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Archive for March, 2019

This Lent,  4 members of  the Anglican congregations in Abergavenny have shared how they use the gifts God has given them to further their faith and proclaim His Gospel. As part of the Proclaim it afresh initiative, the series looked at how the individuals have followed the example of the Book of Ecclesiastes (4.10) , which says “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might”.

Here is what they said: –

Sheila Woodhouse

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 When I was asked if I would consider giving a talk about my faith,  I thought it would be very difficult for me to put into words how my faith affects everything I do in life, you may know that it does, but do not always think about it in that way.

And yes it was / is difficult, it’s a challenge to put into words your thoughts about your beliefs.  However it is something I would commend to anyone as it makes you take time out to reflect and to confirm to yourself how essential it is to put your trust in God.

Having faith is an essential element in my role in dealing with the public, and it’s a faith that has been tested to the extreme as a 10 year old losing one’s Mother and questioning at such a young tender age why such things can happen.  I was helped by going to a Catholic school at the time whose teaching, albeit in Latin, convinced me that there was a God, and this was confirmed by having the great fortune to be brought up by grandparents who had and displayed great faith. 

 I have had, not a unique experience, but also not a rare experience, of being married to a Catholic and it is not unusual for me to go to Mass at the Catholic Church.  To be honest two people in Abergavenny who have helped me to maintain my faith have been Father Thomas Regan at St. Michael’s , and Father Jeremy at St. Mary’s

 Both men were dedicated to the unity of the Churches in our little town, as was displayed again this year during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.   Traveling to Israel on the Millennium Pilgrimage with Father Jeremy  and Father Malcolm and also to Rome with Father Thomas confirmed to me the  similarities and closeness of denominations and that the faith required in both, is just the same.

 My husband Chris also attends both Christchurch and St. Mary’s and he enjoys it immensely.

 In my work experience faith and indeed hope was essential.  Dealing with people face to face, some with tremendous social problems, having tolerance towards those not necessarily in that predicament but in need of understanding, dealing with staff who believe rightly or wrongly that you are to blame –and that you can solve any problems they may have –  which can leave you exhausted on occasions. That’s when you look to your faith to carry on.

 My first experience of voluntary work during the early 1970’s, newly married not only to Chris but to Abergavenny Amateurs Junior Football Club it would appear!  Very challenging as it entailed washing muddy football kit for three Junior Teams, Under 10’s , Under12’s and Under14’s – and I did not possess an automatic washing machine! Just a separate washer and spinner!  Chris did not want to take a chance that the boys would forget to bring their kit with them to matches, I also became very adept at making tea for the supporters!! 

 Also at about this time we embarked upon setting up a local MIND group, the National Association for Mental Health, firstly as Secretary to the steering group and later to Abergavenny MIND Association I became very involved with helping to open and run a MIND shop which was only the second charity shop in the town.  This supplied much needed funds for the local group who went on to offer support to sheltered housing for former patients from Peny fal and Maindiff Hospitals who were being re-settled into the community.

 I think back and value all of this experience and thank God for not only having given me these opportunities but the ability to recognise in later life where my skills have come from.

 I believe most sincerely that one of the most important gifts that God gives us is the ability to help each other, and that whether by being involved with voluntary work in a recognized way or simply by helping our family, friends and neighbours we must never lose sight of the fact that a small gesture can be just as important as being involved in a more substantive way.

 From a personal perspective my involvement with several voluntary groups –  whether previously with Abergavenny MIND, Peny-y-fal Hospital League of Friends, Women’s Royal Voluntary Service, or currently with  Nevill Hall Hospital League of Friends, Nevill Hall Hospital Thrombosis and General Research Fund and other groups – has all given me great satisfaction and I feel privileged to have worked with some very genuine and dedicated people, I have worked alongside one lady who has for over 40 years worked  in Nevill Hall for both the League of Friends and the Thrombosis and General Research fund, just one example and there are many more like her, truly inspiring.

My role as a Councilor came about by accident, an election looming and a shortage of candidates, once I had decided to put myself forward hard work and very supportive colleagues and responses from the electorate kept me going, and the knowledge that as with everything in life God would ultimately decide, although I did feel very selfish asking him to guide me as there are simply so many far more important things to pray for.

 As a County Councilor, working in an arena where there are many different views, tolerance, patience and understanding are a must.  And having faith in what you are trying to achieve, i.e. a better life for all is essential.  Likewise as Treasurer for a small Church with decreasing funds and increasing maintenance problems, it is one’s faith that keeps you going.

 How to identify if I have any skills, not being very artistic or having any sort of obvious skills, I started to identify exactly what the question poses:

 Skills such as being able to communicate, determination to see things through to the end, a desire to help people, being sympathetic these are all much easier to recognize, I mention these as surely it is these personal attributes that drive you on and this requires faith.

 Since being elected I find myself asking more and more for God’s guidance in everything I do, it’s a great blessing to be able to pray but more importantly to listen to God.  As Father Mark tells us, we need to take time to listen to God; I have never forgotten that message. 

I have always believed in fair play and become very upset about the way people treat each other on occasions, in particular the fact that many Christians are persecuted for their faith.  We pray for peace and without that I would find it very difficult to cope with many of the dreadful things that happen.

The poem I am going to finish with, some of you may already know.  But since hearing it several years ago I often feel the need to read it and share it: I also find it very helpful when taking on some of the Challenges I face as a Councillor.

I may never see tomorrow;

There’s no written guarantee,

And things that happened yesterday

Belong to history,

I can’t predict the future

I cannot change the past,

I have just this present moment,

I must treat it as my last.

 

I must use this moment wisely

For soon it will pass away

And be lost to me forever

As part of yesterday,

I must exercise compassion,

Help the fallen to their feet,

Be a friend to the friendless,

Make an empty life complete.

 

I must make this moment precious

For it will never come again.

And I can never be content with things

That might have been.

Kind words I fail to say this day

May ever be unsaid,

For I know not how short may be the path          

That lies ahead.

 

The unkindest thing I do today,

May never be undone,

And friendship that I fail to win

May nevermore be won,

I may not have another chance

On bended knee to pray

And thank God with a humble heart

For giving me this day

 

I may never see tomorrow,

But this moment is my own

It’s mine to use or cast aside;

The choice is mine, alone.

I have just this precious moment

In the sunlight today.

Where the dawning of tomorrow

Meets the dusk of yesterday.                              

 

 Jez Thomas

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Firstly, Id like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to come and talk to you today.

When Father Mark, first approached me regarding the Lent sermons, my initial reaction was, “mmm… thanks, but no thanks.” I mean, I’d love to help in any way that I can, but Why me? What do I have to offer? What am I doing that could help inspire others to do likewise?

I spent a considerable amount of time as a primary school teacher and so, It makes a refreshing change to speak to an audience over the age of eight, who aren’t trying to undo my laces as I speak. That being said, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will pay any more attention… after all, it can be very difficult to listen on times, especially when we don’t know what we are listening for, or looking for, for that matter.

Whenever I think of listening skills and observation, it reminds me of my very first year one class. I had been a teacher for around 10 years, and had survived with some pride intact. I believe I may have even made a difference to my previous pupils. I thought that I was a pretty decent teacher if truth be told.

But I wasn’t quite ready for Year 1!

On my very first day, I found myself surrounded by 30, tiny, and thoroughly mischievous five year olds. The morning was a triumph in that there were still 30 children for afternoon registration. Thrilled to have survived a whole morning, I enthusiastically marched into class for an inspirational afternoon session; where I would observe the children in their activities… to look for ways of nurturing the academic and social needs of each and every child in the days ahead. I wasn’t really one for note taking, but the time to stop and watch, to observe and to listen were invaluable. Indeed, it was an essential part of teaching. It was, however, in that session that I truly learned what an awful listener I was. At 3:30 that afternoon I had to hand the children back to their parents and one had managed to paint himself blue and cut his tie in half.  With that in mind, why on earth would anybody listen to me?

Well, my teaching days are now over as my journey took rather a different direction.  So ties are once again safe and I’m sure that fewer children in Abergavenny are painted like Smurfs. I have been working as a full time professional artist for several years. I traditionally paint rather detailed and intricate images of industrial towns or fairy-tale inspired quirky illustrations with a distinct narrative. I am in a most fortunate position, as I truly love my job. I love to draw, I love to paint, I love to create. How lucky I am to be doing what I love for a living.

But in truth, I have always felt that I needed to do more, to contribute more, to do my duty for God. It is a burning ambition, a yearning that is unyielding, despite my trying not to listen for so long. In some ways I actively turned my deaf ear to God, and carried on regardless. I didn’t want to hear. It can be so much easier to live in ignorance some may say. It may certainly seem a little less risky, less challenging… the easier path. How many of us actively turn the deaf ear? To pursue our own ambitions, to do what WE think is best. I think for some time I was that little child with the plastic scissors and the blue paint brush and it was only a matter of time before my 3:30

Well, my 3:30 did come, and it was as loud as the school bell… as a teacher, the school bell… (especially the 3:30 one), was the loudest and absolutely the most welcome noise of the day. This 3:30 was a very welcome wake up call.

I find it fascinating how things pan-out… I often use the statement, things happen for a reason, and I’ve heard many others use it too. And so I’ll use it again… isn’t it funny how things seem to happen for a reason?

If I think about the last couple of years, it was the ‘little Footprints group’ that introduced my family to the Anglican churches of Abergavenny. Despite visiting lots of churches in the area, it was the Anglican Community that made us feel at home. We sensed a tolerance for others and an inclusivity in its ethos. We waited for a long time to find the right door, and were very pleased when it finally opened.

As C.S. Lewis once said,

The hall is a place to wait in, a place from which to try the various doors, not a place to live in. It is true that some people may find they have to wait in the hall for a considerable time, while others feel certain almost at once which door they must knock at. I do not know why there is this difference, but I am sure God keeps no one waiting unless He sees that it is good for him to wait. When you do get into your room you will find that the long wait has done you some kind of good which you would not have had otherwise.”

It was in a sermon several months ago that Father Mark challenged the congregation to use their skills for God. He called upon everyone to use their gifts for the purpose that they were given. His sermon stuck in my mind… they often do. He planted a seed and I felt duty-bound to help it to grow.

How many times I had said that I wanted to paint religious art I cannot count. But I never really had the courage to do it… I mean, not everyone is so tolerant of those with faith and sometimes it can be a little difficult to ‘wear your heart on your sleeve’ Also I had built a business out of my painting and I didn’t want to risk alienating those who had put many years and investment into my art. It all sounds a little cowardly I know. until I started to listen again. People often said I had a talent, some said I had a ‘gift’, but I never really thought that what I was doing was very good at all, I certainly didn’t deserve such compliments. I have been extremely lucky that others have seen potential in what I do.

The realisation was that it was my duty to do God’s work, and to do it  through the passion that he or she has given me to draw. It seemed right that I should be telling the story of Jesus through my work and that I should paint with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Now I’m not saying that I have solved the puzzle yet… I’m still a trifle deaf… but I am learning to listen, and to find most noise in the quietest of places. I am looking for the Holy Spirit in all that I do, I am asking for guidance, through prayer, meditation and devotion. I am praying to be a vessel for God and to help share His glory. 

This brings me to the new project that I am working on. Over the next couple of years I am aiming to tell the story of the combined Gospels (and a little from Acts), in chronological order. As each image is completed it will be added to the collection within St Mary’s Church. And when they are finished, I am hoping to take them on a tour around the country, and maybe even a little further afield. I am hoping that they will be displayed within churches and chapels of all denominations, but most importantly, in more innovative places, like pop up shops and open spaces… places which may be accessible to those who wouldn’t usually visit a church. I am hoping to inspire that one other sheep, somewhere, wherever it may be, to come home and join the 99, and that the 99 that are already here will find joy in them also. The images tell only a tiny part of the story, as Father Tom has written poems that enrich them so much more.

This poem relates to the Annunciation of Mary:

Let it Be

The dappled shade of knowledge

Dances like freckles on the innocence of my cheek.

Eyes closed, still I can see the sun burnt on my retina.

The dawn that will break over all things

Cannot be shut out.

I can feel the warmth spread over my skin

The delight of its rays sinking beneath, rejoicing into my flesh and bone.

As if all creation were to be willing life,

calling it forth from the recesses of the earth where it has lain cold and dead.

The Sun who holds his court,

commands the planets dance and wheels the stars

and even in this cosmic ballet of giants, titans and kings,

Life: something so small inside me stirs in answer to the dance.

What shadow is this that brings no cool shade but touches my inmost being?

The warm and heavy scent of

Human skin, and hair, warm earth and life itself,

all so irresistible under the spring sun that even the Almighty will take it up.

Between two trees the virgin dances and life blossoms into all its fullness,

And our salvation knit within his mothers womb

takes up the breathing and rooted cross of his flesh.

Let it be, irresistible life. Let it be.

 

I have found in life that it is when I am in the greatest of despair that I feel closest to God. Maybe, when I have needed Him most, I have actively sought His help. And he has been there. But now from a place of comfort I seek Him more and more, and I feel his presence. A friend once told me that the Holy Spirit was a bit like a sweet. It feels so good to have that sweet, but then, you can feel like it has gone and you need another, so you want to keep looking for the next. With that in mind, I keep looking and listening for the rustle of the wrapper. I am grateful that many of those around me have pocketfuls of sweets and have continued to feed me. I am thankful for their guidance, critique and support.

I was asked to talk to you today about how I do God’s work and to encourage you all to do the same. We all have a duty to do God’s work and with the guidance of the Holy Spirit I believe that we all have the potential to do that work. The biggest barriers are the ones that we construct ourselves. I am actively trying to break my own barriers and would encourage you to do the same.

 

 Liz Brown

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Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above,
James chapter 1. verse 17
A talent is something that you are instinctually born with that gives you unique skills and abilities.  Talent is set apart from knowledge in that it is  not a learned behaviour, although it can be strengthened and practiced. The Bible tells us that we are all born
with distinct talents and gifts that set us apart from each other.When you discover
the talents that God has given you and you use them to glorify Him, you will experience a full life! Our loving Lord wants us to feel whole and complete, and it is through talents that we can find our unique calling in life! Every good gift comes from above.
I started sewing at a young age , made my first dress when I was 12, sewing was a hobby but came into it’s own when my husband Johnny died and I was left to bring up my 2 youngest children. I had 3 jobs to keep them in school uniforms. School fees & health
care. Teaching patchwork, morning, noon and night, window dressing on a Saturday morning, and a regular job as a knitwear designer.
I was born and brought up in Rhodesia – now Zimbabwe, and translocated here
wrapping my precious bits and pieces in fabrics  -that is how I got them out!
And the fabrics go back to the 1920’s! I still have connections in Zimbabwe and started
The Harare Patchwork and Quilting Group- which is still going. Last count there were 74
that attended a meeting! Everyone needs to be creative even in dire times. Eleven years ago I started The O.O.A.P.’s (out of Africa Patchworkers ) and we started making patchwork quilts , not only did we learn new designs but we sent the quilts out to Zimbabwe to the Shearly Cripps Children’s home for orphans.. so having a gift we give it back.
Think of the wonderful gifts God has given us! Life and the promise of eternal life!
The fundamental gift that we have been given is the gift of creation. And the ability to appreciate it. So what do you do with your hands? – Flower arranging? Gardening? Decorating? Painting? Sewing? Writing ? Cooking ?Playing music?
But whatever your hands find to do , do it with all your might.
Voice? -Singing? Talking eloquently?Teaching? Lecturing? Preaching?
Reaching out to folk..Volunteering? Touch? -comforting? Caring?
Ears? -listening?
I remember someone was very disturbed when I asked them “what do you do with your hands?”, but she was a very good actress and so that is what her gift was!
I love doing ecclesiastical work, wall-hangings, fabric mosaics .
The research I find particularly interesting ,informative. A learning curve.
And the materials I use are interesting in themselves.Colours of course plays a big part.
And one of the many gifts from God is our sight.,
But with my gifts of drawing and sewing , I give them back, the  monies I have received either go to help build a community centre on my daughter Theresa’s farm in Zambia ,
or go to our lovely church  of St Peters, Llanwenarth Citra.
And God is good, when I have finished one project He sends me another!
As you know I have recovered from the Big C, Through prayer and care that is why I am here. And I thank you all for your prayers and supplications.
And I think that is why I am still here to do more work for Our Lord.
There are some visual aids of my work. [ When Liz spoke they were on display fo all to see. ] As you will see I have used minute pieces of Fabric to create the whole – Nothing is wasted. I hate waste! I pick up something and say to myself now what can I do with this?!
Look at the sheep’s head -made from eggshells! And then this quilt-the reverse is made from cotton flour bags, and the front animals embroidered by the Malambo woman’s Group , on the farm next door to Theresa ‘s farm. I love them! They are so naive
And we can never get them again, as the women will become more educated and sophisticated .
As King Solomon contemplated the meaning of life, He offered 2 recommendations.
First we are to live in the most meaningful way we can. Which includes fully enjoying the good things God Allows us to experience in life. Such as food, drink, clothing, perfume, marriage and all Gods good gifts.
His second recommendation was diligent work. Life is full of opportunities,
and there is always more work to be done. We are to take advantage of the opportunities that God gives us . Seeking His wisdom on how to prioritise work and play in a way that uses our gifting to serve Him. Life is a wonderful gift from the Lord. We honour Him when we take pleasure in His daily blessings and In meaningful service.
The point is, you DO have a gift to use in the service of Christ. We cannot bemoan the gifts that we lack. Nobody is perfect. We must find what gifts we do have and rejoice in them, being convinced that the only important thing in our work for Christ is the glory of
God, not how much we impress others or how rare our gift may be.
 
Lord, give me each day the wisdom to see which things are important,
and which things are not. Show me how best to use the time and talents
you have given me. Help me to use all my opportunities wisely, that I may share,
through service to others, the good gifts I have received from you.
I encourage you to look inwards at yourself and discover your talents-
unless you have already done so . We all have different gifts, but we must make
sure we use our gifts. For as Ben Franklin said, “What good is a sundial in the shade?”

Diana Williams

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Having told us that we need to experience Godly-play to fully understand it she continued;

As a young child, I knew and experienced God in a very real way although I didn’t know much about God. When my world seemed frightening or overwhelming, I remember lying in the darkness holding tightly onto a cross I had found for comfort. Although I couldn’t articulate it, I had a profound sense of something so much bigger than me, a divine power of goodness, love and protection who stayed with me in my dark nights.  When I was older, I would sneak to the chapel to escape the pressures of school life and in that oasis of silence and light, I would experience that same sense of enfolding presence, which comforted and strengthened me so I could face the world again. From a young age I went to Sunday school where there was certainly love and dedication but the approach was formulaic and seemed disconnected to the God I had experienced so vividly.

Fast forward many years and I am now teaching Sunday school myself, trying to be dynamic and exciting but finding I was just getting weary and deflated. I felt the responsibility of the children’s spiritual wellbeing was dependent entirely on me being entertaining/engaging enough and finding new ways to wrap up a teaching point in fun, glue and glitter. I honestly didn’t feel up to the job and really, amid all the high octane activity, there was little space for God at all. Whilst I felt compelled to stay on the messy and profound, rollercoaster journey of accompanying children in their spiritual growth, I also really needed to find a new approach.

When I first read about Godly Play I was curiously drawn to it – it sounded slightly odd but strangely compelling. Seeing God in any context of play or laughter was utterly beyond my convent girl experiences so I was dutifully suspicious. Was this just a superficial, childish approach to children’s work? Did God know how to play? Come to think of it, did I really know how to play? Could God and I play together? This was a new, unexpected, and rather exciting sort of God.

All my concerns melted away the moment I actually experienced my first session. We were welcomed at the threshold and invited to sit on the floor in a circle. The storyteller then presented the story of the Abraham to us, telling it by heart using beautiful props of wood, sand and stones. It was utterly absorbing to watch and listen to the arc of footsteps develop in the sand as Abram and Sarai made their long, hot journey of trust through the desert from Ur, to Haran and finally Hebron and the cool shade of the oaks of Mamre. For the first time I really experiencedthe desert and I felt I was there too, part of the story of the people of God, holding onto God’s promises even when they sounded impossible. Following the story we wondered together about it, then were given time for our own creative response. Here there was no right answers, no action songs, no show and tell or pre-prepared crafts, just the power of community, storytelling, creativity and the freedom to experience the story and God for ourselves. We then joined back together for a symbolic feast and a time of farewell. During that extraordinary hour I had a kind of damascene moment where I felt ‘this is it!’ Here, at last, was a sense of the God I had felt all those years back whilst clinging onto my cross in bed after a miserable day at school. Here was the God of power and mystery, an elusive hide and seek God who came close to people, but still took them into the desert. Here was a God I could find in the depths of a sacred story, in the playful upside down-ness of the parables and in the deep mysteries of our liturgical actions. And woven into all of Godly Play is the gift of silence, times to process and wonder when the mystery of the story is too great for words.

I soon began borrowing stories sets and trying it out for myself. As I progressed, I experienced profound relief that now I had found a way of doing Sunday school that meant I didn’t have to think of something new each week and frantically cut out some pre-prepared craft each Saturday night, but could now rely on beautifully scripted stories and a structure that gave time and space for God to come in, something that was enriching for the children and for me at the same time. Through learning the story scripts by heart, I found them to be a deep source of wisdom and comfort on my own spiritual journey. Through this work I discovered the Good Shepherd afresh as he led the children and me to the good grass, to the cool, fresh waters and where there were places of danger, he showed us how to go through. Truly, it felt, and still feels, God given.

Slowly I began to develop my own Godly play classroom and started to run session for local schools as well as for Sunday school and was humbled time and again by the depth of wondering and insight the children came up with. This part of my work, actually sitting and wondering with the children, has always been the best part of all I do and keeps me going through the tough bits. Finally and long overdue, I went to train properly. Whilst on the course, I had an unexpected, yet very clear sense that one day I too would be training others in Godly Play. Considering I was in the presence of the two founders of Godly play UK and renowned experts in children’s spirituality this seemed ridiculously presumptuous, but that feeling remained with me through the course and beyond. A few years later I was indeed invited to apply for the training to become a trainer, so trusting God rather than my own ability, I took up the opportunity and finally qualified 4 years ago. It was really tough training and demanded everything of me but was the start of a whole new chapter in my life. Shortly after, with real trepidation, I began to assist and then lead training courses.

The teaching element of what I do is rewarding and demanding in equal measure. Part of the joy is that the groups are often extremely ecumenical and yet far from this causing division it not only doesn’t matter but often adds hugely to the richness of the discussions. To be part of such a unified, global grassroots movement has been an incredible privilege. I have met people on courses from all walks of life and from all over the world who so often inspire me with their enthusiasm and desire to bring this approach to the people they work with and care for. Being a trainer has been an amazing privilege and taken me to places, allowed me to meet people and do things I never imagined I would do. It has led me far out of my comfort zone and but by holding onto the fact that this is God’s work not mine, I have discovered courage and ability I didn’t know I had.

So why do I do what I do? Well, I was initially motivated largely out of a concern for my own children’s spiritual wellbeing. But as time went on, I became ever more passionate about Godly Play and the role it has in children’s spiritual nurture. I had and still have a deep sense that this is work I am called to and though I don’t always feel it, recognise that God has given me the tools I need to carry it out. I also feel a real drive to help transform the thinking around childhood spirituality which I believe has the power to greatly enrich not only children’s lives, but the whole church and people of all ages. We hold the spirit of the child, our own child, in each one of us, no matter how old we are and the call to come and play with God is timeless.

Although it has been traditional in the church to view children as ‘empty vessels’ needing to be filled by adults with knowledge aboutGod, research now shows that children are in fact innately spiritual from birth,  and, although not able to articulate it in traditional religious language, already have a profound sense of God and rich experiences of Him. We are spiritual before we are religious. I found a lovely story recently about a small boy at Mass when at the time of consecration, when the priest held up the sacrament and all was hushed, expectant silence, the previously quiet child shouted out with great gusto ‘Hellooo Jesus!’ When everyone turned to look, he realised he had an audience and called ever louder ‘Hellooooo Jesus!’ Whether you would see this as a moment of utter embarrassment or total delight depends on your perspective but here was the warm welcome of a small child who had taken the story of Jesus seriously and who understood what was happening in a way we can often miss. His was a fresh shout of praise amid the predictable. How often do children give us the gift of the unpredictable, to shake us awake and show us things afresh that we had forgotten how to see?

As we know, Jesus says in the gospel that to enter the kingdom of heaven we need to be like little children.  But what does it really mean to be a child? Clearlywe need childrento help us with this. In Godly Play there is a profound awareness of this spiritual interdependence between children and adults. We in turn can help the children by taking their spiritual needs seriously and by being truly open to them. Being open like this just might allow aspect of children and their way of knowing God to re-enter us too and teach us things we had forgotten that we knew. This work has certainly helped me to not only know children in a new way, but also Jesus too.

Children are a blessing simply by being children. This is their work and gift to us and the church. Children are imaginative, inquisitive and often delightfully unconcerned with providing the ‘right’ answer. This makes them hugely open to finding new perspectives and meaning in apparently well-worn stories and I have genuinely been spiritually enriched and learnt so much from their insights. Although they don’t yet have a specific religious‘language’, they do have the languages of story and play and, through using these in Godly play, children can learn a new kind of religious language to help them making meaning in their lives, and bring theirexperiences of God and the God of the church closer together.

The play element of Godly play is a serious matter because play is such an essential part of our lives – it matures us when we are young and makes us young again when we are old. Real play helps us see things in a new light and can be about exploring who we really are. Play truly is a window onto a child’s soul and it is perhaps their most profound and important work. A great deal of seriously playful and playfully serious work happens during Godly play sessions.

So how do we see all this in the context of our theme of gifts?  If gifts are something that you are naturally good at without an effort then I cannot claim that what I do is a gift. If it is something we have the passion for but have to work hard at to develop, then perhaps we can see it in that way.  I do know that what I do is just one example of the incredible array of gifts that the church body has to offer the world. We all have gifts to give and build on and they are all equally valuable. What I do only works because I am entirely dependent on the gifts of others – the founders of Godly Play, the wisdom of other trainers, the disabled workshop which makes many of the story materials, the practical and emotional help of husband and the support and encouragement of so many in the church.

Getting to this point of the journey has been a bumpy road, full of joys and tears, darkness and light, times of closeness to God and times of great aloneness. The struggles I have experienced have been both internal and external. Physically it can be hard work, carrying desert bags, the travelling and long days. At times I feel overwhelmed, inadequate and exhausted by juggling all the demands of life. I have certainly faced many challenges along the way but I am learning to recognise that these struggles are an intrinsic and even important part of my journey and they have certainly brought me closer to and more dependent on God. In some ways, they have become part of this gift. I have learnt so much about TRUST in this role – trusting the process, my vocation and most of all God. This trust allows me to do my part and then ‘get out of the way’ as it were and let God be in charge.  Time and again, I experience God’s mercy as I find myself renewed and refreshed by the process itself and there are moments when there is such rich wondering, such thick silence and deep play that, like the line in chariots of fire, I can almost feel God’s pleasure.  This work has been for me a pearl of great price and I am trusting God that some of the seeds I am sowing will fall on good ground helping other grow and discover a God of play, creativity and wonder for themselves. I’d like to close by offering you the Godly Play prayer:

May the Good Shepherd who knows all of the sheep by name, lead you to the good green pastures and stay with you through the times of desert. May you find your pearl of great price, and know that you journey with the people of God, who are as many as the stars in the sky and grains of sand in the desert.

Amen

 

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TONIGHT THE TRUSTEES (PCC) approved the following Annual Report to the Charity Commissioners 

Charity number: 1137751

Annual Report for the year ending 31 December 2018

Trustees’ report

The trustees have pleasure in presenting their report and the financial statements of the charity for the year ending 31 December 2018. 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.

Summary

The first nine months of this year was designated one of celebration and commemoration, with a major festival representing in floral art the many anniversaries throughout 2018, and a year-long Celebration of the Sacrament of Marriage.

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Although mission continued to be a fundamental part of the church’s activity throughout the year, October saw the start of a year-long campaign, Proclaiming it Afresh, concentrating on the promise made by all Anglican ministers that, as the Church, we are called on to proclaim afresh the faith we receive in each generation.

As well as regular and special services, thousands of youngsters from local schools, their teachers, friends and families visited both St Mary’s and Christchurch, for Harvest, Christmas and Christingle services. 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 and 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, which are visited by visitors from all over the world.

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.

Activities

The Parish continued to endeavour to enable the wider community to live out their faith as part of our community through wide ranging activities,which can be split broadly into four categories:

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

 

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.

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Bishop Dominic, Archdeacon Ambrose and the Holywell Community 2018/19

The Revd Tom Bates continues to serve as Sub-Prior and Assistant Priest of Abergavenny while the Revd Jeff Pearse serves as non-stipendiary curate.

In its fifth year, the Holywell Community saw a change of members, with Sister Jennii Shaw leaving to become Community Engagement Mission Officer at Aberavon and Sister Joanna become an ‘alongsider’ at Ty Mawr Convent, near Monmouth. The new members of the Community, Br Seb and Br Josh, were commissioned in August by Bishop Dominic Walker. The Community works both in the Church and the wider community, running all-age worship, visiting schools, 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.

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Bishop Richard Fenwick dedicates the Bishop David Thomas memorials

As well as the usual weekday and Sunday worship during the year, there were a number of special services and events, including:

  • In January, St Mary’s participated in the town’s ecumenical services for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity;
  • Also in January, a lectern, a memorial to Bishop David Thomas was placed in the St Joseph Chapel (formerly the Lewis Chapel);
  • In February, there was a joint service for Candlemas, shared with Christchurch, Govilon, held at Govilon;
  • During March, a series of sermons at Evensong posed the question What’s St Benedict got to do with me?, with preachers include the Prior, scriptologist Fr Jonathon Wright; lay members of the Holywell Community; and Fr Sam MacNally-Cross (Oblate OSB);
  • In May, the Herbert Chapel was renamed the St Benedict Chapel during a service which saw the blessing of an Icon of St Benedict written by Br Michael, a monk at the Anglican Benedictine Monastery at Mucknell;
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Fr Mark receives the Icon of St Benedict off Br Michael

  • The Thy Kingdom Come initiative prompted prayer trails devised by the Fr Tom;
  • Canon Beverley Hollins, Area Dean of Greater Northampton, preached on Trinity Sunday;
  • Special services for the Stepping Through Time flower festival (see below);
  • Canon Soady preaching at Harvest Thanksgiving at St Michael’s Church, Myddfai, Carmarthenshire, on the question of depression and suicide in today’s farming community;
  • In October, collections at Harvest Thanksgiving services were taken for the work of the Embrace, formerly Embrace the Middle East and Abergavenny Town of Sanctuary;
  • All Souls Requiem Eucharist at which the names of departed loved ones were read out;
  • The blessing and chrismation of an Icon of the Holy Family, in memory of Bishop David Thomas. The service, led by Bishop Richard Fenwick, also saw the dedication of the lectern in the St Joseph Chapel;
  • In November, Armistice Day services at both St Mary’s and Christchurch and in the town, as well as a reception after the services held in the Priory Centre and organised by Abergavenny Town Council, which included poetry read by schoolchildren and music from St Mary’s Priory Choir;

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  • In December, 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;
  • Other carol services included those for Gwent St John, Tenovus’ Light Up a Life, and Vision of Hope, a local initiative to enable young people who have suffered through abuse and addiction to receive animal-assisted therapy;

 

The Church’s work with children includes All Age Worship every other Sunday, school assemblies and Little Footprints, a parent and toddler group held every week during term time—one of the latter’s highlights was a Royal Wedding street party

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Holywell Community host a visit from the community at Mucknell Abbey

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 103.2, and the number recorded on the Electoral roll for both churches on 31 December 2018 was 205.

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 15 baptisms and eight weddings in the Parish. There were 71 funerals.

Ecumenically, the parish participated fully in the Abergavenny Council of Churches, including the now-annual ecumenical Christmas carol service, which took place after the Scratch Nativity held through the streets of Abergavenny town centre and market.

 

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;
  • At Christmas, the congregations filling boxes with small items as part of the Shoe Box Appeal, sending 90 boxes to orphanages in Romania;
  • 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 7 Corners project in Abergavenny, which aims to provide a place for young people to meet;
  • Church members contributing over 50 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;
  • Contributing to the Bishop of Monmouth’s Lent Appeal;
  • Using the Jesse Window, in particular the Advent Jesse in the tracery, together with a new devotional guide, to reflect on the Advent journey.

    Members of the public were offered Ashing on Ash Wednesday; and shoe polishing to commuters at Abergavenny Railway Station on Maundy Thursday.

     

 

In October, a special emphasis was put on mission, with the launch of a year-long programme Proclaiming it Afresh, concentrating on the promise by all Anglican ministers that the faith we receive we are called upon as the Church to proclaim afresh in each generation.

This emphasis on mission began with the performance by Riding Lights of Gospel Street, a modern retelling of Jesus’ life and teachings. One of the key ways the Church was able to reach out through this production was through the generosity of those who sponsored tickets, enabling young people from 7 Corners Centre and Vision of Hope Farm to attend, as well as others from the community.

 

Other initiatives over the 12 months include:

  • Local artist Jeremy Thomas producing artworks throughout the year which tell the Gospel story, to be displayed at St Mary’s, before, hopefully going on tour around other churches, schools and pop-up exhibition spaces;
  • A local school studying the parables of Jesus, through Godly Play and art, and then retelling them in their own way to produce the Abergavenny Parables;
  • A Lent study course;
  • Godly Play;
  • Thy Kingdom Come;
  • A pilgrimage along the St Thomas Way—this pilgrimage trail from Swansea to Hereford was launched in August this year and an exhibition of the Way was held at St Mary’s.

 

In December, members of the congregations sang carols in care and nursing homes and in local pubs.

The work of the church is greatly enhanced by St Mary’s Priory Choir, under the musical directorship of Tim Pratt. This year, they sang St Mark’s Passion by Charles Wood as a sacred concert on Good Friday and were choir in residence at Gloucester Cathedral for a week in August, during which they sang music by Richard Woodward which had sat undiscovered in the library of the Cathedral since about 1772.

 

The choir also took part in the second Festival of Liturgical Music through the centuriesduring which liturgical music from the 15th to 21st centuries was heard; eight different vocal groups led the worship, consisting of 90 singers under five different conductors and accompanied by four organists. There were six recitalists and the estimated 450 people who attended the festival experienced the music of 58 composers.

 

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.

 

The church bells, described as the finest ring of 10 bells in Christendom, were rung on Sundays, at funerals and weddings. This year, on Remembrance Sunday (the 100thanniversary of the end of The Great War) we they were rung half muffled for the Service of Remembrance and again in the evening without muffles as part of the nationwide ringing. They were also rung by visiting groups of ringers, as part of the Hereford ringing course, and for the ITV Wales Coast and Country programme.

 

Special activities

The Year of Marriage

The Year of Marriage began shortly after the 70th anniversary of the wedding of the Queen and Prince Philip and in the year of the marriage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Events included a marriage preparation for couples being married at St Mary’s during the year and a service for couples to renew their wedding vows and celebrate their life together. Fr Tom went to Llanfoist School to show pupils what a church wedding is all about and marriage was represented in the Stepping Through Time flower festival.

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The final event of the Year of Marriage was an exhibition of wedding dresses held in St Mary’s during Abergavenny Food Festival, featuring a wide range of styles from the Second World War to the present day. It included dresses from three generations of the same family.

 

Stepping through Time

Staged by Abergavenny Flower Arrangement Society, the Stepping through Timeflower festival celebrated 30 important—and not-so-important—anniversaries, both in the nation and in Abergavenny. The festival acknowledged that the Priory Church had, down the centuries, been the place where the town comes to celebrate and to weep.

 

The anniversaries included the 100th anniversary of some women getting the vote— arrangements created by 5th Abergavenny Brownies and the Gwent WI; the 70th anniversary of the creation of the NHS; the centenary of the formation of the Royal Air Force; the 70th birthday of HRH The Prince of Wales;  the centenary of the end of the First World War and the 250th anniversary of the formation of the Royal Academy of Arts. Local anniversaries included the 20th anniversary of Abergavenny Food Festival, a decade of Abergavenny being a Fairtrade town; and the anniversaries of the town being twinned with Ostringen (50 years) and Beaupreau (30 years).

More light-hearted anniversaries represented in the 30 arrangements included 150 years since the first traffic lights were installed and the 60th birthday of LEGO bricks.

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The festival also included an informal concert by Simon Pratt, former Concentor of the Holywell Community, who was appointed Deputy Director of Music at St Mary’s; a Sung Eucharist with preacher the Dean of St Asaph, the Very Reverend Nigel Williams; and a service to mark in prayer and readings the anniversaries the festival celebrated.

 

Guide Book Relaunch

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In April, the award-winning guidebook to St Mary’s Priory was updated and reprinted. It now includes the magnificent Jesse Window created in memory of former Vicar of Abergavenny, the Very Reverend Jeremy Winston. The Jesse figure also featured in a book published in September Wales in 100 Objects, written by Andrew Green, the former librarian of the National Library of Wales, in which he lists the 100 objects which represent key aspects of the history of Wales.

 

Fundraising, Fellowship and Hosting Events

A number of concerts, for both the Church and outside organisations, took place at St Mary’s, including 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.

In September, there was a parish trip to Hampton Court Castle, Hereford, a thoroughly enjoyable day out.

 

 

The Priory Centre provided the venue for various fundraising activities and celebrations. We hosted refreshments on the Vicarage Lawn during Abergavenny Food Festival, which featured both traditional cream teas and food cooked by Syrian refugees now living in Abergavenny. 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 by the Revd Tom Bates, the Revd Jeff Pearse and members of the Holywell Monastic Community.

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 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 2019 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 2019. 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.

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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 Tom Bates

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

Mrs Wendy Pendry

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

 

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 30thApril 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 Holywell Community House. The latter two have been purchased in recent years and their freehold values are shown in the Accounts of this Charity.

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The St Mary’s Winston Appeal also worked 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 Trustees. This year the Tithe Barn became a Welsh Centre of Excellence as a legacy from the National Eisteddfod held in Abergavenny in 2016. The Centre is now used by the Aneurin University Health Board and Canolfan Y Ddegwm (The Tithe Centre in English).

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S4C filming at the Opening of the Welsh Centre

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 Finance & General Purposes Committee and the Church’s professional advisers 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, and the Churches would not function.

As of December 2018 the Charity only employed three people (2.5two full-time equivalent).

 

Committee structure

The PCC met nine times in 2018 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 (until Autumn 2018)

 

FABRIC

 

Works undertaken at St Mary’s during the year included:

  • The North Walkway, running alongside the north wall of the Church, was lowered (by up to 1 metre) and levelled along its full length and into the Abbot’s Garden beyond to match the floor levels inside the building. The main civil works, which included demolition of a redundant Organ Blower House and filling in a redundant subterranean boiler house, were undertaken gratis by a local Contractor.

 

One of the benefits of lowering the ground level will hopefully be the elimination of the damp penetration through the Church walls which has caused particular problems in the Saint Joseph Chapel. Conversely, one of the consequences was the introduction of a difference in ground levels between the new Walkway and the adjacent Garden of Rest. This has been overcome by the erection of a new wall along the full length with capping stones which will be used to display memorials tothose whose ashes are interred in the Garden. The work commenced in 2018 and is being completed in 2019. It is partly funded from the surplus in the Churchyard Maintenance Fund.

The reduction in ground level also revealed that the north east buttress of the North Transept had no proper foundations. It was already known that this buttress, which contains a spiral staircase providing external access to the Tower, was showing signs of deterioration so the opportunity was taken of designing new access steps to the staircase door that consolidated the ground adjacent to the buttress.

  • The new access steps also formed part of a major scheme to improve the safety of and conditions for both local and visiting Bell Ringers when playing our nationally renowned peal of ten bells. Other works included new ropes for some of the bells, a complete refurbishment of the Ringing Chamber in the Tower and erection of new lath and plaster walls along the passageway between the external staircase and the Ringing Chamber. This scheme was partly funded by the remainder of the Restricted Fund created some years ago from the Mervyn Roberts Bequest which was to be used for the maintenance of bell ringing at St Marys.

 

  • Replacement of the three life-expired gas fired boilers that have served the Church for more than 20 years with two new (much smaller) energy efficient boilers. The new boilers, like those they replaced, have been located in the Narthex at the west end of the Church so the work which had been delayed by issues over permissions could not commence until October. As a result, some regular weekly services in the Church were moved elsewhere for nearly two months. However the new boilers were working in time for the Christmas services and finishing works and final commissioning are taking place in 2019. The new boilers and associated works are being funded by a sizeable, but unrestricted, legacy to the Church from the estate of the late Miss Pauline Sheen.

 

  • New lighting was installed in the Saint Joseph Chapel to the same standard as installed in the rest of the Church in 2013.  This work had been postponed then to permit the other significant Works undertaken in the Chapel in the last 5 years to be completed first.

 

  • The Quinquennial inspection of the Church was undertaken by our Professional Advisers at the end of November. At the time of writing the Report has just been received.

  

FINANCIAL REVIEW

 

RESULTS

The level of direct voluntary contributions at each act of worship, excluding tax reclaimed through Gift Aid, amounted to £74,718 (2017: £76,814), a 2.7% reduction that perpetuates 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 £175,447 (2017: £132,599), The increase was mainly as a result of a generous bequest of £43,856 from the Estate of the late Miss Pauline Sheen who died on 1 June 2016. It also included a full year’s activity of hiring out the facilities in the Priory Centre and Tithe Barn to external users, often supplemented by the provision of catering.

Following an appeal to the congregation in March, loans totalling £25,300 were received from parishioners in less than a month. By the end of the year, £4,800 had been converted by the donors to Gifts and £1,500 was repaid. In addition a total of £32,149 was received by way of Grants from a number of external bodies while VAT was reclaimed on all compliant expenditure and a total of £14,741 was recovered during the year (2017: £16,243).

During the year the Charity received the final Grant of £11,000, from the total £110,000 awarded, from the Listed Places of Worship Roof Repair Scheme towards the Lewis Chapel Roof Repair Scheme, and a final £889 from CADW towards the expenditure by the Winston Appeal Fund on the works in the Lewis Chapel. Other Grants included £10,000 from the Additional Curates Society (on behalf of the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament)towards the stipend of the Sub-Prior and £2,000 from the Archbishop of Wales Fund for Children and £3,000 from the No 1 Trust, both the latter towards the costs of the Holywell Community.  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 for services delivered, from central or local government during the year. However, Welsh Assembly and Local Authority groups, along with the NHS, were regular users of the meeting and event accommodation provided in the Priory Centre and Tithe Barn.

The level of unrestricted expenditure, other than for exceptional items, amounted to £234,435 (2017: 199,837). The increase was mainly due to the increased costs incurred in the full-year operation of the Priory Centre and Tithe Barn including the provision of catering services to hirers of the facilities.

 

The Parish Share payable to the Diocese during the year was £81,552 (2017: £60,385), the increase reflecting the Charity’s contribution to the Stipend payable by the Diocese to the Sub-Prior. Part of the payment was also used to offset the shortfalls in previous years which were reduced to £19,261 by the year-end.

Expenditure on exceptional items during the year amounted to £106,021 and included:

  • the final payments for the St Joseph Chapel roof repair scheme (£18,602),
  • the refurbishment of the ringing chamber and associated works (£25,264),
  • the new lighting in the St Joseph Chapel (£13,296)
  • interim payments towards the installation of the new boilers in the Church (£26,089)
  • costs associated with the works on the North Walkway (£21,063)

 

The St Mary’s Priory House Company Ltd, which had ceased to trade on 6 October 2017, was finally wound up during the year.

The net assets of the Charity at 31 December 2018 amounted to £324,191 (31/12/2017: £340,002) including freehold properties valued at £362,641 (unchanged). The reduction in assets reflected in particular the use of the remaining funds in the Mervyn Roberts Bequest. 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 to which must now be added the £19,000 in outstanding loans received from members of the congregation.

One of the biggest challenges faced by the Charity during the year has been the management of its cash flow given the limited level of financial reserves within which it operates, contrary to its policy but reflecting current realities. During 2018 cash flow has been particularly difficult because, for example, the final tranche of Roof Repair Grant was only paid some months after the works had been completed and the contractors paid in full. Similarly the LPOW VAT repayment scheme has extended its response times, again resulting in significant (2-3 months) delay between payments made for compliant expenditure and repayment of the VAT.

 

RESERVES POLICY

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.

 

INVESTMENT POLICY

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.

 

Bankers

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 

26thMarch 2019

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On the date the UK legislated to leave the EU, there will be  a Day of Prayer at St Mary’s Priory Church, Abergavenny.

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The church will be open from 8am – 8pm. During the day people can pray privately or join in set periods of prayer

 

8.15am Monastic Office of Lauds

8.30am Holy Eucharist

9am, 10am & 11am  Prayers on the Hour

12noon Monastic Office of Sext

12.45pm Monastic Office of None

1pm, 2pm & 3pm  Prayers on the Hour

4pm Holy Hour

5pm Litany

6pm Prayers on the Hour

7pm Choral Evensong

 

Introducing the day Canon Mark Soady said;

Whatever one’s view on Brexit, one cannot deny that it has caused much anxiety and division among our fellow Brits. The day is about praying for God to bring peace and unity to us and to our nation.

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We will celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary , commonly called Lady Day, on Monday, March 25th.

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The Annunciation by Jez Thomas for St Mary’s Priory 

 

8.30am Holy Eucharist.

 

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Details of services over the Triduum and for Easter Day have been announced.

Maundy Thursday

7pm Mass of the Last Supper and Stripping of the Altars (6.30pm Agape Meal at Holy Trinity Church, Baker Street)

followed by the Procession of the Sacrament to the Altar of repose at Holy Trinity Church.

circa 9pm – Midnight: Watch of the Passion (Holy Trinity Church)

Good Friday

In the Morning we will join the Ecumenical March of Witness through the town

2pm Liturgy of the day

7pm Sacred Concert: Stabat Mater CV Stanford

 

Easter Eve

8pm Paschal Vigil

Easter Day

8am Holy Eucharist

9.30am All Age Eucharist

11am Choral Eucharist, attended by delegates from our twin town of Beaupreau.

circa 12noon Concert over Coffee, performed by the Choir of our Twin Town, to mark the Twinning’s 40th Anniversary.

6pm Evensong & Sermon

 

 

 

 

 

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 Sir Trefor Morris, Chairman of St Mary’s Priory Development Trust and our Vicar, Canon Mark Soady joined the Royal Family at Buckingham Palace TODAY  (Tuesday, March 5), to honour Prince Charles and the 50th anniversary of his investiture as Prince of Wales.

His Royal Highness has been Patron of the Priory Development Trust for over 16 years and the Priory site includes the Prince of Wales Courtyard.

The Queen  hosted a daytime reception to mark the milestone, with the Duchess of Cornwall, the Princess Royal, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex joining the Prince of Wales to celebrate.

“This special reception will mark the Prince of Wales’ fifty years of service to Wales, the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth, and will be an opportunity to celebrate a range of Welsh charities, organisations and businesses,”

Buckingham Palace said ahead of the event.

The Archbishop of Canterbury  gave a speech at the reception, and guests  enjoyed a musical performance by the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. A special piece had been written for the 50th anniversary by Welsh composer Paul Mealor, inspired by the legend of the Lady of Llyn y Fan, a mountain lake near Princes’ Welsh home, Llwynywermod.

Speaking about His Royal Highness,  The Archbishop of Canterbury said:

We have seen how the honour of being granted that title has been richly repaid – in The Prince of Wales’s love for the country whose name he bears, and in the deep respect he has always shown for the land, for the language, and most of all, of course, for the people

Prince Charles was created the Prince of Wales on July 26, 1958, at the age of nine, but he wasn’t formally invested until he was 20. The ceremony took place at Caernarfon Castle  on July 11, 1969.

Guests included the PM, the Archbishop of Wales and the First Minister.

Fr Mark, Sir Trefor and the other guests at the anniversary reception were able to view the investiture regalia worn by the Prince of Wales on that day.

That included the Investiture Coronet,Sword, Ring and Rod, as well as the Letters Patent for the creation of Charles, Duke of Cornwall, as Prince of Wales.

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Among the groups we are welcoming  to the Priory this month are the Friends of Cathedral Music National Gathering and the Order of St Lazarus of Jerusalem .

 

Members of the Order St Lazarus will be given a tour of the Priory and after tea join us for Vespers on March 9th.

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The St Lazarus Charitable Trust is a registered charity (286918).  Its trustees are responsible for distributing the bulk of the money raised by members of the Grand Priory for charitable projects, particularly those related to leprosy.

The Trust works closely with expert charities, including The Leprosy Mission (TLM), LEPRA and EMMS,  on a range of projects from sponsoring student medical electives in leprosy-hit areas of the world to supporting local initiatives in India, Nepal and parts of Africa.

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As part of its National Gathering The Friends of Cathedral Music will sing Evensong here on Saturday, March 23rd at 5pm.The music will be: Responses: Ebdon, Canticles: Stanford in B flat Anthem: Wash me throughly – Wesley

Earlier they will have heard our Director of Music talk about the place of music at the Priory, been given a tour of the site and spent time rehearsing for Evensong,

Founded in 1956 FCM ‘s purposes are:

  • To sustain our priceless heritage of cathedral music and support a living tradition
  • To increase public knowledge and appreciation of that heritage and tradition
  • To encourage high standards in choral and organ music
  • To raise money by subscriptions, donations and legacies for choirs in need

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