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Archive for March, 2017

THE PCC (acting as the Charity’s Trustees) have approved the Annual Report. The report is printed below in full, except for the Financial statement:

THE PARISH OF ABERGAVENNY PAROCHIAL CHURCH COUNCIL

Charity number: 1137751

Annual Report for the year ending 31 December 2016

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The trustees have pleasure in presenng their report of the charity for the year ending 31 December 2016.

The organisaonal structure, administration details and governance of the charity are set out later in this report while the activities of the church form the first part.

Summary

This year was one of dedication, celebration and remembrance. We saw the culmination of five years of work to create a memorial to the Very Reverend Jeremy Winston, former vicar of the parish, when the Jesse Tree stained glass window was installed at the east end of the Lewis Chapel and dedicated by the Bishop of Monmouth in the presence of HRH The Prince of Wales. Ten days later, a plaque was dedicated in the Lewis Chapel, to the memory of Dr David Lewis, first principal of Jesus College, Oxford.

Throughout the year, there were commemorations of the First World War and celebration of the 90th birthday of Her Majesty the Queen.

Away from the pomp and circumstance, the year was again a busy one for the Parish with regular and special services, disnguished visiting preachers (including five bishops), concerts and visitors from all over the world who came to see the renowned medieval monuments. Thousands of youngsters from local schools, their teachers, friends and families visited St Mary’s, and its daughter church Christchurch, for Harvest, Christmas and Chrisngle services. There was again an emphasis on mission and outreach, parcularly on Church Without Walls iniatives.

The Holywell Community continued their service to both church and  the wider community.

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Ac1vities

The range of acvies for St Mary’s with Christchurch can be split broadly into three categories – worship, prayer and pastoral care; mission and outreach; and fundraising, fellowship and hosng events.

Worship, prayer and pastoral care

The Revd Canon Mark Soady connues to serve St Mary’s Priory Church with Christchurch as Vicar; St Peter’s, Llanwenarth Citra, as Rector; and Holy Trinity Church, Abergavenny, as Priest-in-Charge, as well as Prior of the Holywell Community. He connues to serve as Area Dean of Abergavenny and as a Canon of Newport Cathedral. The Revd Sarah Gillard-Faulkner serves as Sub-Prior and Deacon of Abergavenny, while connuing her work as a prison chaplain. In December, former lay minister and now the Revd Jeff Pearse was ordained Deacon at Newport Cathedral.

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In its third year, the Holywell Community saw two of its members move on to the next stages of their Chrisan journey. Samuel Pa@erson was selected for the priesthood and began studying at St Padarn’s, Cardiff; Amy Pope left to consider where her role will lie. Also Adrian Price started a six-month sabbacal at Mucknell Abbey. Brother Michael Topple was joined in August by Sister Jennii Shaw and, in December, Brother Simon Pratt became a member of the Community as Concentor.

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At that service, Michael Woodward and David Fraser were admitted  as associate members. The Community works both in the Church and the wider community, running all-age worship, vising schools, and volunteering at a centre for young people in the town and at the Little Footprints playgroup. Their wide range of dues included vising the sick, gardening at the Tithe Barn and Church, serving at regular and special services and, acting as Verger at weddings and funerals. The Community also undertook a week-long Mission to Merthyr in March, with prayer meengs and walks, dramasaons of Gospel readings, café church, a film night and talks at the four churches in the parish.

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As well as the usual weekday and Sunday worship during the year, Canon Soady organised and/or presided over a number of special services and events. There were two major dedicaon services in July this year—that of the Jesse Window and of a plaque in memory of Dr David Lewis, both in the Lewis Chapel.

The Jesse Window, which recreates in stained glass the genealogical tree which would have grown out of the side of the 15th century oak Jesse figure in the church, was dedicated to the memory of the late Very Reverend Jeremy Winston. Fr Jeremy had been parish priest of Abergavenny for 18 years before he become Dean of Newport in 2011 He died two months later. The window was financed by local fundraising and grants—the major one being from Co@am Will Trust, administered by the Friends of Friendless Churches, of which Fr Jeremy was a Trustee. The window was dedicated by the Bishop of Monmouth, in the presence of HRH The Prince of Wales, patron of St Mary’s Priory Church Development Trust. Work is connuing on the design of a new plinth to enable the Jesse figure to be relocated beneath the window and of an associated altar.

Over a thousand people visited the church in the weeks following the dedication to view the window, it has formed the basis of a number of sermons, and been used by schoolchildren as part of their curriculum.

Later that month, the Lewis Chapel was the scene of the dedicaon of a plaque to the memory of Dr David Lewis, whose tomb in is the chapel. Dr Lewis, an Abergavenny man, was the first principal of Jesus College, Oxford, and the east end of the church was packed with over 100 alumni and guests for the service.

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Other special services included:

• In January, St Mary’s hosted Abergavenny’s joint service for the Week of Prayer for Chrisan Unity;

• In February, Canon Soady preached at the Gwent Federaon of WIs 75th anniversary service;

• During Lent a series of Evensong addresses saw vising preachers, beginning with the Bishop of Monmouth, explore the five Anglican Marks of Mission;

• In March the SSC Synod, at which Bishop Phillip North preached as Episcopal Visitor;

• The Vicar led the congregaons’ tribute to Her Majesty the Queen on her Accession Day and the Rt Rev Richard Fenwick, Bishop of St Helena, which includes the Ascension Island, preached at a joint service held in the grounds of the Holywell Community house;

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• In July, the 100th anniversary of the start of the Battle of the Somme was commemorated;

• Later that month, the Rt Rev Dr Rowan Williams preached at a bi-lingual service at the start of the Naonal Eisteddfod in Abergavenny;

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• In October, the congresstions gave thanks for the bounty which the earth brings at their Harvest Thanksgiving services, raising money for Embrace the Middle East;

• In November, the All Souls Mass and Remembrance Day Masses took place;

• In December, Bishop David Thomas, former Provincial Assistant Bishop, celebrated the 20th anniversary of his consecraon as Bishop;

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• Later in the month, there were more joyous occasions as local schools used the church for their Chrisngle and Christmas services – thousands of youngsters, their families and teachers visiting the church in the space of a week.

As well as these special services, we connued to try to enable the wider community to live out their faith as part of our parish community through:

• Worship and prayer, learning about the Gospel, and developing their knowledge and trust in Jesus • Provision of pastoral care for people living in the parish

• Mission and outreach work

Acts of worship, including some of the Benedicne Offices, were celebrated on almost every day of the year, and pastoral care continued throughout, in particular, the vising of, and on occasions taking Communion to, parishioners who through sickness or age were unable to come to church. The average attendance at the main services at the churches was 136, and the number reported to be recorded on the new Electoral Roll completed during the year for both churches on 31 December 2016 was 211, reflecting the sad loss of some parishioners while others have moved away. In addition to our regular services, we enable our community to celebrate and thank God in the milestones of the journey through life. Through bapitsm, we mark new disciples,and in marriage public vows are exchanged with God’s blessing and through funeral services friends and family express their grief and give thanks for the life which is now complete in this world and to commit their loved one into God’s keeping. This year, we celebrated 27 baptisms and 16 weddings in the Parish. There were 65 funerals. Ecumenically, the parish shared services of Compline and Stations of the Cross with the Roman Catholic Church of Our Lady and St Michael’s, Abergavenny, during Lent, as well as participating fully in the Abergavenny Council of Churches, including the now-annual ecumenical Christmas carol service.

 

Mission and Outreach

Much of the parishes’ mission and outreach work was organised by the Abergavenny Anglican Churches Together group (AACT), established during 2012 and with members drawn from all four churches in Canon Soady’s incumbency and coordinated through the Joint Warden’s Meengs.

The year saw church members looking even further outward in their mission and outreach, including:

• The Holywell Community working in Church, Schools and among young people of the town;

• Again running a marriage preparaon course, with seven couples exploring their relationship and what marriage will mean to them;

• Members of our Mothers Union connued to volunteer at a contact centre for children suffering family break-up;

• Members of all four churches in the incumbency collecng baby items and food for asylum seekers in Newport;

• Families who had suffered bereavement during the year being personally invited to the All Souls Service and attending weekly self help bereavement group, with many taking up that invitaon;

• At Christmas, the congregations filling boxes with small items as part of the Shoe Box Appeal, sending 60 boxes to orphanages in Romania;

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• Parishioners contribung staple foodstuffs and toiletries to the Abergavenny Food Bank; • The hostsing of a weekly Alcoholics Anonymous meeting;

• Members of the church connuing to be involved with the 7Corners project in Abergavenny, which aims to provide a place for young people to meet;

• Church members contribung to Velindre Cancer Care by knitting chicks for Easter, which were then sold in aid of the charity;

• The Parish Fellowship also contributing over 40 Christmas parcels of items such as toiletries, gloves, and small gifts for older teenagers in Abergavenny who, through no fault of their own, are living by themselves, again an increase on last year’s total; • Contribung to the Additional Curates’ Society;

• Contribung to the Bishop of Monmouth’s Lent Appeal.

The Church Without Walls initiave saw members of the public offered Ashing on Ash Wednesday; shoe polishing to shoppers on Maundy Thursday; and the Walking Navity through busy Saturday morning Christmas shoppers with two donkeys and members of the congregaon dressed up as the Holy Family, angels, shepherds and kings, singing carols and praising the Lord.

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Also in December, members of the congregaons sang carols in care and nursing homes and in local pubs.

We also gathered at a local coffee shop on Saturday mornings for Chit Chat, looking at the day’s news through a Chrisan lens and inving other coffee drinkers to join in. Bible Story reading sessions were held at Abergavenny Library.

St Mary’s Priory Choir went on their annual Singing Week in July, singing at St Laurence’s Church, Ludlow; Wells Cathedral and Brecon Cathedral. The choir connued to provide grants for Choral Scholars, providing training opportunies for young people of sixth form age, who might otherwise not either be involved in choral singing or come to church.

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Members of the congregaon again joined fellow pilgrims from all over the country for the annual Fr Ignaus Memorial Pilgrimage through the Llanthony Valley in August.

St Mary’s was visited by people from all over the world and from nearer home, with many groups such as U3A, local history organisaons, Mothers Union and other church groups booking tours to learn about the collection of medieval monuments in the church – said to be one of the finest in the country – and to sit quietly in a church which has been a place of prayer for nearly 1,000 years.

The church bells, described as the finest ring of 10 bells in Christendom, were rung on Sundays, at funerals and weddings, and on special occasions, including the 90th birthday of Her Majesty the Queen. They were also rung by a number of visiting groups of ringers.

Fundraising, Fellowship and Hos1ng Events

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A number of concerts, for both the Church and outside organisations, took place at St Mary’s, including:

• The Davide Logiri Jazz Quartet;

• St Mary’s Priory Choir and Abergavenny Borough Band concert for the Queen’s 90th birthday;

• Engima harp and violin duo;

• Harpist Kathryn Thomas

• St Mary’s Priory Choir and Pitsburg State University Choir;

• St Mary’s Priory Choir’s sacred concert on Good Friday;

• Abergavenny’s ‘Elvis’, Keith Davies, singing Gospel in aid of the restoraon fund of sister church St Peter’s;

• Abergavenny Borough band and Blaenavon Male Voice Choir

  • St Mary’s Choir and the Voskresenije Choir of St Petersburg.

 

St Mary’s was used as a venue for preliminary competions for the Naonal Eisteddfod and the Priory Centre was the venue of the Eisteddfod Choir practices.

The Priory Centre Hall and Christchurch Hall continue to be resources for the community. As well as hosng church fundraising events and after-service fellowship, Christchurch Hall was used by an art group for vulnerable adults and as part of Cantref Open Gardens Scheme, the later raising money for Target Ovarian Cancer.

The monthly coffee mornings held at Christchurch are well supported by both members of the congregaon and people from the community.

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The Priory Centre provided the venue for various fundraising acvies and celebrateions, including St Mary’s Patronal Fesval lunch. We also held a race night and provided refreshments during Abergavenny Food Fesval.

In June, the Rt Hon Baroness (Shirley) Williams led an informaon evening on ‘What has EU has done for us’, which was well -attended and much appreciated.

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The congregations of all four churches in the incumbency joined fellow Christians

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from the Govilon group of parishes for a picnic to celebrate the Queen’s birthday—the two groups of parishes will form the Abergavenny Pastoral Area of the Ministry Area.

Reference and administra1on details

St Mary’s Priory Church and its daughter church, Christchurch, is in the Parish of Abergavenny, in the Deanery  & Ministry Area of Abergavenny and the Diocese of Monmouth in the Church of Wales.

Incumbent and ministers

The Incumbent is the Reverend Canon Mark Soady. From September 2014, he has been assisted by Deacon the Revd Sarah Gillard-Faulkner and by the members of the Holywell Monasc Community .

The worship in the parish has been made possible through the on-going contribuon of our Licensed Lay Ministers Jeff Pearse, Gaynor Parfitt and David Meredith; retired ministers the Revd Canon Andrew Willie, the Revd Frances Buxton , the Revd Malcolm Lane and the Revd Canon Roger Williams.

Objectives and ac1vi1es

We review our aims, objectives and activies each year, looking at what we have achieved and the outcomes of our work in the previous twelve months. The review looks at the success of each key acvity and benefits of acvies in a wide variety of cultural areas. The review also helps us ensure our aims, objectives and activties remained focussed on our stated objecve. When reviewing our aims and objectives and in planning and considering our acvies for the year, the incumbent and the Parochial Church Council (PCC) have considered the Charity Commission’s guidance on public benefit and, in parcular, the specific guidance on charies for the advancement of religion. The objecttive of the Charity is promoteng in the ecclesiasticcal parish the whole mission of the Church. Encouraging and facilitang the practice of the Chrisan Faith by the Churches includes the following:

• Conducng regular Chrisan worship in both Churches;

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• The cerebration of the Holy Eucharist, on at least six days each week at St Mary’s Priory Church

•marriages, funerals and baptisms;

• The provision and maintenance of the fabric of St Mary’s Priory Church, Abergavenny, and of Christchurch, Abergavenny and their associated buildings;

• Opening St Mary’s daily for the public to enter and benefit from personal spiritual contemplaon; and to be able to view the medieval monuments and learn about the Benedictine foundation of the Church and its place in the history of Chrisanity and of Abergavenny;

• The maintenance of Christian burial places;

• Promoting the study of Chrisan teaching, practices and Scriptures;

• The provision of means and encouragement to promote fellowship within the membership of the Churches and the wider community;

In addion to the above, Christian devoteonal acts and outreach work is carried out, including:

• Vising the sick;

• Administering the Sacraments to those unable to attend regular acts of Worship, to the sick and dying;

• Supporting pastoral work;

• Fostering ecumenical links between differing Christian denominations;

• Supporting the work of other charies through, among others, the Mothers Union and AACT’s Mission and Outreach Committee.

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Further achievements in the year

Monies were raised by freewill offertory, fundraising acvies and specific appeals. These were used to support the work and administraon of the churches and wider mission. Volunteers, who helped at each act of worship to support the clergy, have donated their me. The churches will continue with their acts of worship and pastoral care during 2017 and will continue actively to try to increase its Electoral Roll, through its mission work in the community. The acvies of the committees and groups within the churches connued during the year. The monies raised contributed to the general income of the churches.

These activities are expected to connue during 2017. All those involved in group acvies and who assist with the main funcons of the churches are volunteers who have freely donated their me, energy and skills. In order to continue to foster increasing unity between the different Churches and congregations within Canon Soady’s Incumbency, regular meengs of the Wardens from all four Churches were held.

The Trustees

The trustees who served the Charity during the period from the Annual Vestry Meeng in April 2014 unl the end of the were as follows:

The Revd Canon Mark Soady, Chairman

The Revd Sarah Gillard-Faulkner

Mr Robin Alldred

Mrs Andrea Corley (in part) Assistant People’s Warden

Mrs Sheila Davies Vicar’s Warden, Representave on the Deanery Conference

Mr Lyn Evans

Mrs Anne Griffiths

Mrs Rebecca Jackson

Mr Steven Lamerton Gift Aid Treasurer

Mr Vernon Lewis

Mrs Eunice Marsh PCC Secretary

Mrs Jenny McPherson

Revd Jeff Pearse, Licensed Lay Minister, representave on the Deanery Conference and the Diocesan Conference untill his ordination on December 10th

Mr Andrew Powell

Mr Tim Pratt, People’s Warden

Mrs Patricia Ransome

Mr Robin Smith, Assistant Vicar’s Warden, St Mary’s Treasurer

Mrs Sheila Woodhouse, People’s Sub-warden at Christchurch, Christchurch Treasurer

Ms Caroline Wollard, Vicar’s Sub-warden at Christchurch, representave on the Diocesan Conference and member of the Governing Body of the Church in Wales

In addition (from January 2016 to the Vestry meeng in April 2016): Mrs Janet Battersby

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Structure, governance and management

The Parish of Abergavenny is part of the Diocese of Monmouth within the Church in Wales. The Church in Wales is a Province within the Anglican Communion and, as such, exists to advance the Chrisan Religion through world-wide mission. The object of the Parochial Church Council is to ensure that the life and work of the Church within the Parish helps to fulfil that mission, both locally and more widely.

The Representave Body of the Church in Wales holds the land and property of the Church in Wales, including St Mary’s Priory Church, Christchurch and other church buildings, and including the Garden of Rest at St Mary’s, and their contents. The Representave Body is an exempt Charity and was set up under Secon 13(2) of the Welsh Churches Act 1914. It acts on behalf of the Province in paying the stipends of the full time clergy, and administers the Church in Wales scheme of covenanted and gift aid giving recovering tax on behalf of the parishes.

The Parochial Church Council (PCC) is not a body corporate, its composion, procedure and powers being regulated by the Constuon of the Church in Wales as amended from me to me by its Governing Body set up under Secon 13(1) of the Welsh Church Act 1914. Elecons are held at an Annual Vestry Meeng which must take place on or before 30th April each year. All persons whose names are entered on the Electoral Roll are entled to vote and stand for elecon. Before assuming office, every member of the PCC publicly makes a declaraon that he or she will be bound by the Constuon. The Members and Officers of the PCC, including the Incumbent, on appointment, become Trustees of the “Parish of Abergavenny Parochial Church Council Charity Trust”. The PCC also appoints the Priory Trustees, a body set up under a 1925 Deed of Trust to administer certain lands and properes held by the Representave Body as Custodial Trustees on behalf of and for the benefit of the Parish. The Trustees report to the PCC and their accounts are kept separate but consolidated with those of St Mary’s and Christchurch within the Charity Accounts presented with this report. Property administered by the Priory Trustees includes the Priory Centre, the Tithe Barn and the Curate’s House. The la@er two have been purchased in recent years and their freehold values are shown in the Accounts of this Charity. The St Mary’s Winston Appeal also works under the auspices of the PCC and its accounts are also kept separate but consolidated with those of St Mary’s and Christchurch within the Charity Accounts presented with this report. Commercial operaons undertaken in the Priory Centre and the Tithe Barn are administered by The St Mary’s Priory House Company Limited, a Service Company registered with Companies House and in which the Priory Trustees, on behalf of the PCC and the “Parish of Abergavenny Parochial Church Council Charity Trust” hold 51% of the shares. The remaining 49% are held by the “St Mary’s Priory Development Trust” (Charity No 107744) a separate but related Charity set up by the Priory Trustees in 1999.

Risk Review

The PCC has conducted it own review of the major risks to which the Charity is exposed and systems have been established to mitigate those risks. The risks facing the Charity include the state of repair of the Churches and the financial requirements to meet its stated acvities, including payment of its Annual Parish Share, bearing in mind the fall in the numbers of regular worshippers and the reduction in regular giving. The structure of the Churches is continually monitored by the Fabric committee and the Church architect, and the finances are controlled by careful budgeting and encouragement and appeals to the worshippers and visitors. There have been no serious incidents or other matters relang to this charity over the previous financial year that we should have brought to the attention of the Charity Commissioners but have not.

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Organisa1onal Structure

The PCC is responsible inter-alia for promong the mission of the Church, the parochial budget and all expenditure there under, the care and maintenance of the fabric of the Churches and associated buildings and of the Garden of Remembrance, and for action on any other matter referred to it in accordance with the constitution. The PCC is also the normal channel of communicaon between the parishioners and the Bishop of the diocese. All members of the PCC are volunteers.

In addion to the election of members, the Officers, i.e. The People’s Warden, the Deputy People’s Warden (St Mary’s) and People’s Sub-Warden (Christchurch) are elected at the annual Easter Vestry; the Vicar appoints the Vicar’s Warden, Vicar’s Deputy Warden (St Mary’s) and Vicar’s Sub-Warden (Christchurch) at the same meeting. New representatives are told of their responsibilies and of the issues facing the Churches by existing representatives, and receive such addtional training as required.

Other Officers, including the Secretary, Treasurer and Safeguarding Officer are appointed at the first meeng of the PCC after the Vestry Meeting. As indicated, members of the PCC also serve as representatives on the Deanery and Diocesan Conferences and the Governing Body of the Church in Wales. St Mary’s and Christchurch are active members of Abergavenny Council of Churches and volunteers help run the Chrisan Aid Fortnight acvities in the town, organise Lenten study groups, and stage a town centre carol service.

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The Churches are run enrely by volunteers as the clergy are remunerated by another charity from the Parish Share payments made by all the Churches in the Diocese. Without the work of these volunteers, who, for example, enable St Mary’s to be kept open every day for members of the public to visit and to pray, the Churches would not funtion.

While the vast majority of those employed on the site are employees of the Priory House Company Limited, as of December 2016 the Charity only employed one, the organist. The PCC’s policy is to pay employees at least the Living Wage.

Committee structure

The PCC met eight times in 2016, but between these meetings, a number of committees meet to support the work of the Churches:

• The Mission and Outreach Committee (members of which are from all four churches in the incumbency working under the auspices of AACT.)

• The Finance and General Purposes Committee

• St Mary’s Winston Appeal Committee

Fabric

Regular inspections and maintenance of both Churches, plus the other buildings and the grounds, were carried out during the year as required. Minor works following the receipt of the latest Quinquennial Report for St Mary’s have continued. In addion the latest Quinquennial Report for Christchurch was received during the year.

Work undertaken at St Mary’s during the year included:

· The installation of the new Jesse Window at the east end of the Lewis Chapel during June, in preparation for its dedication on July 7, as reported above. The window was designed and painted by Helen Whittaker, and the glasswork was prepared, erected and set by Barley Studios of York under the direction of Master Glazier Keith Barley.
· The reinstatement of the window in the west wall of the South Transept. This had suffered damage during a period of high winds in December 2015 when the upper central panel of the wood-framed, leaded, plain glass window was blown out. The entire main frame of the window was repaired and repainted and the damaged panel reset with a new wooden frame but using the recovered leading and incorporating most of the previous glass; the rest being new.
· Trial archaeological excavations along the North Walkway outside the Lewis Chapel were carried out in preparation for a major programme of ground level reduction in this area during 2017 to match the floor levels in the Chapel, as already done in 2015 at the east end of the Chapel, to protect the fabric by eliminating damp ingress into the Chapel walls.

Work undertaken at Christchurch during the year was mainly centred on the Hall adjacent to the Church. In particular the roof underwent major repair and refurbishment to prevent water ingress and deterioration to the fabric of the building which is becoming ever more important as a community resource.

INVESTMENT POLICY

Despite the continuation of historically low rates of interest, the PCC (through its Finance & General Purposes Committee) has concluded the most appropriate policy for investing funds remains to achieve the best possible rate from our Bankers commensurate with maintaining the capability of rapid access to the funds in the event of a call on them.

Bankers

Lloyds Bank, 54 Cross Street, Abergavenny, Monmouthshire NP7 5HB, HSBC Bank plc, 2 Frogmore Street, Abergavenny, NP7 5AF  & Barclays Bank, 57 Frogmore Street, Abergavenny, NP7 5AT

Independent Examiner

Dorrell Oliver Limited, Linden House, Monk Street, Abergavenny, Monmouthshire NP7 5NF.

Professional Advisor (Historic Buildings)

Arnold Bartosch Ltd (formerly Bartosch & Stokes), 1 Bath Mews, Bath Parade, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire GL53 7HL

 

Approved by the Trustees and signed on their behalf by The Reverend Canon Mark Soady

 

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Eve of Lady Day ( March 24th)

7pm Choral Evensong

Lady Day ( March 25th)

9am Holy Eucharist

 

Jesus Meets his mother – Lent Address 4

On Mothering Sunday ( March 26th) at 6pm  we hear the 4th of our Lenten Addresses Jesus meets his mother with Revd Preb Paul Lockett former Chantry Priest at the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham and Queen’s Chaplain.

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Fr Paul is currently serving at All Saints, Shrewsbury.

Monday, March 27th

The Ministry Team and Parish Officials will hold their Annual Lady Day Lunch.

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In the third of our series of Lenten Sermon’s on Nigel Pugh’s Stations of the Cross, former Embrace the Middle East Trustee, Canon Daniel Burton looked at Women of Jerusalem.

Women of Jerusalem

Canon Burton opened by quoting words from the Gospel of Luke:

A great number of the people followed him, and among them were women who were beating their breasts and wailing for him. But Jesus turned to them and said, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For the days are surely coming when they will say, “Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.” Then they will begin to say to the mountains, “Fall on us”; and to the hills, “Cover us.” For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?’ Luke 23.27-31

These verses provide the backdrop for what we know as the eighth of the traditional fourteen stations of the cross. Known variously as Jesus rebukes the women of Jerusalem, Jesus comforts the women of Jerusalem, and the women of Jerusalem weep for our Lord, this is one of the most mysterious of the traditional stations.

Before we examine what might have been going on here and try to find some resonances with our own reality, let us meditate for a few moments on Nigel Robert Pugh’s stunning representation of this biblical scene, for art can often illuminate the written word. Having only seen these pictures on the internet, I was looking forward to seeing the actual work of art for real. It is a painting of astounding contrasts:

  • The shrouded women contrasted with the semi naked Christ
  • The gigantic women contrasted with the diminutive Christ, inverting the perspective of the eye
  • The conspiring women contrasted with the isolated Christ
  • The inscrutable women contrasted with the vulnerable Christ
  • The self-contained women contrasted with the outwardly-focussed Christ, pointing the women to something beyond themselves
  • The safe women contrasted with the dangerous Christ
  • The living women contrasted with the dying Christ

If we take the word “contrast” as the lens through which we view this scene, we see that Nigel Robert Pugh has identified something integral to understanding this scene, and the biblical text reveals an additional contrast:

  • The noisy wailing and weeping women contrasted with the silent Christ

What is going on here? Well, let’s deal with the conundrum of the title of this station. Surely what is going on here is a Rebuke, not a Consolation. These women were professional mourners who gathered on the streets of Jerusalem every time there was a spectacle or a riot or an execution. There are many references to this cultural peculiarity in the pages of the bible. Jeremiah 9.17-18 reads:

Thus says the Lord of hosts:

Consider, and call for the mourning-women to come;

   send for the skilled women to come;

let them quickly raise a dirge over us,

   so that our eyes may run down with tears,

   and our eyelids flow with water.

 

That is exactly what was going on. In a demonstrative culture where outward show denoted inward emotion, it was essential that every funeral, every tragedy, every execution, should be accompanied by wailing and weeping of the most extreme kind. One can argue that these professional mourners provided a cathartic function in that their manufactured grief released the genuine emotion of the real mourners, for thus it must have operated on countless occasions. But the point about the women’s grief is that it is indiscriminate and it is superficial. They had mourned the previous day for some other unfortunates; they were mourning now as much for the two criminals as for Our Lord; and they would be mourning the following day for the next batch of Roman victims, the name of the Nazarene already forgotten. I say again that their grief was indiscriminate and it was superficial.

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Contrast that (contrast again!) with Jesus. He has spent his ministry unmasking the superficial in life and in religion; he has spent his ministry living and pointing to that which is authentic and integral and real. Of course he rebuked them! Consoled them? Absolutely not! Unless one means console in the sense in which Job was consoled by his comforters – in other words not at all. Jesus REBUKED the women of Jerusalem. He was on the way to his death; he had been betrayed; he had been abandoned; he had been tortured; he had been abused and manipulated by Jewish and Roman authorities; and worse was still to come. And in this state, in this condition, in this critical moment he encounters a group of screaming actors, indiscriminate and superficial – everything that he was not. “If you knew what was coming; if you knew what Jerusalem had rejected when it rejected me; you wouldn’t be pretending to weep for me; you would be weeping for yourselves and your children; indeed there will come a time in your life when you will regret that you ever gave birth to children.”

 

These women had been truly and well rebuked, and one can imagine that their wailing and weeping ceased, embarrassed silence replacing their hysterical performance.

 

I was in Jerusalem just last month with a group of pilgrims and as always we walked the Via Dolorosa. Never a day goes by without countless visitors doing the same. The way of sorrows, the way of the cross, never goes out of fashion. And surely this is not only because it offers a unique opportunity to identify with Our Lord on his most important journey, but also because it speaks so much of suffering and in countless ways successive generations are able to link their contemporary suffering with that of the saviour. Indeed it is impossible to contemplate that the stations of the cross will ever go out of fashion, because it is impossible to imagine a world without suffering. But I want to suggest to you that the stations of the cross have a particular resonance for the women of the Holy Land – both Arab and Jew – for this enigmatic scene of Jesus rebuking the women of Jerusalem is at its heart a Palestinian story, and the same blood runs through the veins of the 21st century women as through the biblical women.

 

There is an enormous crime being perpetrated in the Holy Land today: it is the systematic theft of Palestinian land by the Israeli government who have constructed their Wall or Separation Barrier not on the internationally recognised border of 1967 but along an arbitrary and meandering route that divides ancient communities, severs ancient roads, and allocates sparse resources to the victors. This and the daily expansion of illegal settlements in the Palestinian territories gives the lie to the oft quoted commitment to a two state solution, for such a solution is now impossible. This in its turn creates what is in many ways a greater crime and that is the strangulation of hope, a rare commodity in the Holy Land today.

 

In the resistance to the illegal occupation of Palestinian land, the descendants of the women of Jerusalem continue to play a pivotal and heroic role. Two groups of Israeli and Palestinian women have come together to form “Jerusalem Link” which includes the Palestinian branch, the Jerusalem Centre for Women, and the Israeli branch, Bat Shalom. Together they promote a joint vision of a just peace, democracy, human rights, and women’s leadership. Women in Black began witnessing against the occupation in January 1988 and continue to this day, every Friday in Jerusalem and in other towns in Israel, always at the same time and at the same locations, dressed in black and holding up black signs in the shape of a hand saying “Stop the occupation” written in white lettering in Hebrew, Arabic and English. Machsom Watch was set up in January 2001 in response to human rights abuses of Palestinians at the checkpoints in the occupied territories.

 

These women are outstanding human beings, people of integrity, authenticity, empathy and courage. Among them there is no one of greater moral stature than the Palestinian Christian polymath, Hanan Ashrawi. As I draw things to a close, I am going to read a poem of hers which reminds us that Jewish and Palestinian women have far more that unites them than divides them:

 

Women make things grow:

Sometimes like the crocus,

surprised by rain,

emerging fully grown from the belly of the earth;

Others like the palm tree with its promise postponed,

rising in a slow deliberate spiral to the sky…

 

Women make things smooth

to the touch,

like the kneading of leavened bread

at the dawn of hunger;

And coarse like the brush of a homespun coat

on careworn shoulders and bare arms

barely touching on the night of deportation.

 

Women make things cold sharp and hard

like a legal argument thrust before the threat of search and detention;

Or warm and gentle like

justice in a poem,

like the suggestion of the image of freedom

as a warm bath, and a long soak,

in an undemolished home.

 

Women make things

And as we, in separate worlds,

braid our daughters’ hair in the morning,

you and I,

each humming to herself,

suddenly stops

and hears the tune of the other.

 

I do not believe that the wailing and weeping women of Jerusalem referred to in Luke chapter 23 were capable of hearing “the tune of the other” and for this they were rebuked by Jesus. Nevertheless their awkward encounter with Our Lord has often led Christians to reflect that a world without empathy is indeed a foretaste of hell. Nigel Robert Pugh’s interpretation has shed new light on this scene, not least by evoking the many contrasts of the eighth station of the cross. As we continue our Lenten journey, may we renew our efforts to “hear the tune of the other”; and may we never cease to pray for the kindling of hope in the Holy Land that one day Palestinian and Israeli women, men and children will live in freedom, justice and peace.

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Speaking in the 2nd of our Lenten series on Nigel Pugh’s Station of the Cross,  Judge Huw Rees looked at Pilate.

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After speaking of cases at Abergavenny he had been involved in he turned to Pilate’s trial of Jesus:

Purpose.

When I was persuasively asked to give this talk and when I reluctantly agreed, I had to re-visit parts of the Easter story that I had not properly read since being a child. Perhaps you, like me, will have a passing familiarity with such biblical references to Caiaphas, Pontius Pilate, that act of washing his hands, the Sanhedrin, the criminal Barabbas, and other aspects.

By re-visiting this topic I quickly came to the conclusion that rather than experience a Trial, a judicial process which should have been based on the application of the rule of law and fairness between the parties, it was no such thing. What Christ endured was not a Trial but a Mistrial.

By the end of this address –which will not be a dry exposition of the legal process he endured – I hope you will appreciate that by subjecting Christ to one of the world’s worst examples of a mistrial, a real miscarriage of justice – man made Him suffer even more in other ways than just the degrading flagellation and ultimate painful and enduring death by crucifixion.

Christ was not given a fair trial at all.

If we can understand that together tonight it may well make us conclude that Christ’s sacrifice had an added dimension and our appreciation for what He did for the sake of mankind, and our love for Him should be that much greater as we come to remember the Easter message.

 

Famous miscarriages of justice

Our process of criminal justice has as its base the fair and proportionate application of the criminal law. We have an adversarial process where each party is allowed to adduce admissible evidence and present its case with the assistance of barristers, who are experienced in doing so. We have a criminal justice system in the Crown Court of trial by jury – which allows a dispassionate decision to be made by lay people, which is the envy of the world as being the fairest system deployed to find the truth in a conflicting situation. We have a professional judge overseeing the process, whose function is to apply the law required in the case and to over see fair play between the parties. All that goes without saying but needs to be said in this talk, because there have been failings and we can all think of miscarriages of justice, when someone is convicted and punished for a crime they did not commit.

Examples.

Those old enough will remember the cases of:-

Timothy Evans, wrongfully executed in 1950 for two murders that had been committed by his neighbour, John CHRISTIE.

Derek Bentley case in the 1952, hanged for the murder of a policeman after a trial before Lord Goddard LCJ which based the conviction on joint enterprise on the basis of the ambiguous phrase: “Let him have it Chris” (Bentley’s alleged instruction to his then 16 year old accomplice, Chris)

Guilford Four including Gerry CONLON, wrongfully convicted of being Provisional IRA bombers in the 1974 Guildford pub bombings.

Birmingham Six, including Paddy HILL, sentenced to life imprisonment in 1975 for the Birmingham pub bombings at the height of the IRA campaign on the British mainland

Closer to home, the “Cardiff Three”: wrongfully convicted of the 1988 murder of Lynette White in Bute-town.

More recently, the American Amanda KNOX sentenced to 26 years imprisonment in Italy for the 2007 murder of Meredith Kercher.

Ched EVANS, the footballer, convicted in the court which is my principal court centre (although I hasten to say that I was not the judge!)

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Why do I say that Christ suffered a miscarriage of justice?

We should remember that the mistrial of Christ can be divided into six constituent hearings:

  1. The hearing before Annas;
  2. The hearing before Caiaphus;
  3. The trial before the Sanhedrin;
  4. The initial hearing before Pontius Pilate;
  5. The hearing before Herod; and,
  6. The second hearing before Pontius Pilate.

I will touch on the first three but concentrate on the last three.

Arrest

The midnight arrest of Christ in the garden of Gethsemane included the first four of a series of more than a score of illegal acts that made the entire proceedings the greatest travesty of justice in all the annals of mankind:-

  • Hebrew law prohibited arrests and trials leading to capital punishment from occurring at night.
  • The use of a traitor or an accomplice in effecting an arrest or securing a conviction was likewise forbidden by the law
  • The arrest was not the result of a legal summons (but the execution of an illegal and fictitious resolution of the Sanhedrin)
  • Hebrew law prohibited the binding of an un-condemned man: “So the band of soldiers and their captain and the officers of the Jews arrested Jesus and bound him” – John 18:12-13

 

The illegitimacy of the hearings before Annas and Caiaphus.

  • They were a violation of the rule of law that forbade all proceedings by night.
  • Hebrew law prohibited a judge or a magistrate, sitting alone, from questioning an accused person judicially, or to sit in judgement on his legal rights, either by day or by night. No one judge courts were allowed – their smallest sessions had three and their largest, 71 judges.
  • Private preliminary hearings – no matter how many judges were present – were specifically forbidden by Jewish law
  • Jesus was physically assaulted by an officer during the hearing before Annas.

 

The trial before the Sanhedrin.

  • The Gospel of Mark tells us that there were two separate sessions of the Sanhedrin and that they were both held the same night. Hebrew law demanded two sessions in the cases of condemnation to be held a day apart. The Hebrew trial of Christ was thus illegal for it was concluded within one day. He was tried, convicted and sentenced in one day. Not allowed.
  • It was held at night, which was prohibited: “…the examination of such a charge is like diagnosing of a wound – in either case a more thorough and searching examination can be made by daylight” (Sanhedrin).
  • During the hour or two between the two Sanhedrin court trials, the Jewish leaders permitted the rabble to spit upon, torment and persecute Jesus, the un-condemned. The laws of most nations presume a person to be innocent until he is proven guilty, and prior to a final sentence of condemnation, he is entitled to and be given every possible protection by the court from ill treatment. The permitting of a small riot over the person of Christ between the two court hearings was totally illegal.
  • No acceptable testimony of witnesses was produced against Christ. The law required the testimony of witnesses to agree in all essential details or be rejected.
  • An indictment against a person must deal with a definite crime and the trial must be carried to completion on the basis of that charge. When the false witnesses failed to prove the charge of sedition, Christ should have been set free and the case dismissed. This was not done. Instead the judge suddenly shifted to a new charge, that of blasphemy.
  • The sentence on Christ was unlawful because it was founded on His own confession. The judges not only violated the law by acting as accusers, which witnesses were to do, but in addition they illegally extracted a confession from Jesus and then used it as the basis for a death sentence.

 

Christ before Pilate.

The Jews had authority to hold court trials, but the Romans forbade them from executing the death sentence. For this reason they had to have the Roman government confirm the sentence as correct.

Pilate asked on what charge Christ had been brought to him and was met with the reply: “We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that He Himself is Christ a King” – Luke 23.

The men who sought in vain to find a valid charge against Christ when He appeared before them four times earlier that morning, now dreamed up another on the spot. A political charge was needed – and so three were given. And each one, though without a foundation in fact, was a charge of treasons against the government of Rome.

Theses charges of sedition or treason against the government hit Pilate in a weak spot. It was recorded that the emperor, Tiberius Caesar had “a morbid and capricious temper, whose fretful and suspicious temper would kindle into fire at the slightest suggestion of treason in any quarter. Tacitus (the Roman historian) records fifty two cases of prosecution for treason during his reign. The most harmless acts were at times construed into an affront to the majesty or into an assault upon the safety of this miserable despot”.

 

PILATE questioned CHRIST briefly and proclaimed to the crowd that he found no fault in him:

Then Pilate announced to the chief priests and the crowd, “I find no basis for a charge against this man” – Luke 23.4

 

As Professor Simon Greenleaf, a professor of Law at Harvard University, and regarded as the keenest legal mind at the beginning of the twentieth century, put it: “Here was a sentence of acquittal, judicially pronounced, and irreversible, except by a higher power, upon appeal; and it was the duty of Pilate thereupon to have discharged Him”.

This all caused consternation amongst the baying mob who protested that PILATE had insulted all of Judea, beginning in Galilee, which was under Herod’s jurisdiction

Accordingly, Pilate sent Jesus to Herod for judgement. However, this was illegal. He had already rendered a verdict of innocence and the trial was actually over; case dismissed.

It was a rule of Roman law that “no man shall be put twice in jeopardy”.

This principle of double jeopardy is an important one even in modern jurisprudence.

But instead of reacting to this offence to the Roman system of law, Pilate used it as an excuse for an easier way out of it. Rather than stand by Roman law, now that the trial had been concluded, Pilate reopened the case and sent Jesus to Herod.

Herod Antipas was tetrarch of Galilee and Perea, and his provincial capital was Tiberius in Galilee.

Jesus was now to appear before Herod, who had been responsible for the deaths of nearly all of his ten wives, as well as thousands of innocent victims and the prophet John the Baptist as well.

Herod had an idle curiosity, he was hoping for grand entertainment and ordered the sick and the lame to be brought in that he might see them healed. And thereafter Jesus would be released (Luke 23:8). But Jesus did no respond.

The silence of Jesus brought the patience of Herod to an end. “And Herod with his men of war set Him at nought and mocked Him and arrayed Him in a gorgeous robe, and sent Him again to Pilate”   – Luke 23:11

There is evidence that if the Roman soldiers that were standing there in Herod’s courtroom that day had not saved Him, Herod and the rabble and the priests would have torn Jesus to pieces. Maddened with fury, Herod left his throne and acted like a demon, and he was immediately accompanied in this diabolical work by nearly everyone in the room

Herod refused to pronounce sentence in the case, and this was the equivalent of an acquittal.

Pilate acknowledged it as such upon the return of Jesus.

“You have brought this man to me as one that perverts the people. And, behold, I have examined him before you – have found no fault in the man touching those things whereof you accused him. No, nor yet Herod. For I sent you to him, and, lo, nothing worthy of death is done unto him.”               – Luke 23:14 -15.

For a second time Pilate had rendered a verdict of “not guilty”. But instead of releasing Jesus, he said he would have Him beaten before freeing Him.

This promise of a beating, however, could not satiate the blood lust of the mob and immediately there went up a crying and shouting for Jesus’ death. Gradually it subsided as Pilate proposed something new.

Pilate stated he would set either Barabbas or Christ free, in accordance with Jewish Passover tradition.

With a roar as of an ocean in storm came the reply: “Barabbas, Barabbas, release unto us Barabbas”

Pilate answered and shouted at the top of his lungs: “And what shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ?” Like surging waves of sound came the answer: “let him be crucified!”

Forgotten now amid the hollering, cursing and shouting, was the last concern for legality or justice. All that remained was the battle between the will of Pilate and the will of the mob.

And the soldiers plaited a crown of thorns, and put it on His head, and they put on Him a purple robe, and said, “Hail, King of the Jews” and they smote Him with their hands. Pilate therefore went forth again, and said unto them, “Behold, I bring Him forth to you, that you may know that I find no fault in Him. Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate said unto them, Behold the Man”

–John 19: 1-5

This is the illegal beating of an un-condemned man.

And in presenting Jesus to the multitude, for the third time, Pilate declared Jesus to be innocent: “That you may know that I find no fault in Him”

 

“From thenceforth Pilate sought to release Him, but the Jews cried out, saying, “If you let this man go, you are not Caesar’s friend: whosoever makes himself a king speaks against Caesar”

– John 19:12

 

So by framing their argument through the paradigm of a crime against Caesar – rather than a mere crime against the Jews – the mob was able to convince Pilate.

“When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus forth, and sat down in the judgement seat in a place that is called the Pavement, but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha” – John 19:13 

It was time for a legal decision, based on the authority of Rome – but Pilate wasn’t thinking about authority. He wanted to wash his hands. And calling for a basin of water, he did so before them all.

“I am innocent of the blood of this just person. See you to it.”

Pilate had given his fourth acquittal of Christ. In response came the cry: “His blood be on us and on our children – Mathew 27; 24-25

“And they were instant with loud voices, requiring that He might be crucified. And the voices of them and of the chief priests prevail. And Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they required.”

– Luke 23’ 23-24

Having acquitted Christ no fewer than four times, Pilate finally acquiesced to mob rule and gave them what they wanted.

 

Conclusion.

So when we say, as we are required to most Sundays that “Christ died for our sins and the sins of the world…”, perhaps we should sometimes remember before he was condemned to make that ultimate sacrifice, his unfair punishment had already started by being the subject of the worst miscarriage of justice in the whole of the history of mankind.

 

 

 

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Next Sunday (March 19th) at 6pm we hear the third sermon in our Lenten series based on Nigel Pugh’s Stations of the Cross with Canon Daniel Burton, formerly Chair of Embrace the Midddle East.

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Canon Daniel Burton

Canon Burton transfered to Anglicanism after serving for a time as a Baptist Minster. He was Ordained in 1994 and served as Curate of Mountain Ash before moving to Sarn near Bridgend. He is currently a Canon of Manchester Cathedral and Rector of the Salford All Saints Team.

He stood down from the Board of Embrace the Middle East three years ago this month and has lead many Pilgrimages to the Holy Land over the years.

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Nigel Pugh’s Women of Jerusalem

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It has been confirmed that our Vicar, Canon Mark Soady will be the preacher at the Sunday Choral Eucharist on the first weekend of the world acclaimed St David’s Cathedral Festival this year.

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Responding to the news Fr Mark said “It is a great honour to be invited to preach at the Cathedral, 20 years after I was Ordained Deacon there.”

The Service will be at 11am on Sunday, May 28th.

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In the second of our series of Sunday Evening Sermons on Nigel Robert Pugh’s Stations, His Honour Judge Huw Rees looks at Pilate.

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Pilate

Huw Rees was appointed as a Judge to the Wales and Chester circuit last Autumn, and is a Churchwarden of his local Parish church on the Gower.

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The Service is at St Mary’s Priory at 6pm on Sunday Evening, March 12th.

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