Archive for April, 2014


May sees us hosting a number of Concerts in the Priory Church & Priory Centre. Why not join us for them !


Westminster College Choir & St Marys Priory Choir in Concert

May 9th at 7.30pm

Welsh Warrior Charity Concert

May 17th, 7pm Pontnewydd Male Voice Choir with Ben Powell  in church


Reves & Amore

May 18th, 2pm: Katherine Thomas (Harp) & Lawrence  Kempton (Violin) in the Priory Centre


In Quire & places where they sing

May 25th, 7pm:  Erebus Ensemble in church


Concert with Les Choeurs de St Maur

May 31st, 7pm in Church


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IT is likely that we will be hosting two Civic Services in St Mary’s Priory in June.

Abergavenny_Town_councilThe new Mayor Of Abergavenny Cllr Martin Hickman’s Civic Service will be held at the Priory Church on June 1st. Cllr Hickman has appointed Fr Malcolm Lane as his Chaplain and he will preach at the service which be led by the Vicar Fr Mark Soady.

Fr Malcolm was Cllr Hickman’s Chaplain when he last served as Mayor.

If local County Councillor John Prosser, currently Vice chair of Monmouthshire County Council, is elected as Chairman of the County Council as expected his Civic Service will be held a week later on June 8th.


The Preacher at this Service will be the Bishop of Monmouth. The Vicar who will act as the Chairman’s Chaplain will lead the service.

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Paschal Vigil Sermon

Speaking at the Paschal Vigil tonight (19.iv.14) Ordinand Tom Bates said:


‘By the side of the river he trotted as one trots, when very small, by the side of a man who holds one spell bound by exciting stories; and when tired at last, he sat on the bank, while the river still chatted on to him, a babbling procession of the best stories in the world, sent from the heart of the earth to be told at last to the insatiable sea.’


So says the author Kenneth Grahame of his character Mole in the Wind in the Willows as he discovers the river for the first time. I’ve often thought of that river when I’ve considered my own Christian journey. God is like the water in the river. As you travel along in the boat of life you may look out and see the river bank gliding past, and the trees and fields, but it is not until you look down and see the river itself that you realise it has been carrying you, guiding your course all the way.


With all our readings in the vigil tonight we are in the same position as the Mole. We journey alongside our divine Father as he unfolds to us ‘the best stories in the world’, the story of his salvation for us, sent from the heart of God, to be poured out for those who hunger, the insatiable sea of humanity. In those readings God shows us, if you like, a chart of the river, and says ‘look’, ‘see how I have carried you’ and ‘see how I will bring you home’. See how I flowed through the tributaries of Abraham, of Moses, of the prophets, of my people Israel. And in the same way as you may follow a mountain stream down hill in the sure knowledge that it will lead to a river, so did I flow through Jesus who carry you back to the great ocean of my love.’


We see this sense of progression in our liturgy too. The four parts of this Vigil move us through the gradual unfolding of the Paschal Mystery of Christ. The Paschal fire ‘dispels the darkness of this night’, the Liturgy of the Word reveals the course of God’s plan throughout salvation history. Through the waters of Baptism we become a part of that history, and in the Eucharist we unite ourselves to the risen Christ, celebrating his presence here amongst us as the Lamb that was slain.


On Thursday evening i touched briefly on the idea of a common Christian vocation, our calling to be Christ in our community. A stream or a river does not deny its nature to flow to the sea. Even if a stream is exceptionally beautiful and strong it cannot decide to journey to the sea on and of it’s own. It would be the equivalent to the image prophet Isaiah’s sheep ‘turning every one to there own way’. As we come here tonight we do so as tributaries of the Resurrected Body of Christ. Streams to whom have been given the living waters of the Good News which can bring the transformative and life giving power of Christ to all around us. We come here tonight to hear where we have come from, to know of what we are a part, and to reaffirm our commitment to the river that unites us through Christ, with Christ and In Christ, that river which through the rapids of Christ’s Passion, the plunge into the dark caves of his Death and the bursting forth of the wellsprings of his Resurrection will restore us to the ocean of God’s love ‘that the earth shall be filled with the Glory of God as the waters cover the sea.’


Having been around to all the churches this morning I’ve seen many of you busy preparing for this feast. Spectacular flower displays were being assembled, Lillies being coaxed into bloom, and people were busy spring cleaning with a wide variety of potions and creative looking improvised devices. Our churches have been transformed from the bare sepulchres of Good Friday and are bursting with beautiful images of spring and new life. Those of you who know ‘The Wind in the Willows’ will know that the story begins with a similar episode of spring cleaning.


Tom Bates

Tom Bates

“The mole had been working very hard all the morning, spring cleaning his little home. First with brooms, then with dusters; then on ladders and steps and chairs, with a brush and a pail full of whitewash; till he had dust in his throat and eyes, and splashes of whitewash all over his black fur, and an aching back and weary arms.” I’m sure after today many of you can identify with that feeling ‘Spring was moving in the air above and in in the earth below and around him, penetrating even his dark and lowly little house with its spirit of divine discontent and longing. It was small wonder, then, that he suddenly flung down his brush on the floor, said ‘Bother’ and ‘O blow!’ and also ‘Hang spring cleaning!’ and bolted out of the house without even waiting to put on his coat. Something up above was calling him imperiously’. Today something is indeed calling us, in the most profound way,something over and above our day to day lives. Something for which we should indeed throw down all that is holding us back, just as James and John left their nets in the boat and followed Christ, for the mole it was the call of spring and the river, for us it is the new life of Christ as we are called once again to be a part of ‘the river’ of God’s salvation history. Let us drop everything and as the mole toddled alongside the river, let us toddle alongside our divine father enrapt in the story of our salvation.


I saw water flowing from the right side of the temple unto the left side, it gave us life and his salvation, and the people sang with joyful praise, Alleluia Alleluia.


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Speaking at a service in Holy Trinity Church, Baker Street following the Ecumenical Good Friday March of Witness the Vicar Fr Mark Soady will say:

So far this year we have celebrated Diamond Wedding Anniversaries with three couples. What a statement of Christian love their life together has been.

One couple said they never go to bed  with an argument unresolved, all spoke of the need to give and take in their marriage. Such giving and taking is a sign of the sacrificial love in their hearts.

It is  such sacrificial love as this which caused  God the Son to die on the cross for us on that first Good Friday. Jesus love for us is so great that he is prepared to die so our sins can be forgiven – and we can experience eternal life.

Each of us, as Christians,  are called to emulate that sacrificial love , as the three couples who have celebrated their long married lives together have done.

May God give you the power to go and do like wise


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ON Good Friday the St Mary’s Priory Church Choir will sing their Musical Director, Tim Pratt’s new major choral work Stabat Mater at the Priory Church at 7pm. The Concert will be proceeded by the Good Friday Liturgy at 6pm.

A week later Tim Pratt will be awarded the Archbishop of Wales Award for Church Music by the Archbishop, Dr Barry Morgan.

Stabat Mater – the Sorrows of Mary- refers to her feelings at the foot 0f her son’s cross

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We are hosting two concerts at St Mary’s Priory this week.

On Wednesday evening the Priory Centre is the setting for Dragon Fly.

Marcia Crayford- Violin
Susie Meszaros-Viloa
Sarah Newbold- Flute
Katherine Thomas – Harp
Programme includes:

Tickets (£10) are available at the door or from the Tithe Barn.

In the Priory Church On Saturday you can hear St John’s Passion.

It is performed in the original German with projected subtitles in the English by Gwent Bach Choir.

Tickets area available at the Door or from Abergavenny Music

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In the last of the series Solicitor Rob Phillips reflected on how his faith impacts on his work in a very busy solicitors office.


My workplace is an office. A solicitors’ office. Its busy, as are most offices nowadays. There are all sorts of pressures. The phone rings from the moment I arrive in the morning. Letters have largely been replaced with e-mail and as a result no longer are response times measured in days – or even weeks – but rather in hours or perhaps minutes. A particular client of mine telephones to enquire why I haven’t responded if his e-mail doesn’t get an answer within 30 minutes of it having being sent. And if I’m not in the office – no matter I have a blackberry. It has a red light on the top which flashes when an e-mail is waiting to be read and which makes it almost impossible to resist the temptation to check and to respond. Solicitors live in the modern society where everyone expects instant communication and patience is often a dirty word.

The end of the financial year for most solicitors practices is the last day of April. A date we are fast approaching. These weeks are a particularly busy time. Fees targets must be met. Bills must be issued in time. Debts must be recovered. Probably worst of all new targets must be set for the following year. It seems a never ending circle – targets, pressure and stress. Where then is Christianity to be found in this workplace?

I have recently been involved in a tender exercise. The tender was for a Christian organisation that wished to review the way in which it spent its legal budget and presumably to test the market to ensure what it was spending in legal fees was competitive and represented good value. As you will all know, Christian organisations of all denominations hold assets which are invested with the purpose of generating an income for the organisation. This income is used to pay clergy pensions, it supports ministry, sometimes it pays for outreach programmes. The investment is often made in property and this is where I come in. My legal practice is in property law – more particularly the disputes that arise from the ownership of property. I work for the owners of large property portfolios. I undertake the litigation work that inevitably and necessarily flows from the ownership of such assets. The Christian organisation I was recently involved in a tender for is certainly not alone in investing in property. Far from it. No doubt each of us here has invested money in one way or another over the years in property – whether it be our own homes, investments in pension funds, insurance schemes or similar – all of these invest in property funds. There will have been legal disputes and litigation about those disputes. Where is Christianity to be found in this work?

Ron Phillips relaxing

Rob Phillips relaxing

What I have told you so far hopefully gives you some insight into what I do in my workplace. It is not however what I have recently been advised by an American business marketing consultant to say about what I do. On a recent training course I attended he told me that I needed an elevator pitch. This he explained was a 30 second – or ideally less – exposition of my “offering”. What I would say to someone I met in an elevator in the 30 seconds or so it took me to get from the ground floor to my destination floor. I suggested I say that I am a property litigation lawyer, that I manage court proceedings, draft court papers, represent clients at court, attend mediations, negotiate with other parties, write letters, make telephone calls. This was great he told me, but I needed to think more about the “message”. Having listened to what I did he told me that my elevator pitch, that 30 second conversation (or opportunity to sell myself as he would have it) the answer I should give in response to the question, so what do you do, should always begin with the phrase, “I find fast effective and efficient solutions to disputes involving land and buildings”. I’m not sure that I could ever bring myself to actually say that whether in an elevator or indeed anywhere else – certainly not without visibly cringing. But, perhaps ironically, it did ring a chord when it came to this lecture. It is almost exclusively true to say that clients come to me with an intention of resolving their disputes. They do not want to be involved in time consuming, stressful and, above all, expensive litigation. The legal profession has increasingly recognised over recent years that litigation is often not the most effective way of resolving legal disputes, certainly not legal disputes between commercial entities who will often have numerous other contracts and agreements with one another – a wider commercial relationship which it is mutually beneficial to maintain. People, businesses, government departments, Christian organisations do not want legal disputes. They want a resolution to their dispute. The Christian organisation which I have mentioned undertaking a tender exercise for is surely in the business of resolving disputes – more than this, they wish to resolve disputes in a manner which is consistent with their ethics policy, a policy that itself is derived from a detailed consideration of Christian teaching. Certainly there will be hard questions to be answered in terms of whether it is ethical to engage in litigation in certain circumstances. Ultimately however for a Christian organisation entrusted with assets, the parable of the talents gives clear guidance as to what is expected. I am sure that the Church and certainly our clergy would be less than impressed at a Representative Body which decided not to continue investing its assets in the fear of finding itself unable to answer a difficult question and as a result without money to pay pensions, and to support ministry. The assets must be well managed but ethically managed so that they grow, but not at the expense of living out the Christian gospel. Sometimes a hard balancing act, but one that the parable of the Talents surely tells us that we must attempt.

Church in Wales

What though of the client that does not have such religious convictions? How should a Christian lawyer respond? How do I respond? The legal profession is fundamentally client centred. Rules of professional conduct make it clear that, in almost all circumstances the interests of the client must come first. At first glance this may not seem problematic.

Isaiah Chapter 1 Verses 10 to 17 tell us:

Seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow”

Where the client is the oppressed, the orphan, the widow, it is easy to see how the Christian lawyer may put the interests of his client first.

How is the Christian lawyer to balance his or her religious convictions with the fundamental requirements of professional ethics and codes of conduct? Would it be desirable in a democratic society that a lawyer should seek to dissuade a client from adopting a particular course of action when that course of action is permissible pursuant to the laws of the land, simply because it offends against the lawyer’s religious beliefs? What alternative does the Christian lawyer have? To segment work life from religious life? Perhaps the lawyer can blame the politician who enacted the legal framework in the first place which is now potentially being used by the client to obtain an advantage for themselves which the Christian lawyer considers unconscionable? If its not the politician’s fault then perhaps it is the fault of the electorate that elected him? All this feels far too much like passing the buck. Can it really be the lawyer’s place simply to represent and to pursue his client’s perception of what is good within the confines of the legal system within which the lawyer operates or can and should he represent his own moral and religious convictions to his client in the manner in which he dispenses his legal advice? The expropriation of Jewish property in Nazi Germany was presided over by lawyers who worked towards their client’s perception of what was good within the confines of the legal system that existed within that political state.

In the first book of Kings Chapter 3 verses 16 to 28 we are told the story of two advocates pleading their case before a judge. You may recall it better were I to say two mothers pleading to their king. The two mothers had spent the night in the same room after giving birth. One of the children died during the night. The allegation was that the mother of the dead child swapped her child with the living child. The king’s solution to the dispute was to take a sword and to divide the child in half giving half to each mother. The true mother abandoned her case in favour of arguing for compassion, that the life of the child should be saved, she would give up her claim to the child if it could but live. In arguing for compassion the judge saw the strength of the true mother’s claim and the child was given back to her. Compassion was the mother’s route to justice.

King Solomon in his judgment room

My difficulty with all of this however comes when I read the New Testament. For this appears to turn concepts of justice as I understand them as a lawyer entirely on their head. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus tell us:

“if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well”

Does this mean that I should never be defending anyone against a legal action brought against them? Even an incorrect and unjust application? Is Jesus telling us that we must simply give up in the face of such unjust treatment? Or is the message that the way in which to defeat evil, anger and hatred is to meet it with love?

So with the telephones ringing in the office, the e-mails arriving, the blackberry’s red light flashing, the targets, the pressure and the stress where is the Christianity to be found in my workplace? In managing property portfolios and resolving disputes, where is the Christianity to be found in my legal work? I can answer where it should be found although I fear all too often I fall well short of the standard. It should be found in the advice, in the decisions, in the interactions with colleagues, with clients and with opponents. In demonstrating love for my neighbour, whoever that neighbour may be and no matter what they have done.

At evensong three weeks ago Fr Mark prayed an Ancient Welsh Prayer:

Grant, O God, your protection; and in your protection, strength; and in strength, understanding; and in understanding, knowledge; and in knowledge, the knowledge of justice; and in the knowledge of justice, the love of it; and in that love, the love of existence; and in the love of all existence, the love of God, God and all goodness. Amen.




Doctor-Professor John Saunders

Policeman- Sir Trefor Morris CBE QPM

Politician- Nick Ramsay AM

Journalist- Caroline Woollard

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