Archive for September, 2018

A book published by Gomer Press called Wales in 100 objects was launched this week at the National Musuem of Wales in the prescnce of our Vicar & Prior, Canon Mark Soady and Sir Trefor Morris, Chairman of the St Mary’s Priory Development Trust.

Written by Andrew Green, the former librarian of the National Library of Wales, the book follows years of research and travel by Andrew to libraries, museums and archives all over Wales in a mission to find 100 objects which represent key aspects of the history of our nation.

“I’ve always been fascinated by the power of objects in a historical context,” says Andrew Green. “Objects – even ones that look insignificant – can be used to tell a remarkable story.”

In its report on the launch of the book the Western Mail includes the Jesse Effigy in its top 10 of the 100.

The Western Mail reads:

Each object in Wales in 100 Objects and Cymru Mewn 100 Gwrthrych has been strikingly illustrated by photographer Rolant Dafis from Aberystwyth, who has worked for a number of well-known fine art galleries and auction houses over the last 20 years.

The resulting publication is a stunning volume that opens a door into Wales’ history and culture. Here is our pick of 10 of the most interesting objects showcased in the book.



The Jesse effigy

 The Jesse

This extraordinary larger-than-life figure once formed the base of an intricate and elaborate construction, which depicted the lineage of Jesus Christ from Jesse, the father of King David.

So called ‘Jesse figures’ and ‘Jesse trees’ are not uncommon in stone and stained glass, but this is the only one in wood to be found in the United Kingdom – and probably the world.

In the BBC series A History of British Art, Andrew Graham Dixon describes it as ‘the only great wooden figure to survive the wreckage of the British Cultural Revolution’.

We do not know who carved it, but we do know that it retains its extraordinary command of our attention and fascination. Carved from one solid piece of oak, probably in the 15th century, it was originally highly coloured and depicted all the Davidic kings and descendants, surmounted by the figures of Mary and the Child, and Christ in glory.

Latest thought estimates the height of the ‘tree’ growing from Jesse’s side to have been between 25ft and 30ft.

In her study of the Jesse Murial Adams claimed it was commssioned by Jaspar Tudor.

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Preaching at Harvest Thanksgiving at St Michael’s Church, Myddfai, Carmarthenshire, Canon Mark Soady addressed the question of depression and suicide in today’s farming community.


St Michael’s Church, Myddfai

Speaking at the Church near the Prince of Wales’ Welsh Residence of Llwynywermod,    Fr Mark said:

As we gather in this ancient church to give thanks for the Harvest, I am aware that some of you may not be feeling that thankful.

The Farm Safety Foundation’s Report published earlier this year highlighted the fact that every week one farmer in the UK takes his life. I remember from my days as a Psychiatric Nurse in Dyfed in the 1980s how rural isolation could lead to depression, alcoholism and drug addiction.

The report noted “Whilst UK farmers are renowned for the attention they give to their livestock, crops and machinery, it appears they do not have such a good track record when it comes to taking care of themselves and their own wellbeing.”  This occupation is dominated by men. We traditionally are less able to admit to our poor mental health and are less able to talk to others about the problem; add to this the often isolated working of farmers.

With the uncertainity of Brexit and  the extremes of weather we have had this year there has been plenty for farmers to worry about. Farmers tell me that they have already used up their winter stock of silage to feed their animals through the summer drought, and do not know how their animals will be fed through the winter months.

So how does that fit in with our Lord’s instruction in the Gospel of Matthew.

The authorised version of St Matthew’s Gospel states,” Take no thought for tomorrow”. Earlier translations have it as “Do not be full of care”. The Bible Society’s Testament Newydd uses the Welsh word “Pryder” which could be translated in to English as “Anxious” or “worry”.

In tonight’s Old Testament reading we hear that as a result of Joseph’s interpretation of Pharaoh’s Dream, Pharaoh did plan for the forthcoming famine.  He rightly had a ‘care’ for the future! We would be very critical of our rulers today if they did not plan as pharaoh did. So we need to draw a contrast between having a ‘care’ for tomorrow, planning for tomorrow if you like; and being anxious about tomorrow.


Fr Mark with a bale of hay

Jesus tells us in the Gospel if God gave us life surely we can and must trust him to give us the things that sustain life.

Insightfully, Jesus also reminds us that far from ‘being anxious’ achieving something positive,  it  can actually make us ‘ill with worry’.

You will not be surprised to hear me say that Jesus lived what he taught. Unlike the rest of us he did know what the future brought. In his case it brought a most terrible death on a cross. If we knew that was to befall us, I am not sure we would come across as cheerful as Christ does in the Gospels.

So friends however, bad things seem let us remember that Christ is with us – and God will provide. That is what we need to be most Thankful for this Harvestide.



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HARVEST – October 7th

8am Holy Eucharist
9.30am All Age Eucharist
11am Sung Eucharist

Our Preacher at 11am is Fr John Humphreys Priest-in-Charge of the neighbouring parish of Llanddewi Rhyddrech.

Our collections at all the Harvest Thanksgiving services in the incumbency this year will be split 50:50 between Embrace the Middle East and Abergavenny Town of sanctuary.


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A series of services and activities at  St Mary’s Priory are planned to mark the Centenary of the ending of hostilities in World War 1.


A couple of silhouettes representing those killed in World War 1 in the foreground and their names on a Memorial in the background at St Mary’s Priory.


The Church is working with the Town Council on a number of opportunities for the local community to pause and think.

A number of silhouettes have been placed around the church as a reminder of those who gave their live sin the war – some of them at a very young age. These silhouettes will also form the centre piece of an event following the Act of Remembrance on November 11th. A display of poppies will be created at the Priory alongside others at key points in the town.

At 7pm on Saturday, November 10th (The Eve of the Centenary of the Ending of Hostilities) The Gwent Bach Choir are staging a Concert in Church.

Programme includes: Mozart’s Requiem; Purcell’s Funeral Sentences and
Handel’s The Ways of Zion do Mourn

Our remembrance will end will us bell ringers joining  a national peel of church bells at 7.10pm on Sunday, November 11th. Church bells across the UK remained restricted throughout the course of the war and only rang freely once Armistice was declared on 11 November 1918.

Earlier in the day Fr Tom Bates will lead an Act of Remembrance in the Priory Church from 10.50am , while Canon Mark Soady will lead the Town’s Act of Remembrance at the War Memorial.

The Priory Choir’s CD of Remembrancetide music is on sale in the Tithe Barn.


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As we play host to tens of thousands of visitors over this weekend, we are hosting three Exhibitions in the Priory Church.


• A Christian Aid exhibition on the plight of displaced people—those who are forced to leave their homes but remain in their own country. Read Br Josh’s reflection on the display and the Public Meeting to launch it here.

• While in the church, look out for the Tommy—There But Not There figures. The Perspex silhouettes are part of a national commemoration of those who did not return from the First World War.55835894131__D13A3CBB-5EEE-42A7-9B51-3EE636E4BAE5

• And in the final part of the church’s Celebration of Marriage, there is an exhibition of wedding dress down the decade to modern day.



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It has been announced that, in the shadow of All Souls and during the Month of Remembrance, an Icon of the Holy Family donated to the Priory by the family of the late Bishop David Thomas in his Memory, will be blessed by Bishop Richard Fenwick on November 3rd at 11am.

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Bishop David’s ministry as Provincial Assistant Bishop was based at the Priory Church. He died suddenly in May last year, and his Requiem was also held at the Priory.

The Icon complements a Lectern given in his Memory by Credo Cymru.  Both will be located in the St Joseph Chapel, which houses the world famous Jesse Effigy.

The Icon was written by Br Michael, a monk at Mucknell Abbey, and the Lectern was created by Joachim Tantua, a prize winning graduate of The Prince of Wales’ School for Traditional Art.

Due to limited space in the St Joseph Chapel, admission to the Service will be by ticket only.  More details to follow.

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Friday, September 7th

The celebration of the Festival starts at 7pm on Friday evening with Choral Evensong

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BVM (left) in our new Holy Family Icon

Saturday, September 8th

9am Holy Eucharist

A new display about the Priory will be unveiled in a Display Window in the town’s Red Square.


Paul designs our display

Parishioners will go on a trip to Hampton Court Castle, Herefordshire.  Hampton Court Castle started its journey in the early 15th Century.  Set in the delightful Herefordshire countryside, surrounded by vast lawns, a stunning woodland backdrop, and magnificent award-winning gardens, the estate has an interesting and varied history.


Hampton Court castle’s chapel

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New Deputy Director of Music

The former Concentor of the Holywell Community, Simon Pratt has been appointed Deputy Director of Music at St Mary’s Priory Church.


Simon singing in St Mary’s Priory.

Simon, a former Head Chorister at St St Mary’s Priory, has graduated this Summer from Leeds University with a Bachelor in Music. He will combine the post of Deputy Director of Music with his MMus studies at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.


Simon conducting Collegium Loidis

Simon will work under his father, Music Director Tim Pratt, and assist with overseeing the work of the Priory Choir.




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Thanks Tim and all involved for great week

The St Mary's Choir Blog

So, our Festival draws to a close for another year.  Today’s Evensong of twenty-first century music was sung by a quartet of local musicians, and featured responses by Simon Pratt, a psalm chant by Barry Ferguson, Evening Canticles by Tim Pratt and the anthem “God be in my Head” by David Evan Thomas.

Looking back, over the course of the week we have:

  • heard liturgical music from the fifteenth to the twenty-first centuries;
  • had 8 different vocal groups leading our worship, consisting of 90 singers under 5 different conductors and accompanied by 4 organists;
  • listened to six recitalists;
  • experienced the music of 58 composers;
  • all of which was attended by an estimated 450 people.

It has been a roller-coaster ride, both fascinating and spiritually uplifting.  We are enormously grateful to all those who participated, as well as all those who attended the various events. We’re looking forward to next year’s …

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WE’ve arrived in to most people’s life time, following our journey down the Centuries

The St Mary's Choir Blog

Sadly, Icosa Choir were unable to join us for the weekend, so tonight’s concert had to be cancelled, and alternative arrangements made for Evensong tomorrow.  The result will be a lot of (very) new music being sung; but the show will go on!

Meanwhile for Evensong today we were joined by Academia Musica, the scholars’ choir from Hereford Sixth Form College.  Like yesterday’s treble choir, for some of these young people, today was their first day in the choir, and much of the music was not familiar.  It is greatly to their credit then, that they not only learnt the music in a very short space of time but also,  together with the more experienced members of the choir, produced a wonderfully vibrant and convincing sound.

Both the canticles and anthem today reflected the musical developments from the nineteenth to twentieth centuries.  A more adventurous harmonic structure coupled with great…

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