Archive for June, 2016

Somme remembered

At Evensong at 7pm on July 1st – 100 years after the battle began- we will remember those who gave their lives in the Battle of the Somme.

Before the start of the Service the Royal British Legion Standards will be placed on the altar.

Special metal poppies will be on sale in the Tithe Barn during July in  aid of RBL funds.


The Priory Choir CD in remembrance of the First World War are also on sale at the Tithe Barn

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Dean Jeremy Winston is remembered in the window in his Memory by a Sparrow.


The pane containing the Sparrow is installed 

Lord Hailsham’s Autobiography was quoted at Fr Jeremy’s Funeral. Lord Hailsham visited themes of faith in his memoirs A Sparrow’s Flight, and the book’s title alluded to remarks about sparrows and faith recorded in Bed’s Ecclesiastical History and the words of Christ in the Gospel of Matthew Ch 10 v 29.

The book also contained a poem, written by Hailsham, A Sparrow’s Prayer  which was read at Fr. Jeremy’s funeral:

Father, before this sparrow’s earthly flight
Ends in the darkness of a winter’s night;
Father, without whose word no sparrow falls,
Hear this, Thy weary sparrow, when he calls.
Mercy, not justice, is his contrite prayer,
Cancel his guilt and drive away despair;
Speak but the word, and make his spirit whole,
Cleanse the dark places of his heart and soul,
Speak but the word, and set his spirit free;
Mercy, not justice, still his constant plea.
So shall Thy sparrow, crumpled wings restored,
Soar like the lark, and glorify his Lord.


The window will be dedicated by the Bishop of Monmouth, in the presence 0f HRH The Prince of Wales on July 7th. The Window is designed by Helen Whittaker.

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ON Saturday evening at 7.30m we welcome back Keith Davies aka Elvis to St Mary’s Priory singing Elvis Gospel songs. The evening is in aid of the Restoration Fund for our sister church St Peter’s, Llanwenarth.

Tickets from Abergavenny Music or at the door.


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We are pleased to announce that HRH The Prince of Wales will grace us with his presence at the Priory Church on July 7th. This will be his third official visit to us since the year 2000.

At 12noon on that day the new Jesse Window in memory of the late Dean Jeremy Winston, who served as Vicar of Abergavenny for 18 years, will be dedicated by the Bishop of Monmouth, in the presence of HRH The Prince of Wales Patron of St Mary’s Priory Development Trust).

In front of an invited congregation of parishioners, donors and contractors, the Rt Revd Richard Pain will dedicate the window during a short service that will include scriptural references to Jesse, the father of King David.

The window, located in the east end of the Lewis Chapel, will complete the world-famous Jesse figure. This extraordinary larger-than-life figure once formed the base of an intricate and elaborate construction, which depicted the lineage of Jesus Christ from Jesse, the father of King David.

So called ‘Jesse figures’ and ‘Jesse trees’ are not uncommon in stone and stained glass, but this is the only one in wood to be found in the United Kingdom – and probably the world.

In the BBC series A History of British Art, Andrew Graham Dixon describes it as ‘the only great wooden figure to survive the wreckage of the British Cultural Revolution’. Carved from one solid piece of oak, probably in the 15th century, it was originally highly coloured and depicted all the Davidic kings and descendants, surmounted by the figures of Mary and the Child, and Christ in glory. Latest thought estimates the height of the ‘tree’ growing from Jesse’s side to have been between 25ft and 30ft.

The window, probably one of the greatest new works of church art in Wales since the Second World War, is being designed by Helen Whittaker, a renowned artist and designer, highly regarded for her new stained glass windows, restoration painting and architectural sculpture in glass and copper. There are five panels, or lights, to the window, each 15ft tall by 21 inches wide, with smaller tracery windows above.

Read about the Window

New Music piece commissioned for The Service

The Priory Church will be closed to the public on July 6th & 7th.

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As the the new window, designed by Helen Whittaker, is installed Canon Mark Soady reflects:

Stained glass windows came in to being in Medieval times as a means of educating the largely illiterate public about the Good News of the Bible through visual images.

Helen’s window does an amazing job in encapsulating the various themes and messages that run through the Bible. It will be a great aid to teaching and a wonderful compliment to the Jesse artefact itself.

The starting point for Helen’s design is the ‘centrality of Christ as God and man’. The dual aspects of Christ are explored through images and relationships connected with the five principal themes: Christ, Kingship, Prophecy, the Church and the Sacrament.

At the top of the tree sits the Virgin Mary with the Christ child on her knee. They are shown to a larger scale then other figures in the window, recognising their great importance. Called by God to fulfil a unique and vital role, Mary becomes, by her willing acceptance, a model and guide to Christians. She is the vehicle of incarnation – and thus an essential participant in the life, death and glorious resurrection of Jesus; a connection between His earthly life and His divinity.

Beneath the Virgin sits King Solomon and below him his father David, the son of Jesse. Both Solomon and David were leaders of God’s chosen people and both point to Christ’s Kingship, yet both struggled (and at critical moments failed) to balance obedience to God’s will with the exercising of temporal power. Solomon also offers an example of Wisdom which continues with Christ. To the left of King David is his wife Bathsheba. To his right is Ruth, his great grandmother – a humble, obedient convert, she represents all outsiders who are welcomed int o the wide and loving arms of the church.

Zadok the Priest and Nathan the Prophet flank Solomon. Zadok, ‘the teacher of righteousness’ reprints the continuity of priesthood and ministry, while Nathan the prophet challenged earthly power by reprimanding King David.

The figures on the extreme left and right are Adam and Abraham, representing the different but reconcilable versions of Christ’s lineage. Matthew writing for the Jews emphasises Christ’s coming as a fulfilment of the prophecy to Abraham. Luke, writing for the Gentiles, stresses His descent from Adam –  His incarnation and pre-figuring His role as the second Adam.

Above Adam and Abraham stand the prophets Isaiah and Daniel. Isaiah foretold the coming of a ‘suffering servant’ and Daniel refused to obey the commands of an earthly power and maintained faith in God.



Artists impression of Memorial Window with Jesse

At the top of the outer lights stand Moses and Elijah. Moses went to a mountain and received the Commandmennts from God setting out the basic law of faith. In His Sermon on the Mount Christ offers a fundamental statement of human discipleship, which will lead us to a new spiritual freedom. Elijah, who bravely challenged all false gods, appeared with Moses at Christ’s transfiguration.

In the centre of the window, surrounding the Virgin and Child, are roundels containing images representing the lives of seven significant Celtic saints, demonstrating the life of the Church in the world and grounding us firmly in our Welsh setting. They symbolise the seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit. To the left from bottom to top are Gildas (author, teacher and preacher: The Gift of Knowledge); Beuno (healer and preacher: Gift of Understanding); and Winifred (Beuno’s niece and a virgin martyr: Gift of Piety) To the right from the bottom to top are Padarn (peacemaker, pilgrim and man of forgiveness: Gift of Counsel); Non (known as the ‘Celtic sister of Bathsheba’, mother of St David – a humble parallel to the Blessed Virgin Mary: Gift of Fear of the Lord); and Teilo (founder of many monasteries and husbandman, renowned for his wisdom: The Gift of Wisdom). The Patron Saint of Wales, St David: The Gift of Fortitude is in the lower central traceries and caps the circle.

Garlanding these saintly images are fruits representing the nine attributes of the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5.22): love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

The window traceries are filled with images connected to the Advent Jesse; a symbolic narrative drawn from scripture, connecting the Old Testament to the coming of Christ.

The branches of the tree are detailed as vine branches to remind us of the centrality of the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist to our faith. On one of the branches in the bottom right is a sparrow. This is a subtle acknowledgement of Fr Jeremy Winston in whose memory the window is erected – one of his favourite poems, A Sparrow’s Flight by Lord Hailsham, was read at his funeral service.


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We will host the Welsh Blood Service at the Priory Centre:

  • June 14th – 10am-12.30pm & 2pm -4.20pm
  • July 13th – 1.30pm -6pm
  • August 18th – 10am-12.30pm & 2pm -4.20pm


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Preaching at the 11am Service in St Mary’s Priory Church this morning Canon Mark Soady paid tribute to HM The Queen’s service and encouragement. The congregation had met for  picnic lunch the previous Sunday, and the Church bells rang after the service to give thanks for HM’s 90 years.


Citing  Solomon and David, the Kings featured in the new Jesse Window, to be installed in a week’s time, Fr Mark reminded us that all earthly Kings are only human, with human faults, but went on to comment on how the Queen’s faith has enabled Her Majesty  not to put a foot wrong during her life in the public eye.

He reminded the congregation of King David declining to drink the water from Jerusalem that his soldiers had endangered their life to get for him, because he believed it was the wrong kind of leadership to accept a luxury as a result of those under his commend having put themselves at risk.

Through most of Her Majesty’s life she has put us her people first, she has given and kept giving. She is the best earthly example of the servant leadership. The kind of leadership that Jesus told his disciples they were called to .

Fr Mark noted that Solomon was known for his Wisdom, and reminded the congregation  that all Her Majesty’s Prime Ministers have commented on the wisdom she demonstrates in their weekly audience with her.

As Archbishop Justin said in St Paul’s Cathedral on Friday, The Queen like all of us were formed in the womb by God, in so doing he bestowed on Her Majesty the gifts of Kingship that have sustained her through her reign – and  done so to the benefit of us Her Majesty’s citizens.

He  concluded his address by saying:

Yesterday we gave thanks for St Bartholomew – represented in the stainless window at the side of the pulpit. He was known as the encourager – and what an encouragement The Queen has been to us as a nation over the past 63 years and more.

Long may she reign over us!

Helen Whittaker design

The Window design

HM The Queen speaking in 2011:

“It is my prayer that we all may find room in our lives for the love of God through Christ our Lord.”

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Our Director of Music, Tim Pratt has written a new  Motet O Radix for the Service of Dedication of the new Jesse Window on July 7th. The piece will be introduced to the choir tonight (Friday 10th) – and they have less than month to learn it.

The words are from a poem by Malcolm Guite based on the words of the third Advent Antiphon: O root of Jesse



O Radix Jesse, qui stas in signum populorum,
super quem continebunt reges os suum,
quem Gentes deprecabuntur:
veni ad liberandum nos, jam noli tardare.

All of us sprung from one deep-hidden seed,

Rose from a root invisible to all.

We knew the virtues once of every weed,

But, severed from the roots of ritual,

We surf the surface of a wide-screen world

And find no virtue in the virtual.

We shrivel on the edges of a wood

Whose heart we once inhabited in love,

Now we have need of you, forgotten Root

The stock and stem of every living thing

Whom once we worshiped in the sacred grove,

For now is winter, now is withering

Unless we let you root us deep within,

Under the ground of being, graft us in.

Dr. Malcolm Guite is an English poet, song-writer and Anglican Priest who was born in Nigeria.

Canon Mark Soady, Vicar said

” I am very excited to hear the piece for the first time this evening! We are grateful to Tim for taking the time to fulfil this commission for what will be a very special occasion”.

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The Choir’s singing week this Summer takes on a different form to normal. As we are hosting The National Eisteddfod of Wales at Abergavenny they will be singing in  St Mary’s Priory Church at the main Morning service on July 31st when Dr Rowan Williams will be the preacher.


The Choir singing in Coventry Cathedral in 2014

The rest of the week they will be out and about singing:

  • 28th July – Evensong at Wells Cathedral
  • 29th July – Evensong at Brecon Cathedral
  • 30th July – Evensong at St Laurence’s Church, Ludlow
  • 31st July -Evensong at Brecon Cathedral


The Choir sung for the services at Hereford Cathedral last weekend (June 4th / 5th ).


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