Archive for May, 2017

Speaking at the Opening Holy Eucharist of the St David’s Cathedral Festival, Canon Mark Soady claims music brings us closer to our creator God.


Fr Mark said:

St Augustine of Hippo is reputed to have said, ” He who sings prays twice”, although some scholars dispute he ever said that what is certain is that singing is a method of worship appointed by God, for since the beginning of creation that ability to sing was in our hearts.

A late medieval German Benedictine Abbot, Johannesburg Trithemius portrayed Raphael – traditionally the Archangel in charge of healing – presiding over the popularisation of music. In our own day and in our own land dozens of organisations are harnessing the healing power of music: charities like Music in Hospital, which employs professional musicians to sing and play for people who are sick; Tenovus, the cancer charity, which has formed choirs for people who have suffered or are still suffering from cancer; the Forget-Me-Not Choir, for people living with dementia; and professional Music Therapists, who use music in one-to-one sessions to treat a wide range of mental as well as physical illness. The music psychologist, Dr Nigel Marshall says, “Music is becoming an increasingly important part of healthcare and there is a growing body of evidence to suggest that taking part in, or experiencing music can have significant benefits on our overall level of wellbeing”.

The Book of Acts records that at the Ascension two angels asked the Apostles after Jesus had ascended “Why stand there looking up?” I think we all often metaphorically stand and look up / look for the other. We all search for a glimpse of heaven, and what is more music gives us that glimpse. In the Book of Revelation we read that around the throne of God there is singing day in day out. It is because of that St Benedict calls on his monks to pray 7 times a day, and why this and other Cathedral Churches have the daily reciting of the offices.


Nearly four years ago I established a new Monastic Community at St Mary’s Priory in Abergavenny. We follow the spirit of the rule of St Benedict because the Priory was established in 1087 as a Benedictine Institution. Four times a day we meet to say the offices, but I became aware that something was lacking, we often failed to reach ‘the other’ so this Academic Year we designated one of the lay members as responsible for music and in recruiting targeted a young musician. The presence of the Concentor (as we call him) has transformed our worship, such is the place of music in the worship of God.

On Monday night last, some young people spend a pleasant evening enjoying the music they love, but that enjoyment was literally brought to earth with a bang. The bang of a terrible explosion caused by a person or persons who are very sick. Those involved would have come down from feeling like they were in heaven to feeling like they were in hell.

We need to use those glimpses of heaven that we experience to work hard to ensure that God’s will is “done on earth as it is in heaven”, so that we’d can bring true peace to the world, so that there will be no acts of violence or terror like we saw this week.

In thanking God for the gift of music and for the glimpse it gives us of heaven, we must also commit to use that gift of music so that we can show others something of God…..and thus fulfill our Lord’s last command to “Baptise all nations in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”.

The Festal Eucharist saw the Cathedral Choir, accompanied by the British Sinfonetta Strings, sing:

  • the Missa brevity Sancti Johannis de Deo by Haydn
  • Ubi Caritas  by Durafle
  • Cantata Domino by Monterverdi





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It will be good to welcome back Richard, Bishop of St Helena as our Celebrant & Preacher for the 11am Pentecost Sung Eucharist.


Bishop Richard of St Helena

Other services that day:

  • 8am Holy Eucharist
  • 9.30am All Age Worship
  • 6pm Evensong

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4.20pm Choral Vespers 

6.30pm Holy Eucharist in the Holywell Community Garden. Celebrant & Preacher: Bishop Dominic Walker OGS

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Our Congratulations to Councillor Maureen Powell on her election as Chairman of Monmouthshire County Council, for the second time. Cllr Powell last served as Chairman in 2012/13. She has also served as Mayor of Abergavenny.

Cllr Powell is seen photographed as Mayor of Abergavenny (centre) with Fr Mark(right)

She has asked Canon Mark Soady to serve as her Chaplain. This will be the third time Fr Mark has served as the County Chairman’s Chaplain since moving to the County in 2012.

The Chairman’s Civic Service will be held at St Mary’s Priory on the afternoon of June 25th, that will be the only Service at the Priory that day. 

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St Mary’s Priory Church where Bishop David held most of his Ordination Services and Chrism Mass will be the venue for his Requiem Mass. The service will be on Monday, June 5th at 11am

Bishop David’s body will lay at rest at the Priory overnight prior to the service.


The Funeral Mass of Bishop David Thomas will be held on Monday, 5th June, at 11am in St Mary’s Priory Church, Abergavenny. The Principal Celebrant will be the Right Reverend Jonathan Goodall, Bishop of Ebbsfleet.
Bishop David’s family wishes that the Mass be celebrated in white and has invited a small number of priests to concelebrate. All other bishops and clergy are warmly invited to robe, should they wish. Vesture for bishops will be convocation dress; for priests and deacons it will be choir dress.
To assist with organisation, all clergy who wish to robe are asked to indicate their intention by emailing enquiries@stmarys-priory.org


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We are sorry to hear of the sudden death of Bishop David, who during his ministry as Provincal Assistant Bishop lived among us in Abergavenny.

Canon Mark Soady was among the first cadre ordained by Bishop DAVID, on hearing the news he said.

We have lost a great source of wisdom and a man with a great pastoral heart. He shall be sorely missed by the people of Abergavenny who had a great fondness for him. Our prayers are with Rosemary and the family at this time.

He celebrated the twentieth anniversary of his Ordiantion as Bishop at a service in the Priory last December.

We will pray for his soul at the Friday’s All Souls Mass at 8.30am today. 

May he rest in peace and Rise in glory

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The Ascension Day Mass will be celebrated  at 6.30pm in the Holywell Community Garden on May 25th. There will be no celebration in the Priory Church that day.

The Celebrant & Preacher will be the former Bishop of Monmouth, Rt Revd Dominic Walker OGS who is celebrating 20 years in Bishop’s Orders this month.


Bishop Dominic

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Preaching at the Monmouthshire Regiment Memorial Service for the World War 1 Battle of Fresenburg Ridge, Canon Leigh Richardson CF(v), Chaplain of the Royal Monmouthshire RE(Militia) spoke of the great losses endured in one day.


Padre Richardson said:


It is good to be here with you this afternoon for such an important commemoration when we have opportunity to come together to give thanks to the God who delivered us and to remember the brave who laid down their lives for their loved ones and for their country.


And above all others, we owe it to the comrades’ associations and the RBL for keeping this in our memory each year, and for all they and other bodies do to help those who still suffer as the result of war – we say thank you to them – because they have remained true to their promise, that:

“at the going down of the sun and in the morning – we will remember them”

 And the pain and grief of wars are still strong in the hearts of many today – some still mourning the loss of loved ones who never returned from the two world wars, but still more raw will be those who have lost recently. Since the end of the Second World War there have only been two years in which no Armed Forces personnel were killed on operations, that was 1968 and last year, 2016. The thirteen years of Op Herrick, the Army’s campaign in Afghanistan saw 404 personnel killed in action not to mention the 2,116 who were admitted to field hospitals many of whom suffered life changing injuries. 2009 saw the highest numbers of casualties with 95 personnel killed in action. And so the grieving and remembrance will continue.

And the tributes for the fallen are heart-wrenching – ‘Lovingly remembered,’ ‘Too many happy memories to be forgotten,’ Died as he had lived – loved by all,’ ‘Cofion annwylaf.’

 Siegfried Sassoon, the famous war poet said – “The song was wordless/ The singing will never be done” And that’s really what today is all about isn’t it.

 The fateful 8th of May 1915 which saw the 3rd Battalion The Mons fighting amongst their comrades of the 1st and 2nd battalions  the first time on the Ypres Salient. They hadn’t gone oversees with the Welsh Division, but had been mobilised as independent battalions in support of regular regiments. The 1st Battalion had a company supporting the Canadians on their right of the Ypres Salient, the rest of the 1st and the 3rd were holding the 28th Division’s front line and the 2nd were on the left flank with the 4th Division. If you can imagine this defensive line squeezing as it withdraws closer to Ypres and the front line is shortened leaving the 1st and 3rd Battalions exposed as the 4th Division leaves to cover the Canadian’s withdrawal. Frezenberg ridge overlooks Ypres around 7.5 kms away – a strategic piece of land which is key to dominating the lowland beyond and the ports to the north – the German attack on the 8th is fierce with field artillery pounding the allied defensive positions – both the 1st and 3rd Battalions are virtually annihilated – by the end of the day, the survivors of both companies barely amounted to a single war strength company – but they had put up a splendid fight – and B Company of the 3rd earned special distinction by holding on in the front line – their stand has been picked out by the Official History of the War as ‘among the historic episodes of the war.’

So reduced were the battalions that on the 22nd May 1915 orders were issued for their temporoary amalgamation – the strength of the amalgamated unit being about 900 – nearly two thirds coming from the 2nd Battalion. Its possible that a total of 85 men from Newport alone were killed during the action at Frezenberg on the 8th May – sons, brothers, fathers, husbands – hardly a street was untouched by the tragedy.


102 long years have come and gone since that fateful day in 1915 – and when the guns fell silent in 1918, we promised that no such world wide atrocity would be committed again. Within twenty years of Armistice Day, the battle drums were beating across Europe and would soon spread to another World War. So how far have we come, what have we learned in those 102 years. Have the deaths of the fallen been in vain, or did they bring about a new world order, a united world, a world united against injustice? Since the end of the Second World War, our armed forces have been deployed in numerous major conflicts – Korea, N.Ireland, Falklands, Iraq and Afghanistan to name but a few and as peace keepers in the Middle East, Cyprus, parts of Africa, the Balkans – the list goes on and on.  


So what about this world that we live in – is a safer, better place? Well outwardly, we’ve never had it so good; our standard of living is high, we all have gadgets around the house – those of you who own your own houses never imagined that they could be worth so much in 2017. Our old folk live longer because of the advances in medicine and the brilliance of our doctors.

But there is a hardness and viciousness about our society that has not been known for centuries. There is terrifying lawlessness; terrorism and terrorist plots, mugging, thuggery, rape and child abuse are seemingly everywhere – so in answer to my own question – is it a better world, no its not. It’s a TV social media world because that’s where we learn it all and celebrity they say is the new religion.

 But there is a pointlessness about it all – a lack of purpose – of vision – we are a nation adrift, lost in the mighty universe. And what can we say to it all? What hope is there? Is there any hope?

I want to be bold enough to suggest to you that the Bible has something to say about it all. The old fashioned bible – that neglected coffee table book – but to those who believe, it is the word of God! Anyway, I found a chapter, way back in the Book of Exodus which could have been written for us today – ‘and the Lord said to Moses, “Leave this place, go up to the land I promised you – I will drive out the people of the land – go up to the land flowing with milk and honey. But I will not go with you because you are a stiff necked (obstinate) people and I might destroy you on the way! When the people heard these words they began to mourn.”


Now Moses used to take a tent and pitch it outside the camp, some distance away and call it the tent of meeting. Chaplains on Operations do similar things although because the danger it is always in the camp – my church on the Engineer camp at the Contingency Operating Base in Basra was named St. Wilfrid’s in the Sands – and as I’m sure you all know that St. Wilfrid was the founder of Ripon Cathedral – Ripon being one many homes of the Engineers. As in Moses day, anyone wanting to go to pray would go to the tent, and when Moses himself went out to the tent to pray everyone waited to hear what God had said to him. And we’re told that Moses prayed to the Lord, ‘Teach me your ways, so that I may continue to find favour with you. And the Lord said, ‘My presence shall go with you and I will give you rest.’

 Very often the things we read in the bible can be paralleled with our own experience and things that are going on today

 “Go up to the land I promised you but I will not be with you,” God said.

What words! What is the use of having everything in life that is good – if God is not with us?

And that’s the heart of our trouble today – we have in many ways reached our promised land – outwardly – we have never had it so good, we are so much better off than our fathers, grandfathers great grandfathers were – but the whole thing has turned sour in our mouths. Why? I will not go with you. That’s our trouble, ‘You are a stiff necked, rebellious and obstinate people – and I will not go with you’. We have accepted the gifts and not the giver, Days, months, years we have left him out and ignored him – and its been infused throughout our society, through our political system right down to our communities. And I have no doubt that our emptiness and our drifting and our deep unhappiness, if the truth be told, are because we have lost sight of God, and it’s a dreadful thing to lose sight of your beacon.


We have wonderful standards here today and many more battle colours laid up in this chapel here, and the whole point of the colours was that they could be seen on the battlefield and were the rallying point in the fog of war – one of the worst thing that could happen to a regiment was that the colours be taken, and so if you were an infanteer and had become separated from the body of your unit you could rally on the colours when the bugler sounded – the rank Colour sergeant was created in 1813 to protect the ensign who carried the colours because the most bitter fighting often took place around them. In the Crimean War, once battle had been joined the colour party were sent to the rear because they endured such heavy losses at the front. Colours ceased to be carried into battle in 1881.

You can imagine the disorientation of battle and losing all sense of direction, without the colours to rally on, there is a pointlessness to your engagement because without organisation, you will lose.  

It’s the same for you and me – God is our standard, our colour and without him, we are lost in the battle, ensued by a sense of pointlessness.

 “I will not go with you,” God has said to us. You may have never heard Him – but to those of us who study these things and listen to his voice we know it. We are further from God as a nation than we have been for a thousand years, and so we need to retrace our steps as individuals and as a nation to that place/that point where we lost the companionship of God.
So in the story of Moses, what happens next, well the people when they heard that God was not going with them, they began to mourn – what for? Well they felt sorry for having neglected God, for having turned their backs on him, they were sorry and they said so. And that’s what many of us won’t do. We’re happy with the outward success that we have, comfortable job, nice car, we won’t submit to God we say, “why should we?” and the simple answer to that is, because God is God! And its all the more clear to us, because we know that God sent his Son Jesus – and even the Son we have spurned. “You go up to your land flowing with milk and honey,” God said, “I will not go with you.”

Moses knew that milk and honey was not substitute for God and so they mourned over their sins and said sorry.

So they realised that God wasn’t with them, then they were sad for neglecting him and said sorry and then they prayed. Do you pray? If not why not? On Op Telic 11 the frequency and closeness of the rocket attacks meant that there were few people who didn’t send the odd prayer up. The RQ thought that the Padre provided ultimate top cover for the regiment as if I had access to legions of angels who would knock rockets out of the sky. I do believe that we were protected, but the angels were called phalanx and fired 4,500 rounds a minute! Why do we leave prayer until the last minute when we reach a crisis point? Because at that point we don’t know what to say – its like being given a radio without having had any signals training. Its all gibberish unless we know what to say and what to ask for. And Moses prayed for God to teach him his ways – Teach me your ways – and this is what he means, show me what to do, the way I should think, react, live. Moses got to the point in all this that he was willing for God to do anything with him, if only he could see his face again, if only he could be reassured by his presence. And God speaks to him maybe the loveliest words in the whole bible. “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

We have not entered into that world which those young men on Frezenberg Ridge died to win for us, because we have tried to build it without God, and because we have lost sight of the colours in the midst of the battle, our world has become a disoriented, topsy turvey world. And we need to pray earnestly, pray like we have never prayed before, for those Colours to be raised again, Christ’s colours, and even now we might hear those words: “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”


“And all manner of things shall be well.”


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We refeclect on local election results and how they effect us.

Our County Council seat has changed hands. We welcome and congratulate Cllr Tudor Thomas, who was previously a Town Councillor. Sadly we say goodbye to John Prosser in that role. John a faithful worshiper at St Mary’s Priory has lost his County seat and stood down from the Town Council.

Cllr Sheila Woodhouse

One of our Assistant Wardens and former Mayor of Abergavenny , Cllr Sheila Woodhouse has been elected to the County Council for Grofield Ward. Another parishioner  elected is Cllr Maureeen Powell, representing CastleWard.

Cllr Fr Malcolm Lane

Associate Priest Fr Malcolm Lane has also been elected to Monmouthshire County Council, representing Mardy.

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We are honoured to be hosting a service for the Monmouthshire Regiment here  at 3pm on May 6th. The service will commemorate the Battle of Frezenberg Ridge , which took place on May 8th 1915.


On 8 May the Monmouthshire Regiment were trying to defend the Frezenberg Ridge from a ferocious German attack. By the end of the day, the Regiment had lost 211 men and officers – 150 from the First Battalion, 19 from the Second and 42 from the Third. By the end of May the three battalions had lost a total of 515 men, with the Third Battalion suffering the greatest losses.

The Preacher at the service will be the Chaplain of the Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers (Militia) , Revd Leigh Richardson CF(V). The Regimental Band of the Royal Welsh and the Priory Church Choir will lead the music.

King Henry Quilt PiecesA.jpg

As part of the service local school children’s quilts will be on display. All the schools were given an introduction to First World War themes and the significant contribution that the 3rd Monmouthshire Regiment made to the War and their heavy losses at Ypres in 1915. The pupils are really proud of their achievements and see the quilts as their legacy to the next generation.

The Regiments 3 Battalion was based in Abergavenny and the town is home to its War Memorial.

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