Archive for October, 2017


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Speaking at the Installation of the new Chancellor of St John Cymru Wales and the presentation of a Warrant for the new Gwent County Commissioner to carry out his duties, Canon Mark Soady MStJ drew out some examples of leadership qualities found in St Matthew’s Gospel.               Matthew 16.13-20


Fr Mark said:

In the Gospel we have just heard read Jesus confers on St Peter – Peter one of the most interesting characters in the Bible – the primacy of the Church.

The top Dog . The Leader.

Jesus saw something in Peter from the very outset, even when Peter himself thought he didn’t deserve to be called in the God’s service. A key action of any leader, and especially the leaders in the voluntary sector like St John’s is to be that  discerner of people. To see what the person before you can become, if he or she is allowed to grow.

Jesus challenges Peter throughout the Gospels to grow. He famously said to Peter, “Get behind me Satan”. So those in positions of leadership are called to push people from beyond their comfort zones, to the place where one has discerned they should be. This is particularly difficult in the voluntary sector, for volunteers can just a easily volunteer to leave as volunteer to come – so there needs to be a gentleness about how we do that. Leaders need to know when to, and when not to push.

Part of that challenging of Peter, was Jesus involving him in His work; so leaders are called in the  parlance of the day to initiate personal development in those they have discerned for future leadership roles.

It is interesting that at times Jesus encouraged and praised Peter, and at other times corrected him. At times the tutor may need to reprove, one needs to know when to praise and when to reprove – too much of one or the other can have negative effect on the individual one is nurturing. Jesus told Peter off for his failure to stay awake hours before He (Jesus) was crucified. Sloppiness and shoddiness needs to be addressed, for bad habits learnt early on in an individuals development can become the norm, and result in a fault line later in the person’s leadership.

In John’s Gospel Jesus asks Peter, “Will you also leave me?”. It may be  a little strange you think that a declaration of loyalty, should be part of the individual’s development plan….but it should. For all those destined for positions of leadership need to learn loyalty. NOT unquestioning loyalty but loyalty to the cause never the less, for loyalty is a key component of team work.

Those in Leadership positions need to understand that their protégée may some times fall short in their eyes, but the mentor needs to be able to give them a second chance. Jesus  understood that, when He was denied by  Peter he,Peter, did so out of weakness not malice.- so He forgave him, allowed him to have a second chance. But Jesus also threatened to cut Peter off when he  refused to let Jesus wash his feet, for there are times when Leaders need to be firm, and refuse to compromise on matters of principle. Leaders need to work out what those matters of principle are for them. My advice is that they should not be to many, but should be clear from the outset to those being lead.

Daniel in your youth work in St John’s you have been a key player in the work of discerning and encouraging the youth of this organisation. Now you are being called to do that across a wider stage. God has given you the gifts and the opportunity to develop them, I pray he will bless you as you take on this new wider role of responsibility.

Stephen you have held many Trustee roles in the organisation, both within St John’s and in your work life you have honed these skills of leadership, I pray that God will let us in St John’s benefit from these your gifts, and that these gifts may continue to grow in you, as you step up to be our Chancellor.


All of us in leadership need to hold Jesus before us, he in his servant leadership gives us the ultimate template for Leadership.

Let us go out from here committed to following his example.





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The two side chapels at St Mary’s Priory are to be dedicated to Saints.



  Herbert Chapel (Right) and the Tomb of Dr David  Lewis (Left)

St Joseph

The current Lewis Chapel, named after the 1st Principal of Jesus College, Oxford will be Dedicated to St Joseph. Given the Chapel houses the Tree of Jesse and the Jesse Window  it is appropriate to dedicate it to St Jospeh who is of the root of Jesse and was the spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, to whom the Priory is dedicated.

The Chapel will be Dedicated to St Joseph by the Bishop on November 21st.

The Chapel will be known as  The Chapel of St Joseph, commonly called The Lewis Chapel or The Lewis Chapel of St Joseph .

St Benedict 

The current Herbert Chapel named after the many Herberts who are buried there will be Dedicated to St Benedict, The patron of Europe and founder of modern Monasticism. St Benedict’s Rule was followed by the monks who lived in the Priory prior to Dissolution; and the spirit of the Rule is followed by the Holywell Community today.

Br Michaël of Mucknell Abbey is writing an Icon of St. Benedict for the Chapel. The Chapel will de Dedicated when the Icon is completed.


Br Michaël in his workshop

The Chapel will be known as  The Chapel of St Benedict, commonly called The Herbert Chapel or The Herbert Chapel of St Benedict.

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Between now and the end of the year we will be hosting a number of Bishops including the current and past Archbishop of Wales.

We welcome back Dr Rowan Williams on Saturday December 16th for the Vision of Hope Carol Service. A former Archbishop of Canterbury & Wales, Dr Williams is Patron of this charity which works with ex-offendors.Based on Wenallt Farm near Gilwern, the Vision of Hope Animal Assisted Therapy project is run by Dinah Sansome and her husband David.They have opened up their home and farm so young people with substance misuse issues and former offenders can benefit from on-site treatment and therapy relating to the care of animals. This will be the third year we have hosted this service.

Also returning for the third time for their Carol Service are St John in Gwent. On December 4th the current Archbishop of Wales, who is  a Sub Prelate of the Order of St John will preach at the service at which St John Badgers  and Cadets will read the Christmas Lessons.

On the Feast of Christ the King (November 26th) we welcome the Bishop of Cyprus and the Gulf. He will Preach at the Patronal Festival of our daughter church Christchurch at 9.30am and here at the Priory Church at 11am.


Bishop of Cyprus and the Gulf with our Royal Patron

For our Advent series of Sermons on Bishops and the Sacraments we  will welcome: The Bishop of Monmouth, Bishop Dominic Walker OGS, and Bishop Roger Jubb (Superior of the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament) .

  • December 3: Bishop Dominic Walker OGS ( author on Healing Ministry) on Healing
  • December 10: Christmas Food Festival
  • 17: Bishop Roger Jupp (Superior-General of the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament) on The Holy Eucharist
  • December 24: Bishop Richard (Ministry Bishop of the Church in Wales) on Ordination..

The Bishop of Monmouth will also be with us on November 21st for the ceremonies in the Lewis Chapel.  This weekend (October 21st) we welcome the Bishop of Wakfield. 

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Festival of Faith

We will host the Credo Cymru Festival of Faith on Saturday afternoon, October 21st.

During the Festival there will be presentations from the Additional Curates Society and from a number of Religious Communities. Proceedings will start with the Mass at 12noon at which the Principal Celebrant and Preacher will be the Bishop of Wakefield ( Chairman of the Society’s Council of Bishops).

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Again this November we shall be pausing to Remember 

All Souls

On November 2nd at 6.30pm we will have a Requiem Eucharist to remember those whose Funerals we have conducted this year, along with the departed loved ones of our regular Congregation.


Parish Clergy will be leading Acts of Remembrance at 11am on November 11th at the Town’s War Memorial and in the Castle grounds. Two days earlier Fr Mark will have lead an Act of Remembrance at Kings Henry VIII’s School, and on Friday he will mark Remembrance at County Hall, Usk.


On Remembrance Sunday Fr Mark will lead the Town’s Act of Remembrance, while in the Priory Church the main Morning Service will start at 10.50am to allow their to be an Act of Remembrance.

International Abolition of Violence Against Women Day

We will host the Gwent WI Service  to mark International Abolition of Violence Against Women Day on November 24th.




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Fr Tom Bates our new Sub Prior and Associate Priest preached at St Mary’s Priory three times today, his first 11am Sermon is published in full.


Fr Tom said:

Receiving an invitation is exciting! Indeed, receiving any piece of post that is not a bill is exciting, but an invitation especially so. An invitation can be a means by which we receive some news: It may be some good news: perhaps a couple we love have decided to get married, or are having a baby, and want to share their joy with us. Perhaps someone we know is receiving an honour or an award, or graduating and is inviting us to celebrate their achievement. We hurriedly look through our diary to save the date so that we can be a part of that joyful celebration. Indeed it is increasingly popular now-a-days for couples to send out ‘save the date’ cards. A kind of pre-invitation invitation: That really heightens the excitement, because you know then that an invitation is on its way to you, and you start checking the post and looking out for it. And what will it be? How will that couple choose to celebrate their love? What exciting things will you be able to have to eat? Will you need to buy a new hat? All the questions and possibilities that can come from an invitation.

However, sometimes we receive invitations we don’t like to receive so much. We call these ‘reminders’. Perhaps the dentist will be ‘inviting’ us to grace their chair, or from the accountant ‘inviting’ us to come for a meeting, or from our boss ‘inviting’ us for an appraisal. Perhaps we are not so keen to put those dates in our diary.

And then there are those invitations we’re not so sure about. Great aunt Ethel’s tea party: We wish her well, but we could do without those whiskery, lipstick heavy kisses.

The themed family barbecue with obligatory dress code of Hawaian shirts and Bermuda shorts. Or those invitations where you suspect you may only have been invited out of courtesy. Do you accept, or decline?

So we have three categories of invitation: the immediate ‘yes’, the impulsive ‘no way’ or the indecisive ‘perhaps’…

The parable Jesus tells in today’s gospel is all about an invitation, and an exciting one at that. A king is throwing a wedding feast. It’s not every day one receives an invitation from a king, and receiving a ‘royal’ invitation places this in a league of its own.

This is the third week now we have heard Jesus preaching in the temple. The gospel reading falls in the context of Holy Week, when Jesus has entered Jerusalem in triumph amid cries of ‘Hosanna’, and the chief priests and the elders are turning out every day to try and find out if this man is either mad, bad or dangerous to know. They are becoming more and more incensed at these parables as Jesus rides rough shod into Jerusalem and sits in the temple telling the ‘holiest’ people that tax collectors and prostitutes are going to enter the kingdom of heaven before them. He has told them to their faces that they are like the son who rushed into the vineyard and shirked off, forgetting the purpose to having a vineyard in the first place, not working towards the harvest or creating that new wine which is the new life of the kingdom.

Jesus has told them that they are wicked tenants who want to use the vineyard for feathering their own nest, excluding others rather than bringing new life to ALL people.


Fr Tom also Celebrated & Preached at the All Age Eucharist today

And finally, today, he tells them that they are rejecting God. His purpose is not outright judgement but a challenge for us all to change our lives and not to live like the lack-a-daisical son, or the wicked tenants, or the conceited guests, but his parables tell us that he knows his fate that will come at the end of the week. He knows that teaching these truths, giving it to the chief priests and elders straight, will lead him to the cross. They would rather kill the truth than repent and change their wicked ways. Jesus’ judgement on them is not condemnation. It is a warning. An opportunity for repentance. But they ignore it. They are happier with their distortion of God’s truth, than with the wonder of what it really means. Jesus’ parables are clear: the kingdom of heaven is good news for all people, not just a few. Yet instead of repenting they subvert what rightly belongs to the poor, the lowly, and the sinner.

The image Jesus uses today is clear: If the entitled have missed the point of God’s saving love, and taken it for granted, then he will bypass them and go straight out to the poor and needy. The invitation we receive from God is an invitation to relationship, love and forgiveness. It is the covenant relationship that is referred to in the psalm which tells us how God will accompany us as a shepherd guiding us into the fullness of life which he promises to all people. But how will you respond to that invitation? The chief priests and elders of the people declined. They thought God’s goodness and mercy were theirs by right. Paul encourages the Philippians to accept: send your RSVP by return of post: ‘by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God’. To what end? ‘That the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.’

So the people on the streets have been granted a place at the feast that was reserved for the entitled. However we encounter an unsettling codicil to this story: the man without a wedding garment.

When we receive an invitation to a party there may be a dresscode. The dresscode tells us something about the ethos of the party. A family barbecue may be advertised as ‘Hawaian themed’, and you may stick out like a sore thumb if you went there in your best wedding clothes (you may get ribbed by your family and labelled something of a Hyacinth Bucket). But if you went to a wedding in fancy dress, against the dresscode on the invitation then you are signalling your unwillingness to participate in the celebration to which you have been invited. Instead of celebrating the love your hosts have found as a gracious guest, you are making yourself the focus of attention.

The moral here is also clear: Jesus invites all people into the covenant relationship with the Father in the Kingdom, yet the only way into the kingdom is by following Jesus. God has invited us all to the banquet, and the dresscode is Jesus: to literally ‘put on Christ’. The trespasser in the parable has not entered into the ethos of the feast, the ethos of Christ, and therefore cannot remain. ‘For many are called but few are chosen’.

That is to say that all are invited to the feast, but few are committed to the ethos of the kingdom. So, how will you respond to this invitation? Will you rush to change what is not the ethos of Christ in your life? Or will you put the King’s invitation on the mantelpiece and go off to your farm, or about your business?

I wonder if you have ever had the frustration of putting a lot of effort into an event, or a meal only to have your guests cancel on you, or find that nobody turns up. It’s very frustrating, and hurtful. It can feel like people don’t care. When the food goes to waste the cost falls on the shoulders of the host. However the feast to which God invites us has already been paid for. He has humbled himself, emptied himself on the cross, and given up everything to pay the price so that we can come to feast with him in his kingdom. Who loses out if we don’t accept? All are invited, but we must choose to come.

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