Archive for November, 2018

This Advent the Jesse Tree and the Advent Jesse will feature heavily in our worship public and private – Do experience the Jesse Journey 2018.
As part of the Proclaiming it Afresh initiative a new devotional guide has been put together for Advent using the Jesse Window in the St Joseph Chapel. The Journey focuses on key figures and bible passages, and reflects on how Jesus was prefigured in the Old Testament and revealed in the New. As this busy season of preparation is upon us why not make some time for God and yourself to reflect upon the greatest gift of all? The sheets for the Jesse journey 2018 will be available in the St Joseph Chapel from Advent Sunday.


At 930am All Age Worship on Advent Sunday we will decorate and dedicate the Advent Jesse Tree .

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In addition  to joining in the Ecumenical Nativity in the town centre we will take out the good news of Christmas in other ways.

ShoeBoxes to Romania & Moldova

We have dispatched over 90 shoe boxes of Christmas gifts to those in need Romania and Moldova.


Gifts for those in need locally.

 We are currently collecting gifts teenagers and young people who are on their own this Christmas. They have come out of the care system but are still being ’looked after’.

Gift ideas  for these 16-24 year olds include socks, gloves, toiletries, sweets, puzzles, stationery


December 19th: Beers & Carols- we will be visiting some of the Town’s Public houses bringing Christmas cheer. We will do the same in the town’s Residential Homes on Saturday afternoon, December 15th & 22nd.

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“HRH The Prince of Wale has made an official visit to the Priory every 8 years since he became Royal Patron, but HRH’s interest in what goes on here goes beyond the visits”, said the Vicar Canon Mark Soady.


HRH and the Vicar singing a hymn during his last official visit in 2016


HRH with Sir Trefor Morris, Chairman of the Priory Development Trust and our Archeologist -in- Residence, Dr George Nash


A Flower display marking HRH’s 70th Birthday


Priory Officials celebrating HRH’s 70th Birthday at Buckingham Palace

Letters between HRH and the Vicar


HRH visiting in 2008 with the then Vicar, Fr Jeremy Winston

HRH opened the newly built  Priory Centre in 2000, the newly restored Tithe Barn in 2008 and was present  at the Dedication of the new Jesse Window in 2016. In  2017 HM The Queen renamed the courtyard between the Priory Centre and the Tithe Barn The Prince of Wales Courtyard in recognition of HRH’s long association with the Priory.

A much younger HRH and Sir Trefor with Fr Jeremy (2000)

The Priory Church has within its walls a seat constructed for an earlier Prince of Wales, Arthur the elder brother of King Henry VIII; and some believe it also contains the tomb of a Plantagenet Princess.

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We start with a full weekend of activities on December 1st and 2nd, for details of Advent Carols , Jesse Trees and more 


Ecumenical Carols & Nativity from Scratch

On December 8th we join with other Christian Churches in the town to proclaim the Good news of Christmas.

Fr Mark, as a grumpy Inn Keeper, will narrate the story while we walk through town. We will leave the Methodist Church on Castle Street at 2pm , arriving on Monk Street by 3pm – so do look out for us while you do your Christmas shopping!

Join us at 4pm at Gateway Church, next to St Mary’s on Monk Street, to sing carols, eat mince pies and drink tea or coffee.


Community & School Carol Services & Concerts

Tuesday, December 4th at 6pm Cantref School

Friday, December 7th at 7pm Tenovous Light up a Life Wednesday, December 5th at 7pm

St John Cymru/Wales in Gwent Carol Service & Stalls

Saturday, December 15th at 6pm Vision of Hope Carol Service

Tuesday, December 18th at 7pm King Henry VIII School Carol Concert

Thursday, December 20th at 5.30pm Deri View School Carol Concert

Outreach Activities

December 19th Beers & Carols- we will be visiting some of the Town’s Public houses bringing Christmas cheer. We will do the same in the town’s Residential Homes on Saturday afternoon, December 15th & 22nd.

Christingle & Carol Service

Sunday, December 23rd 6pm Festival of Nine Lessons & Carols

Monday, December 24th 4pm Christingle and Nativity play – fun for all the family.



December 24th

11.30pm Midnight Mass

December 25th

8am Holy Eucharist

11am Sung Eucharist with Carols – come along and show off your presents.

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Preaching at Abergavenny Town War Memorial at 11am on November 11th, 100 years after the first Armistice, Canon Mark Soady reminded us that without forgiveness, there will never be peace.


Fr Mark when he was an Army Chaplain

He said:

Today  we give thanks for the ending of conflict exactly 100 YEARS ago of the war that was to end all wars. Sadly after less than 20 years the world was at war again. That war like many of the other wars of the last century came about because of the Treaty of Versailles was seen by the allies as an opportunity to punish Germany and her allies. The German economy was decimated the Austro-Hungary & Ottoman Empires had their internal and external boundaries carved up.

That tone of punishment led to resentment and anger among the German people, among them Adolf Hitler and his fellow Nazis . If the victors had rather been able to show forgiveness, the 2nd World War and many subsequent conflicts, like the Balkans, may never have happened.

Such signs of forgiveness was very much in evidence in Pembrokeshire in the 1950’s, when less than a decade after the ending of the 1939-45 War, a German tank regiment started training on the Castlemartin Range. Years later I would serve as Chaplain to the range. The Remembrance Service was held in a former Anglican Church taken over and restored by the German Army; we would end the service with the Welsh, British, German National Anthems sung below the three respective flags, and the Military Attaché of the German Embassy would read one of the lessons often in German.  It was moving because it was a portrayal of Forgiveness.

When Our Lord and Saviour was asked how many times we should forgive, he said not seven times, but seventy times seven. That is to say, he is calling on us to be constantly forgiving; if we don’t do that, we cannot begin to bury our differences and build peace.

I read recently of the meeting of two former inmates at Belsen; one of them said I shall never forgive what those Nazis did to me. His fellow captor replied, until you can forgive them you will still be mentally captive to them, though you have been physically free for decades.

As we gather to remember in thanksgiving the lives lost for our freedom, let our commitment in return to them be to try harder to forgive, and so work for peace.

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Christmas in the Courtyard- December 1st

The weekend kicks of on Saturday, December 1st with Made in Monmouthshire Market in the Prince of Wales Courtyard.

Come and buy your Christmas presents from local craftsmen, enjoy the seasonal food and drink and listen to local musicians play seasonal music.



Advent Sunday, December 2nd  – Carols & Jesse Tree

9.30am All Age Eucharist for Advent Sunday, including the Blessing for the Advent Jesse Tree.

The Jesse Tree takes its name from a passage in the book of the prophet Isaiah 11:1: “A shoot will spring forth from the stump of Jesse, a branch out of his roots.” It is, in short and simple terms, the family tree of Jesus illustrating his descent from Jesse of Bethlehem, the father of David.In  St Mary’s Priory w have the remains of  wood carved Jesse tree.

In the New Testament the lineage of Jesus is illustrated by two of the Gospel writers: Matthew and Luke. Luke describes the ‘generations of Christ’ in Chapter 3, beginning with Jesus and tracing backwards through his ‘earthly father’ Joseph all the way to Adam. The Gospel according to Matthew opens with the words, ‘The genealogy of Jesus Christ, son of David, son of Abraham. (1:1). Jesus is explicitly represented as being from God’s holy people, descending from Jesse and even farther back to Abraham. The Jesse Tree has often been represented in art, particularly during the Medieval period , like here at the Priory.

Each week the symbols added to the tree. All of the following figures / events are incorporated: The Creation of the World, Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Samuel, David, Elijah, Hezekiah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Habbakuk, Nehemiah, Zechariah, Elizabeth, John the Baptist, Mary, Joseph, Jesus.


Left: The Jesse tree being dressed   Right: Symbols from the tree in our Jesse Window

6pm Advent Carols. In Words and Music we will tell the story of God’s redeeming work. As we progress through the service the church turns from darkness to light.

The service opens with these words, which sum up the service’s theme

Dear friends, we celebrate the joyful season of Advent: a time of expectancy, a season pregnant with hope and anticipation. Raising our hearts to heaven, may we be alert to the coming of Christ in glory to judge the living and the dead.  Let us welcome his coming into the world, and prepare ourselves for the completion of all things when Christ will come in glory to judge the living and the dead.

In song and silence, in prayer and the reading of Scripture, we seek the purposes of God.  Let us listen attentively to his word that he may teach us his ways and we may we walk in his paths: holy, and blameless, ready for the Day of Christ.

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We started our services and acts of remembrance at St Mary’s Priory today, with a specially designed Godly Play Act of Remembrance being  used at All Age Worship.


Fr Mark will lead an Act of Remembrance at King Henry VII School early on Friday morning, before joining other Gwent Police Forces Chaplains at Police HQ in Cwmbran for an Act of Remembrance.


World War1 marked in flowers


On Saturday evening at 7pm  we will host a Concert by Gwent Bach Choir. The Programme includes: Mozart’s Requiem; Purcell’s Funeral Sentences and
Handel’s The Ways of Zion do Mourn

On Armistice Day, Fr Mark will lead the Town’s Remembrance first at the Memorials in the Market Hall and then at the Monmouthshire Regimental Memorial.

Fr Tom will lead the Remembrance here at the Priory Church from 10.50am.

At 12.15pm the Town Council are hosting an event in the Priory Centre during which local school children will read a selection of War Poems and the Priory Choir will sing.

Our remembrance will end with our  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.

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

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Today Bishop Richard Fenwick, former Dean of Newport Cathedral and former Bishop of St Helena dedicated a Lectern given by Credo Cymru in memory of Bishop David Thomas, and chris-mated an Icon of The Holy Family given by Bishop David’s Family in his memory.

On the Altar for the Sung Mass  were relics of St Jospeh’s cloak and the Blessed Virgin Mary’s veil. The Lessons were read by Canon Geoffrey Gaynor, Chairman of Credo Cymru and Mrs Fliss Barry (Daughter), while Bishop David’s son John acted as Thurifer.

In His Sermon Bishop Richard noted that “any Deacon, any Priest, any Bishop is an Icon.” He continued: “Bishop David had the remarkable ability to point OUTWARDS – and to allow people to see IN”.

Bishop Richard Fenwick preaches listened to by the Prior, Sub Prior and other clergy

The Priory Choir sung Bruckner’s Locus Iste and and Ralph Vaughn William’s O taste and see. Among the hymns sung by the congregation was a Communion Hymn composed by Bishop David himself.

The Icon was written by Br.Michäel of Mucknell Abbey and the Lectern designed by a graduate of the Prince of Wales’s School of Traditional Art,Joachim Tantua.  Br.Michäel also wrote the St Benedict Icon for the Benedict Chapel at the Priory Church, while Joachim designed the other furniture for the St Jospeh Chapel , including a Plinth to house the world famous Jesse figure.


The Holy Family Icon hanging on the Lectern

Bishop Richard Fenwick’s Address in full :

It’s an enormous privilege to be here for the blessing and dedication of the new Lectern, and for the blessing and chrismation of the newly written Icon of the Holy Family.  This glorious Priory Church was a place very close to Bishop David’s heart.  As Provincial Assistant Bishop, he and Rosemary lived within the Parish … but of course, this was also the place where he held many of his Episcopal services.   Yet perhaps the gifts themselves give us a real insight into David’s thinking, for Rosemary, with Felicity and John, and their families have chosen the gifts with enormous care, and they are so utterly appropriate.

The Lectern is created by the craftsman, Joachim Tantua .  How much more appropriate could this be for a dedicated and honoured teacher of the Faith? This is where the Word of God is read from.  It is also where the Liturgy is moved forward in that timeless seam of worship which has been at the heart of this most ancient church for … perhaps 14 or 15 centuries … certainly well before it was rebuilt as the central point of a great Benedictine foundation.

But then, we have the Icon– wonderfully written by Brother Michäel of Mucknell Abbey…    And more than this, it is an Icon of the Holy Family, with Christ, his earthly guardian Joseph, and his Blessed Mother.  This is the Holy Family which was so much at the centre of Bishop David’s thinking and pilgrimage of faith.


And it’s from the Icon that I take a message this day.  Now an Icon is not a picture.  Well, in a way it might seem to be, but in truth, an Icon is actually a window through which we are privileged to get just a glimpse of the world of eternity.  An Icon indeed has a strange and wonderful quality, for as the “window” through which we look from the one world into the next, an Icon has always had an objective significance of its own. In ancient tradition, Icons are not only blessed, but they are chrismated, and they have a holiness which throughout history has been the focal point of a devotion, and of a search for the Divine.

But there are a couple of things to note here.  Firstly an Icon is never the object of worship … rather is it the means of worship …if you like, the “AGENT” (forgive the word!)  through which, and in which our adoration of God is enabled.

At this point please forgive a bit of boring history, for the bitter Iconoclastic Controversy of the 8th and 9th centuries actually sorted out an awful lot of messy thinking.  For around 200 years, hundreds, if not thousands, of ancient and priceless Icons were destroyed by the Iconoclasts.  This was not only tragic but it was criminal, for some of the earliest wax-encaustic Icons from the 6th century and before were wantonly burned or broken up by religious fanatics who felt that these great works were the objects of worship – and were therefore idolatrous.

The tragedy is that the earliest Icons have only survived in the most remote locations – such as St Catherine’s Monastery on Mount Sinai …  way too far off the track for the reforming Iconoclasts to get to.  But precious few have survived!

And as you know, it was only the (so-termed) “Triumph of Orthodoxy”  which ended the years of destruction in 843 AD, and which restored Icons to worship.  It’s a desperate and a complex story. But in short, when the Emperor Theophilus died in 842, his widow Theodora appealed to the teachings of the great 8th century giant of the Faith, St John of Damascus.  Using the ideas of Plato, he had suggested the Icon to be but a symbol … indeed, he put it that the creation of an Icon was justified, since by virtue of the Incarnation, God himself had become human. Thus Christ was the Icon of God …  and so in our own earthly Icons we look through the picture at the true reality of the Divine which is in the heavenly realm. This was of course  politically  adroit, for it helped the bitterly opposed factions to move forward together.  But then, dare I say that the Church has always been rather good at “political” solutions.  Enough already!

But then a third point, the genius of the Icon – and of this Icon of the Holy Family – is that we see … a symbol? … indeed, but more than a symbol.  For all Icons take their design from their historical origins of the ages.  Here, the writer of this superb Icon, through constant prayer, has given us a profound meditation on the Son, the earthly guardian Joseph, and the Blessed Virgin.  More again, it is a powerful evocation of the Holy Family – perhaps you might even say that it’s an “anamnesis” of the Holy Family … a “re-envisioning”,  a “re-calling”.


For me, most powerful is the traditional use of “reverse” or “inverted” perspective.  Look for a focal point within, or beyond the Icon, and it’s not there!  The Icon writers of the ages “reverse” their lines of perspective, so that the perspective lines come out towards us, and they come to a focal point in front of the work .

In fact it is the one who prays in front of the Icon who is at the focal point, and who, as Dr Eva Haustein-Bartsch says, becomes one with, and part of the scene portrayed – in this case , one with the Holy Family itself. Haustein-Bartsch is the Director of the world-famous ICON MUSEUM at Recklinghausen in the Ruhr area of Germany.  She refers to this space between the focal point and the Icon as “the Holy Space” – and she tells us that it is partly this strange feature of the traditional Icons which give them a real, tangible, and even an objective power!


So to the question:  why is this Icon so important and so eloquent as a memorial to a dear friend and colleague … a very distinguished Welsh Bishop?

Just think:  any Deacon, any Priest, any Bishop is an Icon.   It is they who have the “awful” responsibility to represent the reality of the Gospel story to a sad, very needy, and sometimes very evil world.

But note, through its lines of perspective an Icon does not point IN, it actually points OUT,  and within its purview is the Holy Space where people may look in and there see the reality of God and his love.  And so should we in the ministry point OUT, and by our prayers, our thoughts and our behaviour, allow others to see God’s love within us – and through us.  Well, for most of us, “fat hopes” as you might say!!  But we try … and we go on trying.

Bishop David had the remarkable ability to point OUTWARDS – and to allow people to see IN.  And there are so many of us – whether clergy or laity, women or men – of all colours, types and persuasions – who have been able to be part of that inner stillness which was his – and which enabled those around him, perhaps even if momentarily, to glimpse the Divine – as he so clearly saw it, and taught it.

There are so many of us, Lay-women and Lay-men, female clergy, male clergy … whose hearts and whose faith have been touched by his.  This was his calling, it was his “raison d’etre”, and somehow he was able to stand apart from the hard feelings and corrosive politics of these last years in the Western Church.  As a Bishop of the Church of God he knew his calling to be a focus of unity – as did his late and honoured father, the Bishop of Swansea and Brecon , as again did his maternal grandfather, the greatly respected Dean of Bangor.  And so should each of us be too – a focus of unity, that is – in a very disparate world indeed!


To Rosemary and all the family go our love and best wishes. It seems impossible that it’s now almost 18 months since David was taken away, so much before his time.  As a former lecturer and Vice-Principal of St Michael’s College, and as a Principal of St Stephen’s House, generations of students owe him their insights into theology. Never was his own Oxford “First” more generously used and shared.

As a Parish Priest, particularly in Chepstow and Newton, so many thousands have been cared-for by his devoted ministry – together with that of Rosemary, who shared that ministry, and who was ever at his side.

As a central figure on the Liturgical Commission of the Church in Wales over many years, so much of our Liturgy has been guided and nourished by his thinking – and his deep specialist knowledge of History and Liturgy.  For those of us privileged to serve alongside David on the Commission those meetings were unforgettable.  For together we pondered, studied, slogged, had enormous fun … and produced Liturgy to match that of ANY other Anglican Province.


The Late Bishop David with Pope Francis

Dear David, be in peace on “that other shore, and in that greater light”.  Your fight to be a focus of unity between “High and Low”, Old Integrity and New, Women and Men … ever remains an honourable one.  It is a fight to keep the “one-ness” of the Body of Christ.  And now you are privileged to be part of that eternity which is at the heart of every Icon.  May the love and the devotion of the Holy Family support you, and guide you – always …..     AMEN.

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