Archive for July, 2016

Dr Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury and Wales preached at a Service in St Mary’s Priory at the start of the Royal National Eisteddfod of Wales in Abergavenny.


Dr Rowan Williams or ap Aneuri as he is known in the Gorsedd

The Bi-lingual service was conducted by Canon Mark Soady.


In his Sermon Bishop Rowan said that today’s readings set for the  the service (Ecclesiastes 1. 2, 12-14, 2. 18-23; Colossians 3. 1-11;& Luke 12.13-21) very negative about ones heritage and history – perhaps a strange place to be at the start of the largest cultural event in Europe, but that  is not what it really says he went on to claim.


Saying one needs to be honest about ones language, heritage and culture, and ask why has God given us this, what about it can be pass on to others.

Referring to the world famous Jesse Figure and new Jesse Window he remained us that in the family tree of Jesus there were not only sages and saints, but prostitutes, migrant workers and sinners. Our personal and corporate history is something we can learn from if we are honest that it was not with out flaws.


The service contained the following music:

Introit: O taste and see – Vaughan Williams ( When the Eisteddfod was last in Abergavenny it saw the world première of a new Vaughan Williams work)

Setting: Merbecke
Psalm: 49 vv.1-9

Hymns: Gwahoddiad, 311, 274, 368 (NEH)
Motet: O Radix Jesse – TB Pratt (A new work composed for the Dedication of our new Jesse Window- this will be its second performance)

Voluntary: Processional – Mathias


The service ended with the Priory Bells ringing a Peal.

There are services daily in the CYTUN Tent on the Eisteddfod Maes at 11am.

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It is Day 3 of the Choir’s singing week and after a ‘ night off’ in Brecon Cathedral on Friday the Priory Choir have sung evensong tonight in another church with a Jesse Window at St Laurence, Ludlow.


The Choir return to St Mary’s for the Eisteddfod Eucharist tomorrow morning at which the Preacher is Dr Rowan Williams.


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The Priory Choir sung Evensong at Wells Cathedral this evening. Three weeks after our new Jesse Window was dedicated the choir sang in the Quire of Wells Cathedral below another Jesse Window.

The ‘gig’ was the first of this year’s singing week, the highlight of which will be singing at a Service on Sunday to mark the start of the National Eisteddfod at which Dr Rowan Williams will preach. On Friday Evening they will sing Evensong at Brecon Cathedral.



In the quad at Wells Cathedral

The Jesse window at Wells Cathedral is more traditional and complicated than ours.


Music at Tonights service:

Ayleward Preces and Responses

Psalms 137, 138

Ireland Evening Service in in F
Brahms Geistliches Lied

See Choir blog for Singing Week news.

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Speaking at the St Mary’s MU Annual Ecumenical Service & Tea , Deacon Sarah said:

First of all can I just say thank you for inviting me to be with you this afternoon on a rather grand occasion not only the annual ecumenical gathering of fellowship groups in Abergavenny but importantly for those of you who are members of the Mothers Union this celebration 140 years of the biggest lay Christian organisation in the World! I was pleased to be invited to talk to a branch in Newport whilst in my last parish, however It had be at least 20 years if not 25 before that when I was last at a Mothers Union meeting. It has memories for me of being placed in a corner with some child like entertainment, but noticing the Mothers Union table cloth, the fine china being brought out for tea and the small raffle there was at each meeting. The other thing that I have memories of is Mum’s Mother’s Union prayer book being kept in the bureau next to her copy of the 1984 Book of Common Prayer Volume one.


Deacon Sarah is seen with Fr. Mark

My other child hood memory of the Mother’s Union is that in my home parish Mother’s Union had their turn on the coffee after church rota. Now if I remember rightly when I was very small they were the rota! Once a month the ladies would boil milk at home, bring it in their trusty thermos flask and serve mellow birds milky coffee after the main Sunday Eucharist!

They were also responsible for the annual parish trip! And They chose the new china for the new building back in 1998. Oh my life. . . no one touched the mothers union china without being supervised!!

Well you maybe pleased to know that since then my horizons have been expanded and I’ve been more informed about the work and witness of the mothers union. Like the church I guess it is one of the organisations in the world that has had to constantly challenge its response to the understandings of its primary focus. The function and existence of family life today is something that I’m sure Mary Sumner never expected to happen when she founded the movement. Did she ever expect that 140 years after her initial idea to help families bring up children in the Christian faith that here in Abergavenny you would be supporting a contact centre for split families to engage in good parenting. . . or from my other realm of work your counterparts in Raglan and Monmouth and Usk would be visiting those in prison who are separated from their families and help to support them in maintaining family ties? You may say not! But maybe God had the future firmly mapped out for this organisation in promoting what it means to be family then and now!

But I think one of the important founding principles of the organisation of mother’s union is the supportive network of people together. Now I would of said women but of course in recent years the Mother’s Union has admitted men to its number to help support and promote its mission.

Had this organisation been founded 10 years ago we would perhaps be calling it a fresh expression of church! Church as community of people with the most amazing common purpose. . . to show Christ’s love to the world and supporting them to live in that way.

There is inbuilt in all people the need for some form of human community. There are key elements for the development of any kind of community, but especially one of Christian origin. The first of those elements is the common task. There should be a common purpose to the people who are gathering together to form a community, this is what draws people together. In Christian terms this could be the aspect of Christian mission, a vision to draw and invite others to know and understand the love of Christ. In the instance of your organisation it has been for these many years now the promotion of family life and the raising of children in the Christian faith.

The second element is the idea of shared or common ‘space’. This does not necessarily relate only to the building, but it can comprise, and I think is better understood as, a period of time set aside to be with each other in what ever location. It should be a space that feels like it should belong to that community where an area for worship can be created. Time is the next essential key for the developing of Christian community. It is incredibly difficult to have community without time for community. This is the place where together the community can engage with finding out what the world needs so that it can respond to it. The church and its organisations have in its history always have had to re-evaluate what its response to the world has to be. And as I suggested at the start you’ve been no different. Today’s needs of family life are so very different even to 30 years ago when I was taken along with my mother to the Mothers Union meetings. The amount of broken families who needed third party help to maintain parental relationships were some what less. But it is in worship where we are nourish and sustained and inspired to go out and respond to God’s call of us to see to the world.

The final element is vulnerability and openness. This is needed for being able to understand Christian community. Christian community should be willing to be challenged and open to feeling the sufferings that Christ himself felt. This is not just to be within ourselves but through engaging with the wider world Mary Sumner did not create the Mother’s Union for it to be for itself but for the wider world. Its focus is about working in local communities. Its in our own expression today meant to be church without walls! And that means of its members to be ready to respond to what that maybe.


Scripture in essence emphasises that the church is the body of Christ whose members are intended to be filled with the Holy Spirit.   There are many images of church as community to be found in the bible especially in the New Testament. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians says to the Christians in Corinth that they are the Body of Christ: “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body so it is with Christ”   In the same letter Paul refers to the community as a building:

“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.”

Another powerful image of the people of God is found in the gospel according to John. In chapter 15 verses 1 to 8 the author recounts Christ referring to himself as the vine and the Father as the vine grower and refers to the people of God as the branches. In this image the people of God are dependent upon God for nourishment and guidance. The spiritual lives of all the faithful should be of the desire to constantly be seeking this from the source of all life.

The book of Acts tells us the church is the gathering of the people. A group based on human interaction where people are called and drawn together by God, assembled together for the purpose of worship and time together, where the barriers of creed and colour are broken down and which move beyond the barrier of age. In this situation different gifts are valued and used for the glory of God and the good of the overall community.

In our understanding of God as trinity we talk of a God who is constantly in community and relationship. God as Trinity is community and relationship, and we are made in that image, for relationship.

It was only relatively recently that I realised that the Mother’s Union had its own chaplains. And of course my role as a secular chaplain has highlighted for me the fact that this organisation has always had at its heart the call of faithful women and more latterly men to a specific role within the church. That you should be spiritually nurtured and fed in order to go out and fulfil the mission of your distinctive nature.

Whatever the group you’ve come from today what is clear to me is that you are one of the bunches of grapes on that vine. And you are to be fed via the true vine itself. And the Mother’s Union’s distinctive grape type is to be a presence throughout the world to support family life. And lets be honest without it the world ceases to go on! But the organisation has referred you to remembering that first and foremost its is about your life as a member of Christ through your baptism. That mark upon you that has gathered you here today together from whatever denomination you come to rejoice together and give thanks to God for the witness you bring and asking him to continually challenge you in the next stage of your mission here.

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IN his introduction to a special edition of the parish newsletter Canon Mark Soady writes:-

July – well what a month! We kicked off with a visit from the Bishop and the Prince of Wales to mark the completion of St Mary’s new Jesse Window. A week later the Lewis Chapel at St Mary’s Priory was again the focus when the current Principal of Jesus College, Oxford unveiled a plaque to his predecessor the 1st Principal. The month ends with us hosting the National Eisteddfod of Wales.


Civic Leaders gather for the Unveiling of the plaque to Dr David Lewis


Abergavenny is a relatively small town, but it hits above its weight on the national stage.This fact reminds me of the words of St David, “Do the little things, keep the faith and be joyful”.


The Prince and Fr Mark chat, while the Lord Lieutenant looks on.

In addition to the big stage stuff we have continued to do the little things: Chit Chat has met each Saturday morning, the offices have been said, services including Weddings, Baptisms and Funerals have been taken, Little footprints met. and more…. Some may be surprised by my message to you this month. but I am becoming concerned that we are taking on too much, spreading ourselves to thinly, making people exhausted and ill. So I urge us as an Incumbency to take to heart the words of St David “do the little things’ and my interpretation of that to you is do a few things well, a few things that enable us to “be joyful” and to share our faith.

Have a Blessed Summer



The Principal of Jesus College, Oxford unveils the plaque to the 1st Principal

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Eisteddfod – Sunday service

WE will welcome the National Eisteddfod to Abergavenny with events on Sunday July 31st .

At 11am there will be a Bi-lingual Sung Eucahrist at which Dr Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Wales and Canterbury will preach. Lord Williams of Oystermouth (or to give him is Barcdic name ap Aneuri) is currently Chancellor of the Universty of South Wales and Master of Magdelene College, Cambridge.

The service will be sung by the Priory Church Choir.

At the conclusion fo the Service the Bells will ring out.


Eisteddfod- other activities
We have been pleased to provide a venue over the past year for the Eisteddfod Choir to practice in, and we will provide venues for some of the preliminary competitions.

You can find some of us in the CYTUN Tent on the Maes durimg the week.- do say Hi!

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The first Principal of Jesus College Oxford, Dr David Lewis (1520-1584), will be honoured at St Mary’s Priory Church, Abergavenny on Friday July 15th by a congregation of past and present College members, educationalists, politicians, local cultural organisations and church representatives. The ceremony will not only highlight his historically important career, but will also draw attention to current moves in Wales to encourage the brightest students from similar backgrounds to follow a path towards academic excellence.


Plaque is installed

Dr Lewis was born in Abergavenny and educated at King Henry VIII Grammar School. He graduated at Oxford and went on to become a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford in 1541 and Principal of New Inn Hall in 1546. He then embarked on a glittering career as a civil lawyer under the Tudors, becoming Master of Chancery in 1553 and eventually a Commissioner of the High Court of Admiralty. He briefly became MP for Steyning in in 1553 and Monmouthshire in 1554. He was a close advisor to Queen Elizabeth I, the Founder of Jesus College, and she appointed him as the First Principal in 1571.

He was buried in St Mary’s Church in 1584 and his tomb now rests in the Lewis Chapel. Old College Members have subscribed to a new plaque to commemorate his life and his contribution to Wales.

In the days when there was no Welsh university, Jesus College was one of the few paths to higher education for young Welshmen. Scholarships were created, and Jesus College was endowed with extensive land in Wales and elsewhere to help finance its activities.

For centuries Jesus graduates returned to Wales and made a major contribution to public life (including politics and journalism) and Welsh scholarship. For various reasons those links have been eroded in recent years. One particular group of Old Members, who have raised many thousands of pounds for scholarships and bursaries for disadvantaged students from all over the world in recent years, now want to encourage bright young students from Wales (with the support of their teachers) to apply for places at Oxford, Cambridge and other prestigious universities.

As well as unveiling the new plaque to the first Principal, the current Principal, Professor Sir Nigel Shadbolt, will be talking to guests with a vested interested in persuading young Welsh students from less advantaged backgrounds to apply to Oxbridge.

He’ll be accompanied by Lord Murphy of Torfaen, formerly Paul Murphy MP, a Welsh miner’s son who won a place at Oxford and went on to become Secretary of State for Wales and Northern Ireland. Lord Murphy played a major part in the setting up of the Welsh Government’s Seren Network – the move to encourage Wales’ brightest young sixth formers to apply to prestigious universities. Representatives from the Seren Hubs will also be present.

The unveiling ceremony will take place at 3.00pm on July 15th in St Mary’s Priory. The Vicar of St Mary’s, Canon Mark Soady, will officiate and the King Henry VIII School Choir will sing. Media representatives are invited.

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We will mark the Feast of St Benedict with a High Mass on Monday at 8.30am.

In keeping with Benedictine Communities across the world The Holywell Community which follows the spirit of The Rule of St Benedict. and is based at the Priory will lead the Mass.


St Mary’s Priory was founded in 1087 as a Benedictine Priory. The Holywell Community was founded in 2014.

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Our Patron HRH The Prince of Wales was in attendance when the Bishop of Monmouth Dedicated the new Jesse Window in Memory of Dean Jeremy Winston on July 7th.


The Bishop Dedicates the new Window

The Bishop praised Helen Whitaker for her design of the Window . He commented how Dean Jeremy was  great teller of stories and how fitting it was to have a window which also tells many stories.


The Vicar Canon Mark Soady opened the service with these words:

We have come together as the family of God in this ancient monastic house, to celebrate the dedication of this new window. In this service we hear and receive the word of God, and we offer to Him our thanksgiving for the life and witness of our departed brother Jeremy.

Later in the prayers Deacon Sarah Gillard-Faulkner would thank God for the gift of craftsman and for the Royal Family. In a prayer of thanks for Dean Jeremy’s life she said:

giving thanks especially for his compassion and hospitality, for the gifts of leadership and musicianship with which you blest him. May his example of faithfulness encourage us in our lives of discipleship,

The Choir sang a new piece of Music written by their Director of Music Tim Pratt O Radix.

The Lord Rowe-Beddoe, President of the Winston Memorial Trust read from the Prophecy of Isaiah.

After the Service His Royal Highness met the Appeal Committee, Major Donors and Contractors. He also spent time with the Holywell Community.


Br Michael listens in as HRH speaks to other members of the Holywell Community

Fr Mark expressing his thanks to His Royal Highness said, “Given the interest The Prince of Wales has taken in the design and installation of the Jesse Window we could not have dedicated it with out His Royal Highness being present.”


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As the day of the Dedication of the new window dawns images of the new window are released.

Virgin and Child

THE CENTRE PIECE:  The Blessed Virgin with Baby Jesus

St Teilo


The Bishop of Monmouth will Dedicate the Window at around 12.30pm today in the presence of HRH The Prince of Wales.

King David.jpg

King David – with his Welsh Harp

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