Archive for December, 2012

2013-a jam packed year

We have a full and varied programme of activities planned for St Mary’s Priory in 2013, in addition to the usual services related to the Christian Festivals.

In June we will hold another Medieval Fayre on Saturday,1st (To book your stall email:enquires@stmarys-priory.org) and on June 29th we will join in the Green Book for Monmouth – do visit our Abbott’s Garden on that day.

Among the Concerts planned for the year are:

Only Boys Aloud at the Borough Theatre on May 11th, in aid of the Winston Memorial Fund

Elvis -impersonated by Keith Davies  sings Gospel in Church on February 9th

Gwent Bach Choir return on April 20th & July 6th

We will mark Holocaust Memorial Day on Friday,February 1st  and host the Archbishop of Wales Award for Church Music Service & Awards on April 27th.

In April we hope to display some works from the Methodist Art Exhibition as part of a trail of paintings in the area.

We will again play host to part of the Abergavenny Food Festival in September (21st & 22nd) and the Winter Festival in December.

The year will end with a spectacular Festival of Flowers: Advent to Candlemas  on November 21st -26th, arranged inconjunction with the Abergavenny & District  Flower  Arrangement Club.

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St John the Evangelist ( December 27th)

9am Holy Eucharist

Holy Innocents (December 28th)

8am Holy Eucharist

Thomas Beckett (December 29th)

9am Holy Eucharist

1st Sunday of Christmas  ( December 30th)

8am Holy Eucharist

10.30am Parish Eucharist

Sunday Evening’s Service at 6pm will be at Christchurch, North Street

New Year’s Eve (December 31st)

9am Holy Eucharist


A Blessed Christmas from us all at St Mary’s Priory.

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Preaching at St Mary’s Priory Church at the First Mass of Christmas on Christmas Eve the Vicar, Fr Mark Soady said:

Each year I get a Christmas card from a young lad who I baptised when he was 11 and is now a first year student in University at Aberystwyth. Each year the card has a joke and a message. This year’s shows the Angel Gabriel about to tell the Shepherds that  Jesus has been born, when they stop him and announce they know already – the news has already been tweeted!

We now live in an age when stories can quickly go viral. Sometimes such stories can get one in to trouble, as some people report gossip as fact. We’ve sadly seen examples of that in recent months. As with all things, used correctly they can be for the good, used badly they can cause nothing, but harm. We here at St Mary’s Priory communicate frequently with large numbers of people- and I hope in doing so we are spreading the Good News of Jesus.

The Congregation in candle light

The Congregation in candle light


People regularly complain to me that the news is full of bad stories, but that doesn’t stop us from buying the newspapers or viewing the stories. I wonder how many people looked at the naked photos of Prince Harri or the Duchess of Cambridge – yet were among those that complained about their press invasion.

As Christians we have a great story to tell. Our God loves us so much that he was prepared to become a baby born in a manger and die the most horrid death of all on the cross for us, so that we may have Eternal Life. My Challenge to you this Christmas is to go out and spread that good news.

It is only  when people are told of Jesus that they can know about the wonderful things he does for us. When he walked this earth many came to him to be healed, only when they had heard that he was a great healer.

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Our Ordinand, Philip Godsell concludes our Advent series of sermons on the sacraments.

Its good to be home after a term in theological college, well Father Mark asked me preach this morning on the sacraments of Marriage and Ordination, so be patient with me, “as patience is a virtue and virtue is a grace and grace is a little girl who wouldn’t wash her face”

What do I mean by grace, well a sacrament, as we know, is an outward sign that confers an inner grace.

And the Sacrament of Marriage is no exception, as each one of us has something that we want to do with our lives: something we want to become. It may take us a while to find out what that “something” is, but eventually idea’s and goals form, either consciously or unconsciously.

And it seems to me that as people pursue these goals, whatever they may be—to be a Priest, or Dentist, Care worker, or to be the best School Teacher that ever lived, to own a Rolls Royce or whatever else we may see our lives to be about, however sometimes we encounter another human being to whom we are so attracted that the love of this other person supersedes all other life goals and ambitions.

Whether gradually, or in a whirlwind, we decide that the first person on the agenda, is now going to be the life, the happiness, the holiness of this other person. The good of this other, takes precedence, even over the desires and dreams that we had for ourselves. And when that other person makes the same decision, together the two embark on a whole new adventure.

It seems to me that this is the basic meaning of the Sacrament of Marriage.

Perhaps then the sacrament reveals the religious dimension of marriage. Besides the human, social and legal dimensions of marriage, the public sign that one gives oneself totally to this other person, sacramental marriage is also a public statement about God. The celebration of each of the sacraments reveals something of this ultimate reality: who God is and who God is for us.

In the Scriptures the relationship between God and God’s people is often described in terms of a marriage. The early Christians, reflecting on Christ’s love for us, also used this image.

Christ and the Church embrace in mutual love and self-giving, even as do husband and wife (Ephesians 5:21-33). “‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ This is a great mystery, and I am applying it to Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:31-32).

In each of the sacraments, a window opens and we can glimpse the mystery of God and God’s plan for the salvation of the world. In Christian marriage we see that God was not content to be alone, but embarked on a whole new life project.

For it was out of love God created us, and all that is. God is faithful no matter what. Whether we are faithful or faithless, God is faithful; whether we wander away in sin or remain in the embrace of love, God is always there and is ever ready to embrace us.

The sacramental sign, which the husband and wife give to each other, they also give that sign to the whole community of witnesses. I too have made commitments to God and I’d like to think that God has made commitments to me, as I progress through Ordination training.

There has been many times when I wonder if God will be faithful. I have never seen God, but I can see the faithfulness of Christian husbands and wives. Their love for each other is a sacramental sign and witness of God’s love for me.

I believe that our human lives are interconnected, like a fabric, woven together by many commitments. The faithfulness of their commitment ultimately strengthens my own commitments.

This indeed is a great mystery. It is something that touches me deeply each time I experience a Christian wedding and each time I experience the sacramental love of husband and wife, and I am reminded of my own commitments, plus the commitments which I made to my Wife, because she has allowed me to surrender our secular trappings and follow more fully a life in Christ as an Ordinand.

I pray daily, for the strength, both physically and mentally to complete my time at Theological college, but I have learnt that God only ever gives three answers to prayers….1. Yes! 2. Not Yet. 3. I have something else better in mind.

Many of you here today, have seen me move from the Pew to Postulancy, and latterly into Ordination training, and to be honest, Ordination had never really been a life goal! , Ambition to train as a Priest had never even appeared on my radar! , but I feel that I have been directed by a higher power, directed down a rather rocky and emblematically most painful path along which I have been dragged kicking and screaming by some wonderful encounters love and support which surpass any explanation.

As I prepare to receive the sacrament of Ordination, once again a window opens, and I can see more fully the mystery of God, and Gods plan for the salvation of the world.

Every day I awake and have doubts, doubts that I will ever be worthy of this sacrament.

But I have received a tremendous gift of faith from God, so I cannot just sit and do nothing with it, as by accepting Ordination, I am told it leaves and indelible mark on your soul and change’s a person forever.

But let me remind you all, that through our Baptism, each of us is called to share in Christ’s mission, as Priest, Profit and King.

Jesus Christ became man and lived amongst us, and while he was here on earth, he fulfilled a particular mission given to him by his father, he taught, and shepherded the people, he healed bodily and spiritual illnesses, and most importantly he offered himself on the cross in sacrifice for the salvation of the world.

He was and is our eternal high priest, after Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, he left behind his apostles who where to continue his mission on earth.

The apostles in turn selected certain men to be there successors, these men became Bishop’s, they ordained these bishops by the laying on of hands in the invocation of the Holy Spirit, which is called the Sacrament of Ordination, or Holy Orders.

Over time the Church has come to a deeper understanding of Holy Orders, but we see from the very beginning that Christ intended that his church be ordered according to a certain hierarchy.

We see that in the Scriptures that Christ established three degrees of Holy Orders, Bishops, Priests and Deacons.

Bishops share in the fullness of Holy Orders and serve as the head of the local Diocese.

Priests are the Bishops co workers in his ministry and serve in the local community.

Deacons are ordained to help the Bishop and Priest.

At Ordination, The Bishop, Priest or Deacons receives special gifts of the Holy Spirit, which strengthen and bring to life their particular ministry.

Ordination occurs as part of the Eucharist, where part of the rite is when the bishop lays his hands on the head of the Ordinand and invokes the Holy Spirit in the prayer of concretion.

Each degree of ordination confers different grace and privileges, from the ability to preach, given to deacons, from the power to act in the Person of Christ in offering the Eucharist and forgiving sins, granted to Priest, to a special grace of strength granted to Bishops, which allow them to lead and teach and sanctify their flock.

The Sacrament of Ordination is ultimately considered as a gift, given by Christ for the service of his people so that his mission of salvation may be carried on until the end of time.

So no pressure then, in a very real way I have experienced a great sense of reverence and awe about my priestly vocation as my time in theological college.  I always have, of course, but lately I have been truly rejoicing because I recognize that the Lord Jesus Christ has done amazing things in my life. The Lord can never be outdone in his generosity. I have experienced the most amazing love of Christ and I can do nothing but rejoice.

So by the help of God, if I make the grade and receive the Sacrament of Ordination from My Lord Monmouth, I pray that this Sacrament with be the outward sign that confers an inner grace.





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At the age of 21 HM The Queen made a promise to serve the whole the Commonwealth. Sixty years ago that promise became a reality when she ascended  to the throne, we have MS Priory Crib-8179spent this last year giving thanks for her 60 years of fulfilling that promise of service.

Sadly we are not all so good at keeping our promises. How many of us have said ‘Do come for coffee/ lunch’, when we don’t really mean it, let alone not keeping more fundamental promises.

Christmas is a time when we remember that God did keep his promise to send a Messiah – a Saviour. Throughout  the Old Testament God was promising to send his Son to save the world. Christmas is the fulfilment of that promise, but the promise does not end there God promises to come again in glory to save the world.

So as we celebrate Christmas let us promise to keep our promises to others.

Blessed Christmas!

Fr Mark Soady, Vicar of Abergavenny

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Gwyn Jones Remembered

It is with sadness that we announce the Death of Gwyn Jones, a leading figure in the restoration of our Monuments. His Memorial Service will be held at St Mary’s Priory Church on January 7th at 12noon.

On hearing the news Chris Cotteril, Secretary of the Monuments Restoration Fund said,

We owe  a tremendous debt to Gwyn, who had the knowledge to recognise the
historical significance of the Jesse Tree and mediaeval monuments at St Mary’s
Priory Church,  the enthusiasm to convince others of the need to conserve them
and the persistence and commitment to see such  a significant undertaking to


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The Anglican Churches in Abergavenny have this week been taking the message of Christmas out to the town.

Fr Bernard loads the keyboard in to his car

Fr Bernard loads the keyboard in to his car


On Tuesday night we sang carols in the Farmers Arms, the first of the town’s pubs we will be visiting over the next 10 days.

Then on Wednesday we visited the Old People’s Homes of the town with the Christmas message in words and music.



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Preaching at the Mass for the Feast of the Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, last Saturday at Westminster RC Cathedral, Archbishop Rowan Williams mentioned the Jesse Tree at St Mary’s Priory.


You’ll be familiar with the imagery of the Jesse tree that you sometimes see in stained-glass windows.  In my old diocese of Monmouth it was represented in the parish church of Abergavenny by an enormous wooden sculpture of Jesse fast asleep.  During the Middle Ages, a great branching wooden sculpture grew from that sleeping figure showing all the saints of Jesse’s line culminating in the Virgin.  We could say that if you cut through that tree at any point it would be the same sap flowing, the same life, the life of God preparing a space for his Incarnate Word to come.

It’s sometimes a help in reading the odder portions of the Old Testament to think that wherever we cut through the history of the Covenant God is at work, however unlikely it seems

Jesse being filmed by BBC4

Jesse being filmed by BBC4

on the surface.  Thisbit of ritual regulation in Leviticus or that bit of unedifying tribal history in Judges is all part of the same story, the same making space for the Word Incarnate.  In our reading this evening (from St Paul to theRomans 8.28—35, 37—40) our attention was directed to God’s choice before all ages, not only of the path towards the Incarnation but of the path beyond the Incarnation: the path of holiness into which we are drawn.  Those called according to God’s purpose are the ones he chose to become true images of his Son.  We are part of the same history of God’s work in the human heart, God’s work preparing and then honouring that space he has made for his Son to become flesh.  In other words this feast is a feast of God’s faithfulness, a feast of a God who keeps his promise.

Now if we ask a bit more about the nature of God’s promise we might perhaps turn to the very end of St Matthew’s gospel where Jesus makes the greatest promise of all to his disciples:  ‘I am with you always to the end of the age’ (Matthew 28.20).  Approaching that with today’s celebrations in mind we can be confident that this is a promise that Christ keeps.  He is with his disciples;  he is with his friends to the end of the world.  And just as in the stranger and less edifying bits of the Old Testament we can discern God making his way towards Bethlehem, so even in the estranger and odder bits of our lives as Christians, both individually and together, we can discern a God making his way towards full presence and free grace.

Jessus has promised that he will always be with those he calls his friends (John 15.15): those he calls to himself in baptism and establishes with him as sons and daughters of his eternal Father.  And so we, who share baptism in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, may be confident that Jesus has promised to be with us – to be with the otherwho shares that baptism however unlikely, however difficult that other may be.  And when we’re tempted to talk of an ‘ecumenical winter’, tempted to focus our attention only on the stresses and conflicts between communions of Christian churches, it’s worth remembering that our God is a God who keeps his promise and that he has promised to be with us.  He has promised to be with that unlikely, difficult Christian stranger with whom we strive to enter into dialogue every bit as much as he has promised to be with us, equally strange and difficult as we are going to seem to some of our brothers or sisters.

The history of the Church—like the history of the chosen people out of whom the Lord should come—is not a uniform history of holiness, success and edification – not then, and not now.  But this is the human family in which Jesus has promised to be present.  And when we celebrate a God who is faithful to his promise our hearts are renewed in hope and understanding together.  In our meetings, in our discussions, and, yes, even in our conflicts, just as in the history of the people of the first covenant, so now God is deeply and invisibly is making a space into which the life of his Son may come.

When we pray, when we open ourselves to God, we open ourselves to a depth that is already given in our own hearts, open ourselves to that relationship already given in our baptism whereby we are able to call God, ‘Abba, Father!’ because we are brought into the fellowship of the Son.  We open our hearts in silence to that depth so that we may become more aware not only of Jesus who has promised to be with us and in us, but so that we may become more and more aware of Jesus who has promised to be in and with our Christian neighbour, our brother and sister.  Without that dimension, ecumenical relations are always going to be a matter of mere politeness.  With that dimension an element of Spirit-filled and Spirit-fuelled hope enters in.

The God who keeps his promises is the God who is already making his Church one, the God who is already alerting us to the one, Jesus, who has promised to be faithfully present in the neighbour and the stranger.  God began to prepare the way from the very first beginnings of creation.  God began to prepare the way in the covenant with Abraham, in the Exodus in the anointing of King David, above all on the very eve of the incarnation he prepares the way in the holy life of the Virgin Mary.  And as in the body of Mary Christ grew, silently and secretly for nine months, so now in the history of our Church, in the life of each person seeking to be a believer, Christ grows silently, unseen, yet powerfully and faithfully.

Our call to holiness is a call quite simply to let that promise and that faithfulness take us over, permeate every aspect of our being, shape our relationships with one another – within our own Christian families, between our Christian families.  And as we grow into that divine faithfulness, as that holy promise shapes our lives, we learn to say with greater and greater clarity and conviction the words with which this evening’s reading ends:  ‘Not any power or height or depth nor any created thing can ever come between us and the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus our Lord’  (Romans 8.30).

There could be no more powerful affirmation of the promises of God, the faithfulness of God, what God achieves in that history whereby he prepares the way for his Incarnate Son, and what God is achieving silently and secretly now, even as we speak, even as we pray, even here in this still evening.

Dear brothers and sisters, the vision that I believe we are called to today in the relations between our Churches—between us as individuals, and with God in his wider world—is a vision of Christ keeping his promise, and our calling is to turn away from everything that makes us blind to, or insensitive to that promise, so that divine faithfulness may be the rationale and the inspiration of all we do and say together.

In the life and the child-bearing of the Blessed Virgin Mary that promise first, and once-and-for-all, came to fruition in our history.  In our lives and our prayers that promise continues to move towards our own particular Bethlehems, our own particular future as sons and daughters of the everlasting Father.  The Spirit moves in us; the Spirit is bringing Christ to birth in us; the Spirit is directing our hearts our eyes and our ears to one another, and to the Christ who has promised to be there.  And no created thing can ever come between us and the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus our Lord.

© Rowan Williams 2012

Archbishop Rowan Williams at Westminster Cathedral.  Photo: Marcin Mazur/CCN

The Archbishop of Canterbury delivering the homily at Westminster Cathedral.  Photo: Marcin Mazur/CCN



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This Advent we are reflecting on Sacraments, Associate Vicar, Dr Beranrd Sixtus writes:

Across Fr Mark’s incumbency, we will be sharing together in reflections about the sacraments this Advent, as we listen to sermons on this theme each Sunday. And as we begin to do so, I would like to, as it were, complement this upcoming series by some thoughts about shared liturgical life in general.

For a long time, I suspect that for me one of the best things about the ‘Catholic’ or ‘sacramental’ tradition of Anglicanism in which we share here has been and continues to be the place of ‘common’ (that is: shared) daily worship. From the time of living alongside a monastic community while studying at Theological College, through my time in Paris and now here, this rhythm of shared prayer has become almost something like ‘second nature’ to me, and I certainly find I miss it when I have to be away.

However, at first sight this may sound like an overly ‘churchy’ thing to say – after all, is ‘being Church’ not much more about being a real, living ‘community’? And do we not meet as such a community far more ‘personally’ in non-liturgical settings?

Thank God we do not have to choose between the two – but I do think that there is nothing in our life together that expresses who we are as Church better than praying together: we are a ‘community’ only because God has brought us together. Being together as Church, we are to be the sign and sacrament of that encompassing unity which will be the final overcoming of the alienation and isolation of people from each other and from God that we call ‘sin’. Praying together and above all celebrating the sacraments, chiefly perhaps the Holy Eucharist together, we do indeed make all this to be a present reality already, we are united both with God and with one another – but are so precisely in these sacred, saving ‘signs’ of His love and our communion with Him and one another.

For—and this is why the truth of this is indeed most aptly expressed in our shared sacramental life—we do well to remember that the present reality of all our unity is one that has the character of a ‘sign’ that is not itself the final goal: ‘Christians’, observed Avery Dulles, ‘commonly experience the Church more as a companionship of fellow travellers on the same journey than as a union of lovers dwelling in the same home’. And so it is precisely in worshipping and praying together – and doing so ‘liturgically’ and ‘sacramentally’ – that we are perhaps most like the kind of community we can and should be as Church: very obviously together but ‘on the way’ still, with our ‘companions in the way’, to that final fulfilment of all things in God, the true ‘union of lovers dwelling in the same home’ that is: our sharing in the very life of the Holy Trinity which all sacraments foreshadow and anticipate.


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This weeks images refer to some other Old Testament stories like Noah and the Ark, Moses- the baby in the bushes and the recipient of the Ten Commandments, along with Joseph and his multi coloured cloak.


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