Archive for March, 2018

We will be taking the Holy Week message out side the walls of the church on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.


We will be at Abergavenny Railway Station from 7.45am polishing the shoes of Commuters on their way to work; reminding people that Jesus washed his disciples feet on this day.



We will join the other churches of the town for a silent walk  of witness through the town, stopping once to hand out Hot Cross Buns wrapped in serviettes explaining the reasons why these buns have crosses on them ie that Jesus died on a cross for us on this day.




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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:



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Charity number: 1137751

Annual Report for the year ending 31 December 2017

Trustees’ report

The trustees have pleasure in presenting their report and the financial statements of the charity for the year ending 31 December 2017. The organisational 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.



This year was one of celebrating the creative arts, their use in mission and how they reflect both the human and divine. Declared the Year of the Arts, 2017 saw displays of painting, textiles and sculpture, from both renowned artists and members of the congregation. The exhibitions were used as a springbopr a series of sermons in Lent and for celebrating both the glory of God and the creative abilities of their makers.

Away from the Arts, this year was again a busy one for the Parish with regular and special services, distinguished visiting preachers, 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 Christingle services. There was again an emphasis on mission and outreach, particularly on Church Without Walls initiatives. The Holywell Community continued their service to both church and community.


Worship has been greatly enhanced by the music of St Mary’s Priory Choir who sang at regular and special services, and by our bell-ringers, who both rang and facilitated visiting ringers from around the country. 

St Mary’s with its daughter church, Christchurch, aims to provide regular public worship and the provision of sacred space for personal prayer and contemplation, as well as carrying out pastoral work such as visiting the sick and bereaved, teaching Christianity through sermons and small groups, promoting Christianity through events and services. The church also aims to care for its fine collection of both historic medieval monuments and newly-created works of art.

The following report on the churches’ activities demonstrate what the charity has done during the year to carry out these purposes for the public benefit.



The Parish continued to endeavour to enable the wider community to live out their faith as part of our community through special events, such as the Year of the Arts, and regular activities which can be split broadly into three categories:

  • worship, prayer and pastoral care;
  • mission and outreach;
  • fundraising, fellowship and hosting events.


Year of the Arts

The year started where 2016 had finished – with the newly-installed Jesse Window being used in a series of sermons by the parish priest and Prior, the Revd Canon Mark Soady, when he explored how its iconography reflects both Biblical theology and our lives today. The first exhibition of the year was that of textile artist Jacqui Parkinson, who explored some of the passages in the Bible that mention angels. During Lent, Nigel Robert Pugh’s exhibition of paintings of the Stations of the Cross formed both an opportunity to ‘walk the Via Dolorsa’ and to look at the images and what messages we can draw out for today during a series of Evensong addresses.



In May, textile art was back on the agenda, with the exhibition of quilts created by local schoolchildren to mark the centenary of the First World War. They were on display during the service of remembrance for the Monmouthshire Regiment, held in St Mary’s that month. This was followed in August by an exhibition of the work of Dalene West. In September, to coincide with the annual Abergavenny Food Festival, the Bible Society’s exhibition of Creation Art was staged. The series of exhibitions ended with that of work created by members of the Abergavenny parishes, showing a rich seam of talent in the area.

In August, St Mary’s Choir hosted a Festival of Liturgical Music, which saw visiting choirs singing music from different centuries at daily Evensong services. The choirs included Academia Musica, the Ethlbert Consort, from Herefordshire, and the Icosa Choir from Manchester, as well as St Mary’s Priory Choir.

The arts theme was extended away from the Church itself, when the Mothers’ Union spent a day at Llangasty Retreat Centre exploring the themes in Holman Hunt’s Light of the World.


Worship, prayer and pastoral care

The Revd Canon Mark Soady continues 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 continues to serve as Area Dean of Abergavenny and as a Canon of Newport Cathedral.

The Revd Sarah Gillard-Faulkner served as Sub-Prior and Deacon of Abergavenny, while continuing her work as a prison chaplain, until the end of May when she left the Parish to take up a full-time position as a prison chaplain in the Midlands. In October, the Revd Tom Bates was licensed to the Parish as Associate Priest, having been admitted to the Holywell Community as Sub-Prior in August. In June, the Revd Jeff Pearse was ordained Priest at Newport Cathedral.


In its fourth year, the Holywell Community saw a change of members, with Brother Michael Topple leaving to move back to Colchester and Brother Simon Pratt leaving to continue his music degree. Sister Jennii Shaw was joined in August by Sister Joanna Hollins. The Community works both in the Church and the wider community, running all-age worship, visiting schools, and volunteering at a centre for young people in the town and at the Little Footprints playgroup. Their wide range of duties included visiting the sick, gardening at the Tithe Barn and Church, serving at regular and special services and acting as Verger at weddings and funerals.


As well as the usual weekday and Sunday worship during the year, which included singing some of the Benedictine Monastic Offices each day, Canon Soady organised and/or presided over a number of special services and events, including:

  • In January, St Mary’s hosted a service for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity;
  • In February, there was a joint service for Candlemas, shared with Christchurch, Govilon, held at St Mary’s daughter church, Christchurch, Abergavenny;
  • Also in February, Canon Soady preached at Jesus College, Oxford, an invitation issued following the installation of the plaque by the college in 2016;
  • During Lent a series of Evensong addresses saw visiting preachers, including a High Court judge, the Chair of Embrace the Middle East, and the Bishop of Ebbsfleet, give addresses on Nigel Robert Pugh’s Stations of the Cross;
  • On Ascension Day the Rt Rev Dominic Walker, former Bishop of Monmouth, celebrated and preached at a joint service held in the grounds of the Holywell Community house;
  • On the last Sunday of April, all the congregations in Canon Soady’s incumbency joined together for a service to celebrate Christian Aid, at which the Christian Aid director for Wales, Huw Thomas, preached;
  • In May, the 3rd battalion of the Monmouthshire Regiment commemorated the Battle of Frezenberg Ridge, which took place on May 8, 1915 – the battalion had been based in Abergavenny;
  • On the last Sunday in May, Canon Soady preached at the world-renowned St David’s Cathedral Festival – he was  ordained in there;
  • In June, St Mary’s hosted the Requiem Mass for the Rt Revd David Thomas, former Provincial Assistant Bishop, who had held most of his ordination and chrism mass services in Abergavenny;


    The Late Bishop David Thomas

  • Later that month, the Rt Revd David Fenwick, Bishop of St Helena, was the celebrant and preacher for the parish’s Pentecost service;
  • In June, the Chair of Monmouthshire County Council, Councillor Maureen Powell, held her Civic Service in St Mary’s, having appointed Canon Soady as her Chaplain;
  • At the end of July, there was a celebration of 180 years of the Additional Curates Society, at which the preacher was the Revd Darren Smith SSC, the organisation’s general secretary;
  • September saw the installation of Stephen Hughes, CStJ, FCA, CGF, as the new Chancellor of the Priory of Wales for the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St John;_MG_0085.jpg
  • The same month, St Mary’s hosted the Credo Cymru Festival of Faith;
  • In November, on the sixth anniversary of the death of the Very Revd Jeremy Winston, former Vicar of Abergavenny, the Bishop of Monmouth dedicated the altar and the plinth on which the Jesse figure now sits;
  • The Festival of Christ the King saw the Bishop of Cyprus and the Gulf preach at both Christchurch and St Mary’s;
  • And in December, St Mary’s welcomed four bishops to preach at various services: the Most Revd John Davies, Archbishop of Wales (St John in Gwent Carol Service); the Rt Revd Dr Rowan Williams (Vision of Hope Carol Service); the Rt Revd Richard Pain, Bishop of Monmouth and the Rt Revd Dominic Walker OGS, former Bishop of Monmouth, both preached in the series of addresses on the Sacraments;
  • Later in the month, local schools used the church for their Christingle and Christmas services – thousands of youngsters, their families and teachers visiting the church in the space of two weeks.


Acts of worship, including some of the Benedictine Offices, were celebrated on almost every day of the year, and pastoral care continued throughout, in particular, the visiting 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 62.5, and the number recorded on the Electoral roll for both churches on 31 December 2017 was 216.

In addition to our regular services, we enable our community to celebrate and thank God in the milestones of the journey through life. Through baptism we welcome new disciples into the life of God’s family and in marriage public vows are exchanged with God’s blessing. Through funeral services friends and family express their grief and give thanks for the life which is now complete in this world and commit their loved one into God’s keeping. This year, we celebrated 17 baptisms and seven weddings in the Parish. There were 47 funerals.

Ecumenically, the parish participated fully in the Abergavenny Council of Churches, including the now-annual ecumenical Christmas carol service.


Mission and outreach work

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


The year saw church members continue to look 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 preparation course, with eight couples exploring their relationship and what marriage will mean to them;
  • Members of our Mothers Union continuing to volunteer at a contact centre for children suffering family break-up;
  • Members of all four churches in the incumbency collecting baby items and food for asylum seekers in Newport, the initiative again being run by Mothers Union;
  • Families who had suffered bereavement during the year being personally invited to the All Souls Service, and to attend a weekly self-help bereavement group, with many taking up that invitation;
  • At Christmas, the congregations filling boxes with small items as part of the Shoe Box Appeal, sending 60 boxes to orphanages in Romania;23319338_1670969029613833_2751666711658756355_n
  • Parishioners contributing staple foodstuffs and toiletries to the Abergavenny Food Bank;
  • The hosting of a weekly Alcoholics Anonymous meeting;
  • Members of the church continuing to be involved with the 7Corners project in Abergavenny, which aims to provide a place for young people to meet;
  • Church members contributing 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 and young adults in Abergavenny who, through no fault of their own, are living by themselves, again an increase on last year’s total;
  • Contributing to the Additional Curates’ Society;
  • Making a Harvest offering towards the work of the Mission to Seafarers
  • Contributing to the Bishop of Monmouth’s Lent Appeal.



The Church Without Walls initiative saw members of the public offered Ashing on Ash Wednesday; shoe polishing to commuters at the railway station on Maundy Thursday; and the Walking Nativity through busy Saturday morning Christmas shoppers with two donkeys and members of the congregation dressed up as the Holy Family, angels, shepherds and kings, singing carols and praising the Lord. Also in December, members of the congregations sang carols in care and nursing homes and in local pubs. In addition, two craft days were held for youngsters – one at Easter and one before the Walking Nativity – which were attended by children from both the congregations and Little Footprints.



St Mary’s Priory Choir went on their annual Singing Week in July as choir-in-residence at Rochester Cathedral, singing increasingly complex pieces, including Mass for Four Voices by Tallis, and works by Bairstow, Howells and Mendelssohn.



Members of the congregation again joined fellow pilgrims from all over the country for the annual Fr Ignatius 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 organisations, 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. Many people visited to view the newly-installed Jesse Window.

The church bells, described as the finest ring of 10 bells in Christendom, were rung on Sundays, at funerals and weddings. They were also rung by seven visiting groups of ringers. In September, the All Wales 8-bell Striking Competition was held at St Mary’s, a competition between all the Welsh dioceses – won by the Llandaff & Monmouth ringers.


Fundraising, Fellowship and Hosting Events

A number of concerts, for both the Church and outside organisations, took place at St Mary’s, including St Mary’s Priory Choir’s sacred concert on Good Friday; and concerts by Crickhowell Choral Society and Gwent Bach Society.

The Priory Centre Hall and Christchurch Hall continue to be resources for the community. As well as hosting 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 latter raising money for Target Ovarian Cancer. The monthly coffee mornings held at Christchurch are well supported by both members of the congregation and people from the community.



The Priory Centre provided the venue for various fundraising activities and celebrations, including an auction evening, hosted by Roy Noble, in aid of the St Peter’s, Llanwenarth Citra, restoration fund. We also provided refreshments during Abergavenny Food Festival. The Centre is used for, among other events, meetings, conferences, blood donor sessions, parties and rehearsals of the Rock Choir.


Reference and administration details

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


Incumbent and ministers

The Incumbent is the Reverend Canon Mark Soady. He was assisted during part of the year by the Revd Sarah Gillard-Faulkner, before she left to pursue full-time prison chaplaincy. The clergy team at 31 December included the Revd Tom Bates and the Revd Jeff Pearse. Canon Soady is also assisted by the members of the Holywell Monastic Community.


Fr Tom, Bishop Richard, Fr Jeff

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


Objectives and activities

We review our aims, objectives and activities 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 activity and benefits of activities in a wide variety of cultural areas. The review also helps us ensure our aims, objectives and activities remained focussed on our stated objective.

When reviewing our aims and objectives and in planning and considering our activities for the year, the incumbent and the Parochial Church Council (PCC) have considered the Charity Commission’s guidance on public benefit and, in particular, the specific guidance on charities for the advancement of religion.

The objective of the Charity is promoting in the ecclesiastical parish the whole mission of the Church. Encouraging and facilitating the practice of the Christian Faith by the Churches includes the following:

  • Conducting regular Christian worship in both Churches;
  • The celebration 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 contemplation; 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 Christianity and of Abergavenny;
  • The maintenance of Christian burial places;
  • Promoting the study of Christian teaching, practices and Scriptures;
  • The provision of means and encouragement to promote fellowship within the membership of the Churches and the wider community;


In addition to the above, Christian devotional acts and outreach work is carried out, including:

  • Visiting 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 charities through, among others, the Mothers Union and AACT’s Mission and Outreach Committee.

The work of the Church is governed by safeguarding policies of the Church in Wales, responsible adults are required to have DBS checks and the joint parishes have appointed a safeguarding co-ordinator who liaises with the Provincial safeguarding officer if necessary.




Further achievements in the year

Monies were raised by freewill offertory, fundraising activities and specific appeals. These were used to support the work and administration of the churches and wider mission. Volunteers, who helped at each act of worship to support the clergy, have donated their time. The churches will continue with their acts of worship and pastoral care during 2018 and will continue actively to try to increase its Electoral Roll, through its mission work in the community.

The activities of the committees and groups within the churches continued during the year. The monies raised contributed to the general income of the churches. These activities are expected to continue during 2018. All those involved in group activities and who assist with the main functions of the churches are volunteers who have freely donated their time, energy and skills. In order to continue to foster increasing unity between the different Churches and congregations within Canon Soady’s Incumbency, regular meetings of the Wardens from all four Churches were held.



The Trustees

The trustees who served the Charity during the period from the Annual Vestry Meeting in April 2017 until the end of the year were as follows:


The Revd Canon Mark Soady               Chairman

The Revd Sarah Gillard-Faulkner (in part)

The Revd Tom Bates (in part)

The Revd Jeff Pearse

Mr Robin Alldred

Mrs Sheila Davies                                     Assistant People’s Warden, representative on the Deanery Conference

Mr Lyndon Evans

Mr Sam Hunt

Mr Steven Lamerton                               Gift Aid Treasurer

Mrs Jenny Lloyd

Mrs Eunice Marsh                                    PCC Secretary

Mrs Jenny McPherson

Mr Andrew Powell

Mr Tim Pratt                                               Vicar’s Warden

Mrs Patricia Ransome

Mr Huw Shurmer

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

Mrs Sheila Woodhouse                          Vicar’s warden at Christchurch, Christchurch Treasurer

Ms Caroline Woollard                            Parish People’s Warden, representative on the Diocesan Conference and member of the Governing Body of the Church in Wales

In addition (from January 2017 to the Vestry meeting in April 2017): Mrs Anne Griffiths; Mrs Rebecca Jackson; Mr Vernon Lewis


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 Christian 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 Representative 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 Representative Body is an exempt Charity and was set up under Section 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 composition, procedure and powers being regulated by the Constitution of the Church in Wales as amended from time to time by its Governing Body set up under Section 13(1) of the Welsh Church Act 1914. Elections are held at an Annual Vestry Meeting which must take place on or before 30th April each year. All persons whose names are entered on the Electoral Roll are entitled to vote and stand for election. Before assuming office, every member of the PCC publicly makes a declaration that he or she will be bound by the Constitution. 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 properties held by the Representative 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 latter 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 operations undertaken in the Priory Centre and the Tithe Barn were 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, held 51% of the shares. The remaining 49% were 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. The St Mary’s Priory House Company Ltd ceased to trade on 6 October 2017 and is in the process of being wound up. The St Mary’s Priory Trustees have now assumed full responsibility for the continuing use of the facilities in both the Priory Centre and the Tithe Barn.


Risk Review  

The PCC has conducted its 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 activities, 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 relating to this charity over the previous financial year that we should have brought to the attention of the Charity Commissioners but have not.


Organisational Structure  

The PCC is responsible inter-alia for promoting 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 communication between the parishioners and the Bishop of the diocese. All members of the PCC are volunteers.

In addition to the election of members, the Officers, i.e. The People’s Warden and the Assistant People’s Warden are elected at the annual Easter Vestry; the Vicar appoints the Vicar’s Warden and two Vicar’s assistant wardens at the same meeting. New representatives are told of their responsibilities and of the issues facing the Churches by existing representatives, and receive such additional training as required. Other Officers, including the Secretary, Treasurer and Gift Aid Treasurer are appointed at the first meeting 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 mission events in Abergavenny, including activities for Christian Aid Fortnight, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Easter and Christmas.

The Churches are run entirely 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 function.

While the vast majority of those employed on the site were employees of the Priory House Company Limited, until that company ceased trading, as of December 2017 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 12 times in 2017, 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



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.



Works undertaken at St Mary’s during the year included

  1. The first phase in the re-ordering of the Lewis Chapel was completed, following an extended period of environmental monitoring, with the move of the Church’s 15th Century wooden Jesse Effigy to a new position at the east end of the Chapel, underneath the new Jesse Window installed in 2016. To support the Effigy in its new position a wooden plinth was designed, erected and installed by Joachim Tantau, based in Hamburg. To complement the plinth a new altar, credence table and lectern, all to the same generic design, have also been commissioned from Joachim Tantau. The works were celebrated at a special service on 21 November when the new altar was dedicated to St Joseph.
  2. Having successfully applied for a Home Office Grant to fund the work, new security cameras were installed at key locations, both internal and external, around the Priory Site to supplement the previous equipment. The extended cover has already demonstrated its value by assisting the police following an attempted break-in at the Vicarage and in apprehending the person responsible for a robbery in the Church.
  3. The Church had successfully applied in 2016 for a grant from the Listed Places of Worship Roof Repair Scheme for full repairs to the Lewis Chapel Roof and some associated works. A total of £96,000 was initially awarded. Following a rigorous tendering exercise, work commenced in August 2017 when the North Slope slates were removed. This revealed major deterioration of nearly all 24 rafters at their interface with the wall plate and evidence of re-use of medieval timbers from previous versions of the roof when the present roof was erected in the early 19th As a result, an extensive programme of new works was designed, approved and installed to make good the deterioration while maintaining the integrity of the earliest timberworks. To cover the additional costs, further successful fund- raising was undertaken and grants of £2,000 from the All Churches Trust, £5,000 from the Diocese of Monmouth and an additional £14,000 (taking their total to £110,000) from the LPOW Roof Repair Scheme, were obtained. This was sufficient to allow the south slope to be stripped to reveal no problems with the rafters at that side, both slopes to be re-slated and all associated water goods to be replaced. However, some of the originally planned ancillary works will now have to be undertaken in future years. The Practical Completion stage of the scheme was reached in mid-December.



A number of major schemes are planned for 2018, assuming sufficient funding can be secured. It is also anticipated the next Quinquennial Inspection of St Mary’s will be undertaken in the second half of 2018 which will help to set the agenda for an on-going programme of enhancements, renewals repairs and maintenance.


While minor repairs, as identified in the Quinquennial Report, were undertaken at Christchurch, the major project undertaken was the repainting of the exterior of the church, together with minor repairs to some window frames. During the work, wet rot was found in the woodwork underneath the east window. This has been made safe but the frame of this window, the largest in the church, will need to be repaired/replaced in 2018, as will the interior wooden wall panelling and floorboards underneath it.




The level of direct voluntary contributions at each act of worship, excluding tax reclaimed through Gift Aid, amounted to £76,814 (2016: £78,561), a 2.2% reduction that continues the overall trend of recent years of lower receipts from a diminishing congregation.

Other unrestricted general income, including that generated from fundraising activities, amounted to £132,599 (2016: £128,506). This included a change in the arrangements for handling income from the hire of facilities in the Priory Centre and Tithe Barn by external users which had previously been accrued to the independent Priory House Company. For 2017 this additional income amounted to £23,860.

Fewer substantial donations were received from parishioners during 2017 and as a result there was also a significant decrease in tax refunds under the Gift Aid schemes. However, a total of £123,636 was obtained through grants from a number of external bodies, mostly awarded in connection with major fabric works. In addition, VAT payments were reclaimed for all compliant expenditure and a total of £16,243 was recovered during the year (2016: £15,006)

The level of unrestricted expenditure, other than for exceptional items, amounted to £199,837 (2017: 204,912) while the Winston Appeal restricted funds covered the expenditure incurred moving the Jesse effigy and on other items for the Lewis Chapel. This totalled £39,088 (2017: £76,588).

During 2017 the Charity received £99,000, out of the total £110,000 awarded, from the Listed Places of Worship Roof Repair Scheme towards the Lewis Chapel Roof Repair Scheme and £6,910 from the Home Office for security Improvements on the St Mary’s site. In addition the Charity received a service charge of £3,000 from the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority associated with the latter’s use of part of the Tithe Barn as the town’s Tourist Information Office. The Charity received no other grants or income for services delivered, from central or local government during the year. However, grants were received from Church-based groups towards the costs of the repairs to the roof of the Lewis Chapel, and towards the Holywell Community including contributions to the costs of the sub-prior.



The Parish Share payable to the Diocese during the year was £60,385 (2016: £66,895) but shortfalls in previous years means that £23,339 (2016: £35,320) remained outstanding at the end of the year.

Exceptional items during the year included the repairs to the Lewis Chapel Roof (£127,309, with invoices outstanding at year end), the security upgrades at St Mary’s (£8,637) and repairs to the external fabric at Christchurch (£7,840).

The net assets of the Charity at 31 December 2017 amounted to £340,002 (31/12/2016: £374,669) including freehold properties valued at £362,641 (unchanged). The reduction in assets reflected the net expenditure on the Lewis Chapel by the Winston Memorial Fund using money raised in previous years. The principal liabilities remain the shortfall on the Parish Share and the loan on the Holywell Community House (£59,004), which is due for repayment in September 2023.




The Parochial Church Council recognises the need to hold reserves to ensure funding is available to provide continuing mission should income levels fall. Reserves are also required to meet the future maintenance programme for the Churches and Church buildings.

A minimum level of reserves also needs to be retained to ensure the PCC can meet its legal commitments should the Charity be unable to continue due to a lack of a sustainable income stream. The Officers of the PCC have established a policy whereby the unrestricted funds not designated for specific use by the PCC or invested in tangible fixed assets, ie the free reserves held by the Charity, should ideally be between three and six months of the resources expended in general funds.

The Charity is dependent on donations, grants and investment income. The economic climate remains uncertain and interest rates continue at historically low levels, both of which factors are likely to have an on-going negative impact on future income streams.



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.



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 Advisers (Historic Buildings)

Arnold Bartosch Ltd, 1 Bath Mews, Bath Parade, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire GL53 7HL



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

Feast of St Joseph (19th March), 2018





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Next Sunday the clocks go forward one hour – don’t forget and be late for church on Palm Sunday

8am Holy Eucharist

11am Blessing of Palms, Procession and Sung Eucharist

6pm Evensong and a Reflection on life in the Holy community by the Lay Members

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The bad weather prevented Fr Sam MacNally-Cross (Oblate OSB) delivering his address on Benedictine Community -the address below was read in his absence at Evensong on March 18th.

Wth any monastic community there is a tension between the individual spiritual journey and the life together – The Prologue to The Rule (one of the most beautiful pieces of spiritual writing) addresses the individual – it implores the individual to ‘Listen’ to the teacher and then sets out the Benedictine ‘Tools’ for a personal conversion of heart – named obedience, silence and humility. 

St Benedict looks at The ruins of Monte Cassino

It would be very easy, therefore, to view the community as nothing more than either a location where these three tools are found or a framework in which they can be sharpened and used to full benefit. Of course, there is truth in that – it is not accident that for hundreds of years those who are called to follow God in this single minded way appear in cenobitic communities – but it is quite a mistake to see the community as nothing more than a utility to enhance or allow the practical aspects of spiritual life to grow.

The Holy Father, Benedict, is very clear therefore about what community is to look like. And it is embodied in three ways -Prayer, Hospitality and Accountability. 
These three, when enacted by each individual transform the community from something that could be seen as cold, rigid and practical into the place that provides the very language for spiritual growth in Christ. Benedict describes those that are a part of this community not simply as monastic but ‘belonging to a monastery’ – and that is key. They belong to the monastery. Not passing through, but belonging.
So firstly; Prayer.
For the monastic, as for the Christian in the world, this is both a private and corporate activity and becomes the bedrock of a life lived in Christ. I could, at this point, quote from the 1980s American Tele-evangelists with the phrase ‘A family that prays together, stays together’ – you may, like me, cringe slightly at the image that may bring up but the principle, while expressed in arguably a trite cliche is a good one. The life of the Benedictine is rooted in prayer. The day is broken up by periods of corporate prayer, there is space built into the routine for private prayer. 
The Rule does not provide a great deal on private prayer and how to go about it, partly this shows that his focus was indeed on the corporate (and there is plenty within the Rule with excruciating detail about how ‘The Work of God’ as he calls the Daily Office, is supposed to be celebrated) but for Benedict private payer flows from the Work of God in the oratory and Lectio Divina, the meditative reading of scripture. 

With this Benedict captures what the early monastics expressed about prayer as ‘Remembrance of God’ 
The prologue opens, as I mentioned earlier, with perhaps the most telling phrase in Benedictine Spirituality. ‘Listen’ – in prayer he urges his brothers and sisters to listen to God. To truly listen. This is not just waiting for our own time to speak but setting aside our own inclination, desire and ego in order that we might be completely attentive. 
This principle becomes embedded in the life on the monastic. So much so that is shapes all interaction. Those who the monk encounters, be it God Himself, the stranger made in His image or the brother or sister of the order striving for the same – is also to be listened to. The prayerful attentiveness is not reserved for the oratory alone – instead seeping into each action. 
The Benedictine approach to prayer is sometimes summarised in the beautifully pithy phrase – Prayer is work, Work is prayer. The monastic that abides by this saying graduates from the ‘School of the Lords service’ with top marks.
This setting aside of the self in order to listen, either to God or to others that are encountered leads into the next principle; Hospitality.
Would you like a cup of tea? 
Come in, stay a while, stay overnight, stay a week.
There are many expressions of hospitality. And they all, largely, focus on doing something. The host providing something for the guest, be it refreshment, a place to stay, entertainment, or some other practical consideration. 
When we consider being hospitable to someone, it is perhaps taking care of their needs at that particular time that comes to mind. 
True hospitality, of course, incorporates all of those considerations but it also transcends them. To be hospitable means that you have to allow someone not just access to your physical domain, but also into your life – even for a small amount of time – and allowing them to be as they are.
It is a fine line to walk – hospitality does not place requirements on an individual to conform to any particular way of life. The guest in the abbey or monastery (and dare I say, Christian home) must feel exactly that – at home. 
This requires a certain strength of character for the host and a sense of stability of the community. To let someone in, without placing upon them riders or proviso means that your community, your sanctuary, your home, in part at least, becomes their home. This is a very striking way of setting aside the self in order to accommodate the other. 
However, nor does it mean that the rules change or are watered down in order to try and make the person feel more at ease. The monastic offices still continue, the silence is still preserved, the routine manual labour does not cease in the presence of a guest. But the house and the heart is opened up to allow them to roam freely – knowing that their presence changes the community but in the hope that in some small way the community may also change them. 
Hospitality is a state of the heart that offers space within your world to those that might otherwise not belong. Should they choose to stay – that opens up a different realm. 
Italy once trialled a scheme to ease their problem with prison overcrowding – the non-violent criminals, those who had committed low-level crimes and yet still had custodial sentences were given the option. Prison, or living with the monks. One, that made the news having selected to live out his sentence in a monastery – after a week – wrote back to the judge asking if he could go to prison instead thank you very much. He was welcomed in, allowed be himself but they did not see him as a guest but as a part of their community and therefore the third aspect of benedictine community life – accountability.
As you pass from guest to member of the community there has to be a shift – there has to be expectations placed upon you, there has to be an higher degree of explicit conformity – joining the community means something. You benefit from all it has to offer but in return you must offer something – yourself, your ability, your willingness and most of all your obedience. 
Colomba Stewart OSB in his commentary on The Rule states that Benedict writes more about obedience than any thing – although the longest part of The Rule is about humility, the number of chapters about obedience far outweigh anything else. Because, simply, Benedict followed that Biblical principle that unless we are in honest relationships with God and with neighbour we will inevitably prefer our own desires to the demands of Christ. 
The community therefore is the way in which we begin to rid ourselves of the false idolatry of self. 
Back to those words from the Prologue – Listen.
Allow the word of the teacher, of God, of your fellow monastics, of the strange, of the friend to cut  through the auto-pilot momentum that life can become – to cut through it loosen the grip that we all have to that desire to be the master of our own destiny.
Benedict is passionate in telling any who are prepared to listen that the destiny you are clinging to is only a fraction of the destiny that is on offer if you let go and take what God holds out in his arms, upon the cross.

And so he sets up the framework of obedience to allow each of us to let go – safe in the knowledge that the community will hold you – you can let go because your brothers and sisters won’t let go of you. And everyone in the community is accountable to that – from the most senior to the most junior – from abbot to novice. 
But of course, there will be tensions and bumps as the community grows, and changes, and forms with each season. But the most important thing is that the community uphold one another in prayer, in hospitality and in accountability to one another. To own mistakes, to mend bridges, to celebrate successes and mostly, to strive for Him in the school of the Lords service.

February 18th Benedict for all -The Prior

February 25th Benedict and Scripture –Fr Jonathan Wright

March 4th -POSTPONED TO MARCH 25th Lay membership & the rule – Lay members of the Holywell Community

March 11th Fr Richard Simmons OSB on Benedict anf Prayer



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Benedict on Prayer

In the latest of our Lent Sermon series on the Rule of St Benedict, Fr Richard Simmons OSB (a monk of Belmont Abbey) tonight looked at the place of prayer in the Rule.


Fr Simon with the Fr Mark

He said:

After several visits to Belmont Abbey, when I was in my early twenties, I discussed the idea of a Benedictine vocation with members of the community. One piece of advice I was given was not to go from monastery to monastery, as this might lead to confusion and never coming to a decision. This was wise council as it is so easy to become bewildered by a plethora of choice.

It is the same with prayer. Do you ever have a sense of confusion and, perhaps, inadequacy when you enter a religious bookshop and see so many guides to prayer? Am I alone in such sentiments or do some of you share these? How on earth can I muster the concentration to read all these books, often with shiny covers, and then pray?

I think that the lived experience of prayer, at the heart of the rule of St Benedict, offers all the baptised a simple, but not simplistic, way of prayerfully living out the Christian Vocation. Please do not take any of these straight forward comments as a discouragement to explore and to question. Indeed, the Rule provides a foundation to living which allows us to cast off into deeper waters and maybe find enrichment in those modern-day manuals of prayer with their covers of sunsets and broad horizons.

So, what is Benedictine prayer? Here, I am in very deep water, indeed, to try to put forward in minutes what is a whole life journey listening to God and community with the ear of one’s heart. Therefore, I will just share with you some of my own thoughts and experience. If you want to explore the theory more deeply, there are lots of doorstoppers of books available.

I begin with an example of Benedictine prayer. When I first joined the monastery, there was a monk who celebrated his 100th birthday. He had served in the First World War where he had seen the horror of man’s inhumanity. He did not reject God but sought Him in a Monastic vocation, faithfully lived over decades.

When I came to know him, his mind was a little diminished and he no longer attended community prayer, yet his prayer life was inspirational. The Divine Office and the scriptures were always at his side and he insisted each evening to be taken to church to say goodnight to Jesus. Like St. Antony of Egypt years of prayer, the monastic life had given him a spirit of youth, so often lacking in the young. Sometimes if you want to find models of prayer begin not with the Rule but its living examples. That applies, especially, to the learned and the clever for often they can deconstruct but not put things back together.

I used an example of a monk who could no longer attend the Divine Office for a specific purpose to show that all the Baptized can live out the rule despite it quite rightly placing the Opus Dei, the community coming to celebrate the Liturgy of Hours together, at the heart of Monastic Life.

Whether the Office be said in Choir or privately, it must be our primary prayer as it is, with the Eucharist, the expression of Christian Community. You never pray the Divine Office alone as you are united in charity with the Church. Indeed, if you live alone it is a place where you truly encounter community. Your prayer is not that of the individual but that of the Choir.

Please do not underestimate the importance of praying the office at home or coming together in small groups. Your prayer is sustaining and so counter cultural in a society where we are all individuals and consumers. The office is a time when it is not about me and my consumption of spirituality but my love of God and neighbour.

St. Benedict never intended his monks to spend all their time in explicit prayer, for a great part of our friendship with God is to be found in a willingness to work to support one another.

“Idleness is the enemy of the soul. Therefore, the brothers should have specified periods for manual labour as well as for prayerful reading.” Chapter 43.

The whole concept of common work would have been revolutionary at the time of the writing of the Rule. One kept slaves for that sort of thing. If we claim to follow in the footsteps of St. Benedict do we dignify all people who work, those who provide us with the basic services of life? If not, where is our humility and prayerfulness?

I think, then, that our work, those who work for us and our relationship with the goods of the world around us are sources of implicit prayer in the Benedictine Tradition. St. Benedict talks of the great care that must be accorded to the agricultural tools of the monastery, as if they were the sacred vessels. A cellarer is appointed, and much emphasis is placed on common work and ownership following the example of the Acts of the Apostles. In practical terms, monasteries came to be built in beautiful places. There was an emphasis on creating objects of beauty and devotion to the glory of God. Surely, this kind of prayer in work and in creativity is a beautiful and practical example to all the baptized.

Perhaps, what we find most in the Benedictine Tradition of prayer is a lack of pretence and an integrity of being:

In Chapter 20 of the Rule we hear:

“We must know that God regards our purity of heart and tears of compunction, not our many words. Prayer should therefore be short and pure, unless perhaps it is prolonged under the inspiration of divine grace.”

What I also like about St. Benedict is that he deals with us as we really are, that we have a need to pray to our heavenly Father for the things we need and about the things that trouble us:

“Whenever we want to ask some favour of a powerful man, we do it humbly and respectfully, for fear of presumption. How much more important, then, to lay our petitions before the Lord God of all things with the utmost humility and sincere devotion.”

There is here a recognition that the created pray to the Creator. Of course, there must be an intimacy in prayer but not a familiarity. This, again, is at variance with our world where everybody is on first name terms. But what of humility? What of respect and reverence to almighty God and to one another?

Prayerfulness in the Rule is to be found in ritual, how we accord one another the respect of silence, how we bow to one another, seek pardon and penance. These are not manifestation of a feudal society, but a sincere attitude of fraternal charity and respect. In showing reverence to one another, we recognise that we are icons of Christ.

It all goes back to the idea that prayer must be the response of our whole being, as it says in the prologue to the rule, “Incline the ear of thy heart”. This is so much more powerful than simply using the sense of hearing or when it comes to prayer, mental concentration. Rather, prayer is a response of one’s whole being, hearkening to God with all one’s senses. In the Benedictine tradition it is not self-emptying, rather a relationship nourished by Sacred Scripture. It only becomes mystical or prolonged if “inspired by Divine Grace”.

In an earlier talk you will have heard of the importance of Sacred Scripture to the Benedictine way of life. It is so important for it nourishes our prayer life. Indeed, it should nourish all that we do; the situations that we find ourselves in. There is always an example to be found of how to behave and how not to behave. These memories, this rumination on Sacred Scripture we can take into our daily living so that we make the right choices. In other words, our actions themselves can become a prayer because they are carried out according to the mind of God in dialogue with Him.





St Benedict & The ruins of Monte Cassino


February 18th Benedict for all -The Prior

February 25th Benedict and Scripture –Fr Jonathan Wright

March 4th -POSTPONED TO MARCH 25th Lay membership & the rule – Lay members of the Holywell Community

March 18th Benedictine Community -Fr Sam MacNally-Cross (Oblate OSB)


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Saturday March 31st   EASTER EVE

8pm Paschal Vigil


Sunday April 1st  EASTER DAY

8am Holy Eucharist

9.30am Family Eucharist

11am Sung Eucharist

Our Daughter Church Christchurch will host Evensong at 6pm.


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