licensed Lay Minister, representative on the Deanery Conference and the Diocesan Conference

Mr Gary Peddar

Mr Andrew Powell                           Deputy Vicar’s Warden

Mr Tim Pratt

Mr Robin Smith                                Deputy People’s Warden, St Mary’s Treasurer

Mrs Hazel Watkins

Mrs Sadie Watkins

Mrs Sheila Woodhouse                  People’s Sub-warden at Christchurch, Christchurch Treasurer

Ms Caroline Woollard                    Vicar’s Sub-warden at Christchurch, representative on the Diocesan Conference and member of the Governing Body of the Church in Wales

In addition (from January 2014 to the Vestry meeting in April 2014):

Mr Anthony Aurelius

 

Structure, governance and management

The Parish of Abergavenny is part of the Diocese of Monmouth within the Church in Wales. The Church in Wales is a Province within the Anglican Communion and, as such, exists to advance the Christian Religion through world-wide mission. The object of the Parochial Church Council is to ensure that the life and work of the Church within the Parish helps to fulfil that mission, both locally and more widely.

 

The Representative Body of the Church in Wales holds the land and property of the Church in Wales, including St Mary’s Priory Church, Christchurch and other church buildings, and including the Garden of Rest at St Mary’s, and their contents. The Representative Body is an exempt Charity and was set up under Section 13(2) of the Welsh Churches Act 1914. It acts on behalf of the Province in paying the stipends of the full time clergy, and administers the Church in Wales scheme of covenanted and gift aid giving recovering tax on behalf of the parishes.

 

The Parochial Church Council (PCC) is not a body corporate, its composition, procedure and powers being regulated by the Constitution of the Church in Wales as amended from time to time by its Governing Body set up under Section 13(1) of the Welsh Church Act 1914. Elections are held at an Annual Vestry Meeting which must take place on or before 30th April each year. All persons whose names are entered on the Electoral Roll are entitled to vote and stand for election. Before assuming office, every member of the PCC publicly makes a declaration that he or she will be bound by the Constitution. The Members and Officers of the PCC, including the Incumbent, on appointment become Trustees of the “Parish of Abergavenny Parochial Church Council Charity Trust”.

 

The PCC also appoints the Priory Trustees, a body set up under a 1925 Deed of Trust to administer certain lands and properties held by the Representative Body as Custodial Trustees on behalf of and for the benefit of the Parish. The Trustees report to the PCC and their accounts are kept separate but consolidated with those of St Mary’s and Christchurch within the Charity Accounts presented with this report.

 

The St Mary’s Winston Appeal also works under the auspices of the PCC and its accounts are also kept separate but consolidated with those of St Mary’s and Christchurch within the Charity Accounts presented with this report.

 

Property administered by the Priory Trustees includes the Priory Centre, the Tithe Barn and the Curate’s House. The latter two have been purchased in recent years and their freehold values are shown in the Accounts of this Charity.

 

Commercial operations undertaken in the Priory Centre and the Tithe Barn are administered by The St Mary’s Priory House Company Limited, a Service Company registered with Companies House and in which the Priory Trustees, on behalf of the PCC and the “Parish of Abergavenny Parochial Church Council Charity Trust” hold 51% of the shares. The remaining 49% are held by the “St Mary’s Priory Development Trust” (Charity No 107744) a separate but related Charity set up by the Priory Trustees in 1999.

 

Risk Review  

The PCC has conducted it own review of the major risks to which the Charity is exposed and systems have been established to mitigate those risks. The risks facing the Charity include the state of repair of the Churches and the financial requirements to meet its stated activities, including payment of its Annual Parish Share, bearing in mind the fall in the numbers of regular worshippers and the reduction in regular giving. The structure of the Churches is continually monitored by the Fabric committee and the Church architect, and the finances are controlled by careful budgeting and encouragement and appeals to the worshippers and visitors.

 

There have been no serious incidents or other matters relating to this charity over the previous financial year that we should have brought to the attention of the Charity Commissioners but have not.

 

Organisational Structure  

The PCC is responsible inter-alia for promoting the mission of the Church, the parochial budget and all expenditure there under, the care and maintenance of the fabric of the Churches and associated buildings and of the Garden of Remembrance, and for action on any other matter referred to it in accordance with the constitution. The PCC is also the normal channel of communication between the parishioners and the Bishop of the diocese. All members of the PCC are volunteers.

 

In addition to the election of members, the Officers, i.e. The People’s Warden, the Deputy People’s Warden (St Mary’s) and People’s Sub-Warden (Christchurch) are elected at the annual Easter Vestry; the Vicar appoints the Vicar’s Warden, Vicar’s Deputy Warden (St Mary’s) and Vicar’s Sub-Warden (Christchurch) at the same meeting. New representatives are told of their responsibilities and of the issues facing the Churches by existing representatives, and receive such additional training as required. Other Officers, including the Secretary, Treasurer and Safeguarding Officer are appointed at the first meeting of the PCC after the Vestry Meeting.

 

As indicated, members of the PCC also serve as representatives on the Deanery and Diocesan Conferences and the Governing Body of the Church in Wales. St Mary’s and Christchurch are active members of Abergavenny Council of Churches and volunteers help run the Christian Aid Fortnight activities in the town, organise Lenten study groups, and stage a town centre carol service.

 

The Churches are run entirely by volunteers as the clergy are remunerated by another charity from the Parish Share payments made by all the Churches in the Diocese. Without the work of these volunteers, who, for example, enable St Mary’s to be kept open every day for members of the public to visit and to pray, the Churches would not function.

 

 

Committee structure

 

The PCC met eight times in 2014 but between these meetings, a number of committees meet to support the work of the Churches:

 

  • The Mission and Outreach Committee (members of which are from all four churches in the incumbency working under the auspices of AACT.)
  • The Finance Committee
  • The Fabric Committee
  • The Fundraising Committee
  • St Mary’s Winston Appeal Committee

 

Artists impression of Memorial Window with Jesse

Artists impression of Memorial Window with Jesse

Fabric 

Regular inspections and maintenance of both Churches, plus the other buildings and the grounds, were carried out during the year as required. The report and recommendations following the Quniquennial Inspection of St Mary’s, undertaken during November and December 2013, were received in February 2014 . They showed that in order to maintain the integrity and long term future of the Grade 1 listed building a number of comparatively small repairs are required within the next 18 months with an approximate total cost of £50,000. Further major repairs to be completed within the next five years include floor repairs throughout much of the main body of the church in order to maintain the safety of both the congregation and the many visitors. Also recommended are a series of repairs to the Lewis Chapel, and its roof, many of which will be achieved in association with the proposed installation of the new window in memory of the Very Reverend Jeremy Winston and the relocation of the Jesse Effigy.

 

At the same time, the Architects undertook an Access Audit of the buildings and this has already resulted in a number of actions being taken to improve safety and accessibility for everyone using the Church and its associated facilities.

 

 

FINANCIAL REVIEW

 

RESULTS

The level of direct voluntary contributions at each act of worship, excluding tax reclaimed through Gift Aid, amounted to £79,370 (2013 £79,490). Compared to the reductions in recent years this has been a welcome improvement and reflected increased individual giving from the diminishing congregation.

 

Other unrestricted general income including from fund raising amounted to £82,950 (2013 :£71,638), including a number of generous donations. However, no Legacies were received during the year (2013 : £37,171). Fund raising towards the cost of erecting the new window in St Mary’s in memory of our previous incumbent, the Very Reverend Jeremy Winston, was put in abeyance while the necessary approvals were progresses and only £1,753 was received during the year..

 

The level of unrestricted expenditure amounted to £215,332 (2013 : £179,204) with restricted expenditure on further repairs to St Mary’s Tower, and costs associated with the Lewis Chapel amounting to £22,502 (2013 : £13,463). The Parish Share payable to the Diocese during the year was £87,319 (2013 : £90,705) : however, £28,800 remained outstanding at the end of the year (2013 : £7,000).

 

During 2014 considerable expenditure was incurred in undertaking major repairs and enhancements to the Grade 1 Listed St Mary’s Priory to maintain it as a welcoming and accessible facility for the use of the Church and the local and wider communities. Much of this work, which included installing a new, energy efficient, lighting system and new sound systems for both the organ and the loudspeakers was funded from Legacies received in previous years.

 

The net assets of the Charity at 31 December 2014 amounted to £256,915 (2013 : £330,878), including freehold properties valued at £362,641 (2013: the same). The principal liability remains the mortgage on the Curates House of £195,000, now used by the Holywell Community. The significant decrease in net assets during 2014 is due to the outstanding payments on the Parish Share and the additional expenditure on major repairs and enhancements.

 

 

Reserves Policy

The reserves policy of the Parochial Church Council (PCC) recognises the need to hold reserves to ensure funds are available to provide continuing mission should the income levels fall. Reserves are also required to meet the future maintenance programme for the Churches and Church buildings.

 

A minimum level of reserves needs to be retained to ensure the PCC can meet its legal commitments should the Charity be unable to continue due to a lack of a sustainable income stream. The Officers of the PCC have established a policy whereby the unrestricted funds not designated for specific use by the PCC or invested in tangible fixed assets, i.e. free reserves, held by the Charity should ideally be between three and six months of the resources expended in general funds.

 

The Charity is dependent on donations, grants and investment income. The current economic climate remains uncertain and may continue to have a negative impact on future income streams.

 

 Investment policy

The Parochial Church Council (PCC), through its finance committee, has considered the most appropriate policy for investing funds and agreed to achieve the best available rate from our Bankers, within the constraint of maintaining rapid access to funds in the event of a call on them.

 

Bankers

Lloyds Bank, 54 Cross Street, Abergavenny, Monmouthshire NP7 5HB, and, HSBC Bank plc, 2 Frogmore Street, Abergavenny, NP7 5AF.

 

Independent Examiner

Dorrell Oliver Limited, Linden House, Monk Street, Abergavenny, Monmouthshire NP7 5NF.

 

Trust Architect

Michael Bartosch, of Bartosch & Stokes, 1 Bath Parade, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire GL53 7HL

 

 

Approved by the Trustees

and signed on their behalf

by The Reverend Canon Mark Soady, Chairman

Feast of St Cuthbert 2015 (20.iii.15)

 

 

The full report submitted to the Charity Commissioners includes  a copy of the Parish Accounts fro 2014.

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