Archive for December, 2011

The new Vicar of Abergavenny will be Inducted on the Feast of Epiphan, January 6th. Among the floral displays will be one featuring three kings by members of Abergavenny Floral Society which was previously used at a regional flower festival of the National Association of Flower Arranging Societies, which Fr Mark helped arrange at Newport Cathedral in 2008.

Music at the service includes a piece composed by the Priory Church Choirmaster, Tim Pratt, based on words from the Book of the Wisdom of Solomon. “Be not wise in your own eyes. Lean not on  your own understanding, trust in the Lord”, words which form Fr Mark’s personal motto.

The service will be lead by the Bishop of Monmouth, assisted by the Archdeacon of Monmouth and the Area Dean of Abergavenny. Wardens from the four churches (St Mary’s Priory, Christchurch, Holy Trinity and St Peter’s, Llanwenarth) will present him with ceremonial keys for the four churches to be put in to his care. Civic, local church and political leaders, along with representatives from all organisations Fr Mark is involved with are expected to attend.

The Service which starts at 7.30pm is open to all.

Read Full Post »

Service of Thanksgiving

A Service of Thanksgiving for the life of the Very Revd Jeremy Winston will be held at St Mary’s on January 21 at 11.30am.

The service will include tributes from his cousin, Lord Rowe-Beddoe, Bishop David Thomas and the Revd Malcolm Lane – they will speak about his family life, his influence in the Church and beyond, and his pastoral life as well as Jeremy-the-man.

His love of music and words will be explored in choral pieces, hymns, poetry and prose – some of which was he wrote.

Admission will be by ticket only. They are available, on a first-come, first-served basis, by sending a stamped addressed envelope to St Mary’s Vicarage, Monk Street, Abergavenny NP7 5ND. Please mark your envelope ‘Thanksgiving Service’.


Read Full Post »

As part of yesterday’s Monastic Day at St Mary’s Priory, the labora (work) was spent visiting the four nursing homes in Abergavenny: Avenue Road, Belmont, Cantref and Rozelle.

Fr Mark Soady, Fr Bernard Sixtus and Fr Chris Walters were joined by several members of the congregation to wish residents a very happy and blessed Christmas. At each nursing home there was an opportunity for prayer, a short reading and the singing of Christmas Carols – selected by the residents. Tithe Barn manager, Richard Morgan, accompanied the singing on a portable piano.

The staff at the nursing homes made us very welcome and it was a pleasure to be able to speak to the residents. The hospitality at Cantref was very much appreciated: the cup of tea and mince pie were enjoyed by all!

Fr Mark Soady is introduced to the residents of Belmont

Fr Mark samples the mince pies!

Members of the 'choir' under the careful watch of their 'musical director'

Fr Mark is introduced to the residents of Cantref


Read Full Post »

The religious advisor to the popular TV series ‘The Rev‘ has been quoted recently  as saying how stressed ministers of religion get in the run up to Christmas.

What a rush it has been  been for me this year, what with moving house on December 19th, wrapping things up in Newport and preparing to hit the Abergavenny ground running. One hears people say it shouldn’t be like this, but that is just how it was that first Christmas for Mary and Joseph. Those blessed Romans had decided to have a census and so they both had to go to Bethlehem, and with Mary heavily pregnant. Then to top it all, when they got to Bethlehem there was no where free for them to stay, so they opted for a stable. Did they get peace and quiet there – NO! They were visited within hours of the baby’s birth by shepherds and a few weeks later by men from the east.  As if that wasn’t enough they had to flee to Egypt from that tyrant Herod killing all the new born boys.

We like to think of the Babe of Bethlehem has having been born in a picture post card scene. However, when God choose to come to earth he did so in a way which made it clear that he wasn’t going to give himself any easy time. He was going to rough it with the rest of us. How loving is that? A God who was willing to become man, and expect all the hardships that went with it- even the most cruel of deaths.

May He bless you this Christmastide.

Fr Mark Soady, Vicar-Designate


Click here for details of the Christmas services at St Mary’s Priory

Read Full Post »

Just hours after the removal men had finished delivering furniture and boxes to the Vicarage, Fr Mark was entertaining his first guests!

The dedicated team of bell ringers were invited to meet Fr Mark at home and relax with a glass of wine and nibbles following their practice in St Mary’s Priory last night. During the afternoon, Fr Mark had been busy unpacking boxes and arranging furniture to enable this gathering to take place. Tower Captain, Peter Munday, and the other ringers certainly appreciated his hospitality on such a busy day.

Speaking about the importance of the ringing of the bells, Fr Mark said “Even those who don’t come to Church to worship will hear the bells ringing and will know that Christ is worshiped in this place. This gentle act of mission is invaluable in the life of St Mary’s.”

St Mary’s has a ring of 10 bells, the tenor weighing in at 25 cwts 18 lbs. At the dissolution of the monasteries in 1536-39, the parishioners bought the four bells, weighing a total of 45.5 cwt, which hung in the Priory Church.

The tenor was recast in 1603 and the 3rd recast in 1666, by the Purdues of Bristol. The treble was recast in1706 by Abraham Rudall.

The bells were augmented to five in 1835 and then to six in 1845 by Jeffries & Price of Bristol. To commemorate Queen Victoria’s Jubilee in 1887, the bells were rehung and augmented to eight by Llewellins & James of Bristol, the same firm recasting the tenor (19 cwt) in 1893.

Finally, in 1947, these bells were replaced by the present magnificent 10 from the Loughborough foundry, in thanksgiving for the end of the Second World War. They are considered to be the finest ring of 10 bells in Christendom and bell-ringers from all over the country come to ring the changes.

The medieval 6th of the old ring, dated 1308, is preserved in the nave and inscribed ‘May the bell of John last many years’ – perhaps indicated that this was one of a peal of bells donated by John de Hastings, the man responsible for the first restoration of the Priory Church.

St Mary’s has a thriving group of bell ringers, who meet to practise at 8pm on Monday evenings. The bells are rung before the 11am Parish Eucharist on Sundays and also at weddings and other special occasions. Bell ringers from all over the country visit St Mary’s to ring.

Read Full Post »

Fr Mark moves in

08.30 Blakemores Removals arrive at All Saints Vicarage and after a cup of tea get under way

08.40 Another van and another removal man arrives

90.10 Yet another van and another removal van. Three vans and 4 men.

Fr Mark catches up on his emails on his iPad as the men efficently clear the house. The hardest part of the removal men’s job is getting their vans down the All Saints drive.

11am We are ready to leave Newport for Aberagvenny, with the promise of less rain in the afternoon.

 12.10 We arrive at the Vicarage.Thanks Richard for opening the car park gates. The guys have a cup-a-soup before starting to unpack and Fr Mark (thanks again) to Richard has a Tithe Barn Food Hall take away Cheese sandwich. Highly recommnded.

It does not take the guys long. The wardrobe being the most difficult piece of furniture to manouver in. Meanwhile Fr Mark checks on email applications fro Fr Jeremy’s Service of Thanksgiving.

1.40pm The Study has become a temporary respository for all the rugs and pieces of furniture which can not be put in place immediately.

2.10pm All is in and the guys head off. Now Fr Mark’s work realy begins!

3.30pm The Living Room at least is looking like home.

3.45pm The Dining Room is complete

4.15pm The Study is back to normal

4.30 It was good of Tim Pratt to pop in to say hello and welcome.

5pm Tea time……and so more unpacking

Read Full Post »

After nearly nine  years, the United States officially  ended their operations in Iraq on Thursday, with a  ceremony that ‘cased’ (retired) the US Forces’ flag before its return home. Within the next two weeks, all American forces will have left the country, bringing to an end a conflict in which, according to the BBC on Thursday, some 4,500 US soldiers, and more than 100,000 Iraqis died.

The  first  thing  that  struck  me,  perhaps  rather  oddly,  on reading this is how much time has gone by since the invasion of Iraq began in March 2003 in terms of my own life: I was at Mirfield in Theological College at  the time, married but without children, and about to finalise arrangements for my curacy (getting quite  excited at the prospect of living and ministering in  Paris). It seems (almost) like another world, now – my curacy came and went (and, yes, Paris was great), and   –   three   children   later   –   we   have   been   here   in Abergavenny  just  under  five  years  now.  I  suspect   that something like this will be true for most of us: nine years is a long time in our personal lives, and for many of us much will have changed since March 2003, and not everything for the better for some.

This initial thought matters because it should bring home to us that there is now a large number of children in Iraq who have not known their country without the presence of foreign forces whose influence can hardly have been experienced as uniformly benign. While much has indeed changed for each one of us, for Iraqis the great change may be just round the corner, working out how to end on their own a savage civil war that erupted in the aftermath of occupation, in a country where many are embittered by the whole episode. They will not be the only ones asking whether it was all worth it, but they will be the ones asking that question with most urgency. One thing all this should remind us of here is how blissfully peaceful recent decades have been, and life continues to be, in Europe, which less than a hundred years ago was plunged into  two horrific wars in less than the space of a lifetime, wars that tore the whole continent apart and  destroyed the lives of countless men, women, and  children. The thought puts all that talk of a ‘war of  words’ between the UK and France over recent  decisions at EU summits in perspective, does it not?

We are blessed, and we need to realise it – and give thanks for it. And we need to remember that an essential part of true Christian  thanksgiving  consists  in  the  determination  to  be ourselves agents of God’s blessing to those in need. On our list of ‘those in need’,  children in Iraq and elsewhere who have not seen or  known a world yet in which war is but a memory for most, should be neither missing nor last.


Thanksgiving Service: In order to ensure that all who attend have a seat, it has been decided to issue tickets to the January 21 Thanksgiving Service for the life of Fr Jeremy. These will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis and 300 have been made available to our parishes today, before they are then sent to other people. Each ticket admits one person—because of the numbers expected, please only take one if you are absolutely sure you will be able to attend. Extra chairs will be available in both chapels and both transcepts, as well as the Priory Centre.

Christmas Flowers: If you would like to contribute towards the cost of flowers at St Mary’s at Christmas, perhaps in memory of a loved one, please see Mrs Lillian Price. See churchwardens at Christchurch and St Peter’s for flowers there.

Thanks: Many thanks to everyone who supported the Grand Draw, who sold and bought tickets and donated prizes. Thanks also to those who supported the coffee morning at which the raffle was drawn.

Monastic Day: Wednesday, December 21. All are welcome to join us for any or all of the services. As part of Wednesday’s Monastic Day, the ‘labora’ (work) will be singing carols at our nursing homes, as follows—all are most welcome to join us: 2.00pm Avenue Road,   2.30pm Belmont, 3.15pm Cantref and 4.00pm Rozelle.

Panto: There are still a few tickets left for the Panto on January 8 in Bristol. Please contact Sadie Sadie Watkins on 07970 732517 or Anne Parr on 859414 .

Read Full Post »

As many of you will have noticed the tower of St Mary’s Church is swathed in green sheeting and scaffolding. The reason for this is the existing pointing and some of the masonry elements are in a poor condition and are currently being repaired.

Bartosch and Stokes Architects, who have a long association with St Mary’s Priory, are overseeing the contract administration and William Taylor Masonry Contractors are undertaking the physical repair work. Mike Bartosch, along with a church representative, regularly visits the site to carry out inspections and make decisions on the repair process.

To date, the tower masonry has been repointed for the full height and width of each elevation and identified stonework repair and replacement are taking place. William Taylor Ltd are about to commence on the repairs to the concrete “lantern” located on the roof of the tower and they are also working on the asphalt roof coverings.

Rainwater drainage disposal from the tower top will also be improved by the provision of new “spitters” in the form of dragon-headed pipes projecting from all four faces. The spitters will ensure the rainwater is carried well away from the repaired stone faces of the tower, which has caused damage previously.

It is anticipated the works will be completed early in the New Year.

The works have been kindly funded by a legacy left to the church by the former tower captain, Mervyn Roberts, with additional funding from a Historic Building Grant provided by Cadw.


Harvey Faulkner-Aston

Bartosch and Stokes Architects

Tel: 01242 522061


Vernon Lewis (St Mary's Priory) inspects the work on the tower

The view of Abergavenny from the tower at St Mary's Priory

Read Full Post »

It was estimated that around a thousand people attended Dean Jeremy’s Funeral either at the cathedral or by audio link at Abergavenny, and it appears a similar number may wish to attend the Service of Thanksgiving on January 21st.

The Service of Thanksgiving is, therefore, to be ticket only. To book your free ticket please email vicar@stmarys-priory.org from Sunday, December 18th. Clergy may robe in choir dress/ cotta but need to book also.

The Service will be on January 21st at 11.30am

It is hoped to have a permanent memorial to Fr Jeremy at St Mary’s, but details are yet to be sorted out.

Read Full Post »

‘Facebook privacy flaw exposes Mark Zuckerberg photos’ ran the headline of the technology column of Christopher Williams, Technology Correspondent of the Telegraph, on Wednesday – the story being that a flaw in the security systems of Facebook allowed the circumvention of arrangements designed to safeguard privacy of, amongst others, the Chief Executive of the company. Coming in the same week as the intriguing television programme presented by Emily Maitlis ‘Mark Zuckerberg: Inside Facebook’ on BBC Two (on Sunday, 4 December at 9pm), the whole thing made for interesting reading and thought-provoking broadcasting. There is no way I could claim any expertise whatsoever on the matter in hand, but the programme itself was fascinating in the questions and issues it raised, and some of those were highlighted again in the article(s) covering the security breaches.

Two things stood out, to my mind, namely the whole matter of privacy and personal relationships on social networking sites, with their consequences for the ‘psychology’ of it all, and the financial aspects that allow the thing to exist in the first place. On the first of these, it was interesting to note how the set-up of these sites, for example, encourages users to view the sharing of personal information and photographs with (preferably lots of) other people, often known to the user as ‘friends’ only via the internet, appear ‘the norm’, so that people end up sharing things with others a lot more freely than they would in everyday life in their local community. On the second, it was equally fascinating to find out just how these sites manage to make (quite a lot of) money out of the whole thing, which allows them to offer their services free of charge to their users – primarily, it seems, by means of allowing a most sophisticated ‘targeting’ of advertising by companies based precisely on extensive previous information made available on and to the site in question by its users.

Both of these, I think, are worth noting – whatever one makes in principle of the whole thing (and opinion is likely to vary substantially): the second because it reveals that, whatever the rhetoric may be, these are businesses and businesses exist to make money for their owners; the first because it highlights that the whole experience remains at least slightly ‘artificial’ by means of such sites existing as a highly regulated and ‘biased’ environment for communication.

How to view the phenomenon as Christians? At the heart of our faith stands the way in which we are made for eternal full ‘communion’ with the One who made us, and for equal sharing with all His people – ‘Christ made his home among us that we might for ever dwell in you’, as one of the Eucharistic Prayers puts it. Anything that makes us more ‘one’ with others on the road to this goal is surely a good thing – the question remaining, though, is: does social networking do so, or is it, after all, merely another intriguing way of making money for some, fed by the need of others to feel valued and accepted by their ‘friends’? Too early to say, I think – but the questions are intriguing and the matter unlikely to go away; food for thought, I suspect, for a long time.

Presents for teens: This year we are again supporting disadvantaged teenagers aged 15-18 in Abergavenny who, through no fault of their own, do not live at home—Social Services have told us there are 31 youngsters in need. There will be boxes at back of each church for donations of suitable items to be included in gift bags, such as toiletries, sweets, etc, for both boys and girls. If you would like items picked up please contact Pansy Davies on 851977 by Wednesday.

Parish lunch: St Mary’s and Christchurch parish lunch takes place on Sunday (18th), 12.30pm for 1pm. Tickets £10, available from churchwardens. St Peter’s Christmas lunch also takes place next Sunday (18th) 12.30pm for 1pm. Hot pot and Christmas pudding, price £10, available from Pip Hassall on 857392.

Christmas Flowers: If you would like to contribute towards the cost of flowers at St Mary’s at Christmas, perhaps in memory of a loved one, please see Mrs Lillian Price. Equally, please see churchwardens at Christchurch and St Peter’s for flowers there.

Christchurch: Once again Christchurch is urging members to sign the communal Christmas card in church and donate monies saved to church funds. Decorating the church for the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols will take place on Saturday from 10am.

Raffle prizes: If you have kindly offered to donate a prize for the Grand Draw, please contact Clive Jones on 854595.

Grand Draw coffee morning: On Friday, December 16, at 10am. If you can help by making mince pies, that would be much appreciated. We are also holding a Christmas tombola and if you could contribute a small Christmassy item (box of mince pies, jar of mincemeat, Christmas pudding, small gift, etc) or if you could bake a cake for the cake stall that would also be much appreciated. Please contact Margaret Dodd on 856624 or bring them along on the day.

Christian Aid: Soup lunch at the Methodist Church on December 20 from 12.30pm to 2pm.

Monastic Day: Wednesday, December 21. The labora during the afternoon will be carols at our nursing homes—full details next week.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »