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Archive for February, 2016

 

The Seven Last Words of Christ will be sung by St Mary’s Choir at 7pm on Good Friday at St Mary’s. It will be offered as an act of worship, rather than as a Concert.

The title is a little misleading, as it refers to not seven words, but the last seven sayings of Christ. It is a highly reflective and meditative piece with an unusual history. The following is a translation of Haydn’s own explanation: ‘Some fifteen years ago I was requested by a canon of Cádiz to compose instrumental music on the Seven Last Words of Our Saviour On the Cross. ‘It was customary at the Cathedral of Cádiz to produce an oratorio every year during Lent, the effect of the performance being not a little enhanced by the following circumstances. ‘The walls, windows, and pillars of the church were hung with black cloth, and only one large lamp hanging from the centre of the roof broke the solemn darkness. ‘At midday, the doors were closed and the ceremony began. ‘After a short service the bishop ascended the pulpit, pronounced the first of the seven words (or sentences) and delivered a discourse thereon. ‘This ended, he left the pulpit and fell to his knees before the altar. The interval was filled by music.

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‘The bishop then in like manner pronounced the second word, then the third, and so on, the orchestra following on the conclusion of each discourse. ‘My composition was subject to these conditions, and it was no easy task to compose seven adagios lasting ten minutes each, and to succeed one another without fatiguing the listeners; indeed, I found it quite impossible to confine myself to the appointed limits.’ Thus the piece started out as purely instrumental, but some years later Haydn re-worked it as a choral piece. For a piece composed in 1783 it is quite remarkable, with heart-rending use of harmony and dissonance, and some effects, particularly in the last movement (meant to represent the earthquake), that must have been terrifying to its 18th century audience. It is perhaps worth noting that Haydn rated this work as amongst his finest, and better even than The Creation; it is said to have been the last piece he conducted in public before his death in 1809

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Lent and fasting

Writing in the March Parish newsletter our Vicar, Canon Mark Soady writes:

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I write this newsletter mid-point through my being on the Daniel Diet as part of my Lenten Fast. The diet based on the diet of Daniel in the The Book of Daniel (Chapter 1). The Hebrew word for fast is tsoom which literally means ‘to cover the mouth’. In previous years I have fasted (no food at all) for 24 hrs or given up alcohol or some other pleasure, but this diet is different. The Daniel diet consists of water or coconut milk and a Vegan food diet, ie no meat, fish or dairy produce.

During the first few days of the fast many people experience fatigue, headaches, leg cramps and backaches – all common signs of detoxification. I experienced most of these, giving me a small insight into how alcoholics and drug addicts feel when they are in detox. I learnt very quickly to appreciate the simplest food and to give thanks for it.- another way I could share a little in how those who have little food/ food choice feel. Then there is the spiritual benefit gained from this time of Fasting. It is not only Jesus we read of in the Bible who fasted others include Moses (the book of Exodus tells us he fasted 40 days and 40 nights), Elijah,Ezra , Esther and Anna to name but a few – all doing so in order to commune with God. Psychically I feel better as my body has been detoxed, making me fitter for the tasks I have been set.

This is shared with you not to brag, but to show the benefits of Fasting. It is not some outdate date practice that only Christians of old did, it is relevant and helpful to today.

I pray God will continue to Bless your Lent, and your Lenten discipline- and bring us all to a glorious Easter Day

Mark

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Canon Carol Wardman, Church in Wales Bishops’ Church and Society Officer preaches on the 2nd mark of Mission: To respond to human need by loving service.

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She said:

I’m very pleased to be here this evening to take part in this series on the 5 Marks of Mission, talking about ‘responding to human need by loving service’.  When I came along last week to hear Bishop Richard talk about the 1st Mark – ‘proclaiming the Gospel’; and – apart from being well ‘trailed’ at the beginning of the service, thanks to Fr Mark – I was delighted that Bishop Richard set up today’s theme beautifully for me, by quoting the famous words of  St Francis of Assisi:  “Preach the gospel:  use words if necessary.”

Or, turning to this evening’s reading, and the words of Jeremiah:

‘Thus says the Lord:  Act with justice and righteousness; deliver from the oppressor anyone who has been robbed; do no wrong or violence to the alien, the orphan, and the widow. … But if you will not heed these words, I swear by myself that this house shall become a desolation.’  [Jer 22:3,5]

On a darker note, St Luke writes:

‘Whoever does not carry the cross … cannot be my disciple.  For which of you … does not sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether you have enough to complete the task?’ [Lk 14:27]

Responding to human need is not cost-free, in a whole variety of ways – as we shall see as we explore this theme.

From beginning to end, the Bible is shot through with injunctions to care for the poor and needy; to defend the outcast and the oppressed; to challenge the unjust structures of society (which is another of the Marks of Mission) and to pray for those in positions of responsibility in the world.  So I probably don’t need to spend too much time persuading you that engaging in acts of charity, providing help to the needy, or setting up projects to benefit the community, are things that both individual Christians and the church as a whole should be doing.  But these are difficult times for the church, both as an institution with bills to pay and buildings to manage and historical responsibilities for all kinds of things; and as a religious body at a time when religious organisations and belief itself are not always seen as benign forces in the world.  So it may or may not come as a surprise to you that in this environment, when sometimes the church feels that its back is against the wall in terms of sustainability, social and community action – responding to human need by loving service – may not always be seen as of core importance to the Gospel.

Next Sunday our Vicar looks at the difference between Mission and Evangelism.

You can read the Bishop’s Sermon on the 1st Mark of Mission here.

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Fairtrade Fortnight

Fair-trade Fortnight starts on Sunday February 28th – and we are going to be marking it across the Anglican Churches in Abergavenny!

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At Little Footprints this week we made a display board of bananas with our handprints.

Join our Fairtrade Coffee Mornings:

-at Christchurch  Hall, North Street on Thursday, March 3rd

-at Holy Trinity Church Hall, Baker Street on Friday, March 4th

 

Fair-trade Tea and Coffee is served daily at the Tithe Barn, and at all events in the Priory Centre.

 

 

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Canon Mark Soady, Vicar of Abergavenny preached at the Gwent WI 95th Anniversary Service at St Mary’s Priory Church on Saturday, February 20th.

He said:

“The great Hymn Jerusalem will be for ever associated with the WI. The hymn is based on the fable/myth call it what you ill that Our Lord Jesus Christ was brought to these Islands by his uncle Joseph of Arimathea.

Many people think the “dark Satanic mills” were the factories where many people worked in horrible conditions. This contrasts with the country with its beauty and clean air: “England’s green and pleasant Land”. The second half of Blake’s poem says people should try to establish “Jerusalem” once more – a new perfect Jerusalem.

It could be said that is why the WI came in to being, that is how it works!

Created a century ago to revitalise rural communities and encourage women to become more involved in producing food during the First World War, it has now widened its horizons to be an inspiration for women.

Your Annual Review says of you:

It’s a rich source of experiences, knowledge and skills passed down through generations and updated every day.

For some women we offer an opportunity to catch up with friends, for others it’s a route to learning new skills, and for some the campaigning aspect of the organisation may be the key motivator.

It is if you like a means whereby you ladies can find new ways of being …it is your new Jerusalem.

If the hymn is one thing that immediately come stop mind when you say WI, then another would be the heckling your National Conference gave Tony Blair when he was Prime Minister. Another aspect of the ‘ new Jerusalem’ is your campaigning arm your being the conscious of nation.”

Having highlighted their Care not Custody Campaign and their work on the environment he continued “You share that role with us as a church. You and we can find a mentor in that in  he’ who walked upon England’s green and pleasant land’: Jesus . For Jesus spent his three years of public ministry doing just that to the authorities of his day.

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Canon Mark Soady

As we gather here in this ancient Priory Church I give thanks to God for you – and for 95 years of that work building a new Jerusalem  here in Gwent.”

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The Bishop on Mission

The Bishop of Monmouth kicked off our Lenten Sermon series on Mission with a look at the first Anglican Mark of Mission: To proclaim the Good news.

Luke 9:2  “….and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal”

 

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Bishop & Fr Mark

He said:

Good to start this series of Lenten addresses which give us time to reflect upon the Diocesan theme Time for Mission.

Proclaim – is not an easy word for our society. Proclamations belong to a previous era and the nearest we get to them are government pronouncements, which rarely bring good news, or even news. As they say, bury hard decisions , at a time of a bad news story.

So people would be naturally sceptical about proclamations. Being Anglicans also, we are not so keen to bandy our wares. As an Anglican may I tentatively suggest that the church is not a bad thing……

Of course some of us prefer a more nuanced approach – let’s not so much proclaim as Facebook or Twitter the kingdom. A photograph always helps. Even so, directly or even directly, we are more than likely to be modest about presenting the good news.

We are in good company as St Francis of Assisi is attributed to have said. Preach the good news and if necessary use words. Or as is more commonly said actions speak louder than words..

I think you need both words and actions. But not hollow words for hollow men. Words full, replete with the gospel which can be seen, tasted and felt in a world which cries out for more than materialism.   Sometimes we give spirit without body and body without spirit.

Let me give you an example. Throughout this town and area there are many who give service to others. Often working in charity shops, offering hospitality or assisting in food banks. It is done with a sense of commitment and humanity, but often not referenced to the gospel. Why are we so reluctant to acknowledge, gently and with sensitively that we work for Christ and his kingdom? Clergy and indeed the Holywell community can’t escape their role…their collars or their teeshirts proclaim that somehow God is involved with this person.

People of God, dear laity, don’t be shy faintly shamed of your baptismal birthright. Of course I don’t think you need to batter people with being religious – God knows, nobody needs that. But be natural in you goodness, let it come from the heart. If you are working, either in a secular context or church context, give the intention of the work to God. Make it a sacrament a hidden sign that your are in mission. Then God will bless your endeavours and your spirit will speak to another person’s spirit and who knows, God might be able to work amongst, you, the stealthy Holy Spirit who leaves a trail of love often only perceived after the event….

Clergy, I want to give you a challenge – let you words be replete with the fatness, the goodness of the Lord. My stay in South Africa was so important because I again saw the strength of the gospel in words as well as in relief of the poor. The church has love and affection amongst the people because it gives generously to the poor in the townships. But also it has a voice that is respected because of its influence during the breakup of Apartheid and the beginning of the new South Africa.

As I met Desmond Tutu last Friday I was reminded of his prophetic voice in the struggle for human rights and equal democracy. Likewise I read of Oliver Tambo a major stakeholder and friend of Nelson Mandela, who was a committed Anglican. The influence of the South African Anglican church was a contribution that we as Anglicans should be proud to be associated. Fat words, not hollow words that spoke of conviction and prophetic urgency.

It was good to meet Bishop Charles May, the new Bishop of the Highveld. He said that the challenge of the SA Anglican Church is once again to find its voice. After the establishment of the new South Africa the churches’ role was quickly forgotten and now we see the vulnerability of a government tempted by corruption and the trappings of power. A voice that needs to be heard, the good news of humanity found in Christ needs to be heard. No wonder God is the God of the poor…..they are often the only ones who are low enough to want to turn to him.

Yet, all is not lost. On our visit to the Highvled I saw the Bishop pray openly in a police station with the station commander. I saw him pray openly with school teachers and those who ran a disability home. I saw him pray openly with the beleaguered nurses who wept as they received the gift of a listening heart. All done, so naturally and without proclamation but stronger than steel and life giving as rain. Clergy, believe in your words, believe in your prayers, let your words be living words replete with the goodness of the Lord and let him do the work.

So here, in our land, in our town, we face the challenges of a society which at one level seems closed to the good news. But is isn’t, very few people are shut off from the spirit. They just need to hear and see it in their midst: they need to experience the quiet proclamation of deeds of love and the gentle words of conviction. They need to experience the integrity of a life that shows the good news. Speak, be silent, but in all things love. This is our mission , for this is our God and his Kingdom.

Next Sunday Canon Carol Wardman, Bishops’ Officer for Church and Society looks at ‘ To respond to human need by loving service’.

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4 Bishops and…..

In the first half of 2016 we welcome four Bishops to the Priory.

Bishop Richard (Monmouth) is our first Preacher in the Lent Sermon Series on the Five Anglican Marks of Mission. He will preach at 6pm Evensong on February 14th.

Bishop Phillip North ( PEV Bishop of Burnley ) will Celebrate and Preach at the SSC Synod as Episcopal Visitor on Friday March 4th.

Bishop Richard Fenwick (who is Bishop of the Diocese which includes the Ascension Island) will be our Celebrant & Preacher at the Ascension Day Festal Eucharist. That service will take place in the grounds of the Holywell Community House.

Dr Rowan Williams (Former Archbishop of Wales & Canterbury) will be our Preacher at the Sunday Sung Eucharist on July 31st, the start of the National Eisteddfod at Abergavenny.

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