Archive for October, 2011

Christmas is fast approaching and what better way to send Christmas greetings to family and friends than with a charity card from ‘Cards for Good Causes

St Mary’s Priory is once again delighted to welcome back Cards for Good Causes, the UK’s largest multi-charity Christmas card organisation. The aim of the organisation is simple – to offer the widest choice of charity cards and keep raising as much money as possible each year for the charities.

Beverley Jones who runs the shop in St Mary’s Priory says “We are pleased that we are once again able to support the work of so many charities through the sale of Christmas cards. We look forward to members of the local community buying the Christmas cards from St Mary’s Priory over the next few weeks and supporting regional charities.”

Cards and gifts will be on sale in the Lewis Chapel from Saturday 29th October until 10th December. If you would like to volunteer to help staff the shop, please contact Beverley on (01873) 850375 or 07775 566948.

Meanwhile, tickets for the Grand Christmas Draw are now on sale. The annual draw, offering a first prize of £1,000, is a primary fundraising event for the Church. Tickets are available from the Tithe Barn and the draw will take place during the Christmas Coffee Morning on Friday 16th December.



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It is over, then, the hunt for the dictator Gaddafi in Libya – and though many details of his capture and death are yet to be revealed as I write this, the joy of most in Libya and indeed around the world about the liberation from his terror and oppression is evident and there for all to see. Who, of course, would not rejoice at being freed from capricious terror and state violence, unleashed by this particular tyrant for whom, like for so many others of his kind, human life was cheap as long as it was the life of those he ruled over?

And yet, I must admit that these occasions – like that of the execution of Saddam Hussein in Iraq some years ago – also leave me with a degree of unease, uncertain what to make of the matter. It is not, of course, that Gaddafi and others of his kind ‘deserve better’ – they clearly do not; it could well be said that they ‘deserve death’. Yet even that phrase always reminds me of the words put by Tolkien into the mouth of Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings as he and Bilbo discuss the fate of the creature Gollum: Bilbo has just said that Gollum ‘deserves to die’, and Gandalf replies that ‘many who live deserve to die, and some who die deserve life – yet can you give it to them? Then do not be so quick to deal out death’.

But perhaps there is something else: whenever a life that has ruined and destroyed the lives of so many others, has been so filled with delusion, hatred and evil as Gaddafi’s clearly has, ends, it puts me in mind of the time long ago (in his case just under seventy years ago), when somewhere a mother held the newborn baby who later was to become the tyrant. As she did so, she will have been filled, like parents all over the world, with love and hope and thanksgiving and expectations – and among these, there will certainly not have been the one that this baby boy was one day to be a cruel tyrant. She will have hoped (and perhaps prayed) that he would become a respected and good man – and of course he did not. This was not, then, how it was ‘meant to be’.

In one sense it could be said that what actually causes my unease is not so much a particular case of someone who goes horribly wrong, becomes a force of evil and dies as one, but the ‘human condition’ as such: that we, created in the image and likeness of God and born to so much hope of our parents, can go so horribly wrong and that repentance, redemption and renewal are so scarce among the evils of our race. Close to the heart of the Christian message lies something like the statement that, as long as we live, it is never too late for any of us to become what we might have been: forgiven, healed and restored, born anew of water and the Spirit, a true child of God. Whenever that miracle of love does not happen, whatever we deserve and receive for what we have become, things are not what they were meant to be. Even for tyrants who deserve to die.

  • The Tithe Barn is hosting a Wedding Fayre in the Priory Centre on Saturday, October 29—all are welcome.
  • The Cards for Good Causes shop in the Lewis Chapel of St Mary’s opens for business on October 29. If you can help staff the shop, please put your name on the rota in St Mary’s or contact Beverley Jones on 850375 or 07775 566948.
  • We are planning to take a group to see Peter Pan, starring David Hasselhoff, at the Bristol Hippodrome. Tickets cost £32 but youngsters from St Mary’s and Christchurch All Age worship groups and St Mary’s choir go free. Contact Sadie Watkins on 07970 732517 or Anne Parr 859414 as soon as possible if you would like to join us.
  • The Boyan Ensemble will be in concert at St Mary’s on October 31—their only engagement in Wales this year. If you could host a couple of the choir members overnight, please contact Sheila Davies 853729 (hosts get a complimentary ticket). Tickets are £16, available from Churchwardens or Clive Jones.

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Please click here to read the very latest update


Following recent investigations at the University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff, Fr Jeremy Winston, Dean of Monmouth and former Vicar of St Mary’s Priory, Abergavenny, has been diagnosed as having a brain tumour. Fr Jeremy will soon begin a six week course of radiotherapy.

He continues to be in good spirits and thanks everyone for their cards and kind wishes. It has been requested that he should not receive any visitors at this time, but please continue to remember him in your prayers.

If you would like to send a personal message to Fr Jeremy, please fill out the following form:

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Please click here for the very latest update


Fr Jeremy has had an investigative procedure at the University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff. He came through it well and is now resting at the hospital while the consultants decide what to do next.

Please continue to remember him in your prayers.

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‘The beatitudes (Matthew 12: 1-12 par.) have taken on an entirely new meaning for me’ and ‘we will open the book-fair with the children at 11am’ – two sentences that, taken together, made a substantial impression on me lately. The first of these came from a meeting at Holy Trinity Church one evening last week, held with one of the couples we support in their overseas work. Dawn and David work with CMS (the Church Missionary Society) in Pakistan, where David (a doctor) works in a TB-clinic in a programme jointly run by CMS and the local Anglican Diocese. Dawn and David are currently back in the UK for a time, and have been visiting churches that are supporting their work to give talks and deepen friendships. What David meant and shared with us was that it is only since he has been living and working among those whom Jesus calls ‘blessed’ (or ‘happy’, depending on the translation you use), the poor, those who mourn, those who are persecuted for the sake of Christ and the Gospel, that he has truly understood those words and the way in which they contradict much of what our own society here regards as important. Thus, our ‘materialism’ and ‘consumerism’ is more recognisable for what it is in the eyes of the Gospel when viewed from ‘outside’ –  a problem, a concern, in the way in which it promises happiness through the acquisition and possession of ‘things’ when Christ attaches such promises to entirely different matters.

The second sentence was something I overheard a teacher at one of the local nursery schools say to people one morning – and, innocent enough in themselves, in the light of David’s words it suddenly dawned on me what this actually means: for in bringing small children to an event essentially designed to arouse in them the desire for possessing ‘things’ and make them (and their parents) buy them, the second sentence in a flash shows just how our society’s values work, namely by rooting in us all, from the earliest possible age, the concept that to be happy is to possess, to have, to buy, to consume. By the time we are teenagers (if not before) this attitude will have become so deep-seated that ‘having’ and ‘being happy/fulfilled’ are one and the same thing, and life becomes a matter of having and having more.

There are three problems with this, of course: (1) that it is untrue, ‘to have’ and to be happy are not the same thing; (2) that the attitude of  wanting ‘to have and to have more and more’ is the opposite of what will make for ‘sustainable development’ in a world increasingly aware of the finitude of natural resources and the fragility of the environment; and (3) that it is thoroughly unbiblical and in many ways the opposite not just of the beatitudes but of much of Jesus’ teaching.

And yet: all this may not be true, or good or Christian, but it is powerful – acquisitiveness is a vice strong in us all to a greater or lesser extent because it becomes part of our worldview and values at such an early stage in our lives. In consequence, it remains a thing hard to fight not just in society around us but inside us. So what to do about it? A start might be to engage with the excellent new Mothers’ Union campaign ‘Bye Buy Childhood’, which seeks to tackle the problem at its root (see www.byebuychildhood.org or speak to our local branch members) – for nobody should grow up ‘believing they are what they own’.


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A hermit monk from California is coming to Wales to help people heed the call to contemplation and his visit is being backed by the Bishop of Monmouth.

Father Cyprian Consiglio OSB Cam will be performing at St Mary’s Priory Abergavenny on Wednesday October 19th around the theme of “Spirit, Soul and Body: The Universal Call to Contemplation.”

Cyprian Consiglio is a Catholic priest and Benedictine monk of the Carmaldolese Congregation in Big Sur, California. Most of his music and teaching is inspired by the life and work of Dom Bede Griffiths, an English monk who spent the second half of his life in India helping to establish a Hindu-Christian ashram.

Father Cyprian is a gifted teacher and singer/songwriter who has built an integral practice to help us go deeper into a lived spirituality, aimed at the whole person. When he’s not travelling the world, Cyprian spends time either with his Brothers at the New Camaldoli Hermitage in Big Sur, or at a hermitage in the mountains of Santa Cruz.

Cyprian – who is also a qualified yoga teacher – says he’s passionate about helping people realise there is room in Christianity for some of the practices which appeal to them from other traditions, like yoga and meditation. He says it is a joy to be able to find a common language to talk with people of other faiths, and to help Christians discover the beauty in other traditions. Cyprian calls it “bridge work,” and says it goes both ways:  “Christians can benefit from the truth and beauty in other religions, and from seeing Christianity through the eyes of others, or through new eyes. It’s like looking at your home from someone else’s window.”

His message and music is finding a growing audience. Cyprian has written a book called “Prayer in the Cave of the Heart” and has released a number of CDs. He says we are all called to a contemplative experience of God, and that calling is found in all religions.

Cyprian says: “So many people have left Christianity and found something they seek in another tradition, and they can’t find their way back. They are who I feel called to serve. I also want to help promote the joy and necessity of talking with and truly understanding people from other faith backgrounds, as a vital step to building peace and under-standing in the world.”

The Bishop of Monmouth, Right Reverend Dominic Walker OGS says, ‘One of the spiritual renewal movements in the church today is often described as ‘the new monasticism’ where all kinds of people discover that they can draw on the deep riches of the ancient monastic tradition and apply it to their busy lives today. At its heart is the desire to become fully human though entering into a deeper relation-ship with the divine.  Father Cyprian is a hermit monk who has a gift of communicat-ing the power of prayer and silence to people today who are hungry for God.  His visit to Wales is an opportunity not to be missed.’

Father Cyprian’s current work began in the early nineties when he met English-born Benedictine monk Bede Griffiths. Father Bede, who died in 1993, spent many years at an ashram in India and became a significant contributor to the development of Indian Christian theology. The ashram, Shantivanam, in Tamil Nadu, became a center of contemplative life and inter-religious dialogue. Cyprian is now a member of the trust that oversees Bede Griffiths’ legacy, and he makes regular visits to Shantivanam to help with the work there.

The evening concert at St Mary’s Priory Centre will include a talk, sacred songs, chanting from different traditions and shared silence. The concert will follow the monthly monastic day – one day a month dedicated to the Monastic Rule of St Benedict, and an attempt to focus community life on worship, celebration, meditation and work. This includes the recitation and singing of the daily offices, the celebration of the Eucharist, time to eat together, a time of holy study, Lectio Divina, and an afternoon dedicated to physical work. It is a chance to connect with the Benedictine roots of the Priory and experience the fullness of talking part in a praying and working community. People can join the monastic day at any point in the day or just come for Cyprian’s concert in the evening.

An Evening with Cyprian Consiglio, OSB Cam – St Mary’s Priory 7.30pm – 9.30pm  Wednesday 19th October 2011 

Tickets (£10 / £7) are available on the door or by contacting Brigid Bowen on 02920 191659 or email brigid.bowen@gmail.com

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Fr Jeremy is still in the University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff, awaiting further investigations on Friday.

He remains in good spirits and thanks everyone for their kind thoughts and prayers.

If you would like to send a personal message to Fr Jeremy, please fill out the form on the earlier blog; the personal message will then be passed on to him.

Please continue to remember Fr Jeremy in your prayers.

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On Monday 31st October we will be welcoming the Boyan Ensemble of Kiev back to Abergavenny for their annual concert of sacred chants and songs of Ukraine. Described as “intense harmony, astonishing low notes… utterly glorious singing” this concert is certainly one of the highlights of the Church’s musical calendar.

On their first visit to Britain in 1992, the Boyan Ensemble was hailed “A Musical Sensation”. Their programme of sacred chants from the Eastern Orthodox Church, sung a cappella, “breathed mystery, incense and the flicker of candles. Audiences were caught up in the poignant drama of a religion that had fought its way through tyranny and oppression”. However, their repertoire is not confined to the Liturgical; in the second half we are treated to Ukraine’s rich folk heritage with songs ranging from the exuberant to the soulful. “There is swagger, bravado, heroism, nostalgia and a sense of the limitless Ukrainian horizons one recalls from Eisenstein films”. The impact of their thrilling performances has ensured that the UK tours have become an annual event.

The twenty five musicians on tour include Artistic Director Yuriy Kuratch and his twin brother, conductor Volodymyr Kuratch, and many superb soloists including the only female voice, soprano Valentina Ivanenko. Boyan’s repertoire embraces Ukrainian, Russian, Bulgarian, Georgian, other Slavonic and Western-European sacred and classical music, including vocal-symphonic works, medieval chants and the renowned chants of the Kyiv Monastery of the Caves. The Ensemble regularly tours in Western Europe and it has performed in France, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Spain, Israel, Luxemburg and Italy, as well as in countries of the former Soviet Union. Boyan has been broadcast in a live concert on BBC Radio 3 and also featured on Classic FM – this is the Ensemble’s 19th consecutive UK tour.


With roots tracing back to the legendary Scythian horsemen and traders of the Crimea, (7th – 3rd century BC), Ukraine has a treasured Orthodox Christian heritage. Its sacred music dates back to the Kyiv chant of the 11th century and has developed through the ages, notably through the works of composers such as Berezovsky, Vedel, Bortniansky, Verbytsky, Leontovych and Stetsenko. Centuries of invasion, religious persecution, civil war, and oppression have not extinguished the enduring Christian faith and rich cultural heritage of this land which is so powerfully reflected in the choral music performed by the Boyan Ensemble. (For information on Ukraine visit www.ucrainica.info).

The concert of Ukraine’s top professional male choir will be held in St Mary’s Priory on Monday 31st October at 7.30pm. Tickets are available from Abergavenny Music or by telephoning (01873) 854595.


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There is to be, it seems, another round of ‘quantitative easing’, and I sincerely hope I am not the only one who is unsure what to make of the Bank of England’s announcement to that effect. If I understand the concept correctly, it means that the Bank of England will increase the amount of money available in the economy by buying assets from banks in the hope (?) that these will then use the ‘new’ money they receive to increase lending especially to businesses. So far, so good – but like other oft aired calls for ‘more lending to (especially small) businesses’, this is where my puzzlement begins: was not a substantial part of the problem that got us into the economic mess we are in that there was too much lending going on? And if so, why is ‘more lending’ the answer?

Clearly, the current economic crisis is one of the key issues affecting our life right now, and equally clearly, it seems to me, we as Christians ought to contribute to this important question and debate. But, and this is the point of my admission of puzzlement, equally clearly I am not the right Christian to do so, because I do not sufficiently understand the economics behind either the pro or contra (as those who do will easily have gathered from my introductory paragraph…). This, I think, has two consequences, and both have implications far beyond the specific problem just outlined.

The first of these is that it is essential for us all to know our limitations – we do ourselves and the Church no service at all (indeed, we do nobody a service at all) by pronouncing ‘Christian views’ on matters we know little about. This is, of course, especially true of clergy, who are frequently expected to give ‘Christian views’ on this, that or the other issue in politics or society, and who would often do better not to, I think. In my own case, for example it would be fair to say that I am probably all right on theological topics, a little better perhaps on matters to do with moral philosophy (my main academic subject) – and that I have vague ideas on many other things that I would do well to keep to myself…

For others among us, the list will look different, of course – and that precisely is the point, for (secondly) it is just in these areas that the true vocation of the people of God lies: for the heart of the calling of a Christian who is not ordained is not to ‘do things in church to help the Vicar’ (though there is, of course, nothing wrong with helping in various ways), but to bring a Christian perspective formed and fed in the sacraments, prayer and teaching into their everyday life and work. In our example: it is for economists who are also Christians, not for vicars, to comment on economic matters such as ‘quantitative easing’. It is for Christian journalists to speak about Christian perspectives on journalism, and for Christian lawyers to comment on sentencing or the like. This means, of course (1) that we need to rediscover the riches of various talent and calling in the whole body of Christ and (2) need one another to together give a faithful and informed Christian contribution to society.



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Fr Jeremy Winston has been transferred to the University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff, for further investigations.

Churches across the Diocese continue to uphold him in their prayers today and a special prayer vigil was held in Newport Cathedral on Friday evening.

We will endeavour to update news on a regular basis so please re-visit our homepage for the latest information.

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