Archive for July, 2019

The St Mary's Choir Blog

The first full day of singing started early(ish) with an assortment of breakfast experiences, ranging from those who were presented with a paper bag of goodies to those who had cereal, coffee and toast and those who had a full Irish breakfast. After all these culinary delights, the choir met at the cathedral music room at 9.00 am. Here we were joined by our last choristers and Fr Mark who had come to join us for a couple of days.

We rehearsed the music for tonight’s evensong and also worked on one or two other pieces for tomorrow.  The most challenging of these is “Faire is the Heaven” by Harris, sixteen pages of unaccompanied double choir singing!  We were joined by organist Robert, fresh from checking that the cathedral organ was working properly.

dublin rehearsal

Finally, some good progress was made, and the trebles had a special extra practice of some of…

View original post 319 more words

Read Full Post »

The Choir’s journey to Dublin

The St Mary's Choir Blog

So here we are in Dublin after a series of “interesting” events.  For those flying from Birmingham the weather was inclement as we arrived, proving that a “shower-resistant” jacket was not even slightly resistant to drizzle let alone a full-blown downpour.  But we all managed to get there on time, check in luggage, get through security (eventually) and have time for a snack before boarding our flight.  Despite a little turbulence the flight was uneventful and we all managed to collect our luggage, catch the bus to the city centre (on which we discovered our organist Robert who had flown from Bristol) and reach our hostels relatively unscathed.

For those travelling by train and ferry the journey was a little less straight-forward with delays and diversions, but also eventually successful. For tenor Brian, travelling from Bournemouth there was a six hour delay caused by aircraft problems.  But he too eventually…

View original post 86 more words

Read Full Post »

The first of the week’s reports from our choir as they goon tour to Dublin

The St Mary's Choir Blog

They came, they sang, and now they’re very nearly ready to go.

We had a busy rehearsal fine-tuning pieces for our first Evensong on Wednesday and working on one or two bits and pieces that needed some extra attention.  Nearly everyone was there, and there was plenty of enthusiasm on show.  There’s still a lot to do to ensure that everything is completely ready, but we’re getting there.  It’s amazing what spending a week together can do, and with some fairly complex pieces coming our way, there’s plenty to focus on.

rehearsalHere we are checking that everyone has the right copies to take with them!

Then we had time for one or two bits of admin – don’t forget your passport, where we’re meeting for supper tomorrow night, and so on…

Finally, time for us all to go home and finish that packing (or in some cases start it!!!).


View original post 5 more words

Read Full Post »

Police officers from three forces ascended on St Mary’s Priory this morning …..to be fed…as a leg of their charity cycle in aid of COPs came to an end.


Care of Police Survivors (COPS) is a charity that supports the families of police officers and staff who have lost their lives on duty. Officers from Gwent, South Wales & Dyfed Powys Forces met at Abergavenny on route to the National Arboretum in Staffordshire. The sponsored cyclists were fed bacon and sausage rolls and offered tea, coffee and juice to set them up for the remaining stages of the days cycle.The GwentForce had started an hour earlier from their HQ in Croesyceliog while Dyfed Powys and South Wales Police had cycled from Christchurch College Brecon this morning.


Canon Mark Soady, Vicar of St Mary’s Priory and a Chaplain with the Gwent Force said: ”

Since it was established in 2003 COPS has helped hundreds of police families who’s one shave died while on duty. We expect the police to stand between us and danger, so it is right we support the families of those who lost loved ones making that stand for our safety. It was privilege to play our small part in supporting his annual memorial ride, which will raise funds for the work of COPs.”

Read Full Post »

Speaking at our Annual Ladies Ecumenical Service on Thursday at St Mary’s Priory, Salvation Army Lt Jenni Pryor said,”Are you trying to do for Jesus or are you doing with Jesus. Because that one short word with makes a massive difference”.


Lt Jenni Pryor


Are you a Mary or a Martha? It’s the big question that gets asked every time we hear this story.  There is Martha in the background doing the house work and there is Mary sitting and listening to what is being said.

For all my wanting to be a very spiritual person and behave accordingly I have always been a bit of a Martha!  I like to do stuff!

I feel uncomfortable when I am expected to sit and let other people work around me. I feel a deep sense of obligation to get the practical things in life done.

Do I always manage to do this? No, and do I always do it with a joyful heart? Again No, sometimes yes….most of the time even. But do I as a mother of young children and a co leader of a church do I sometimes feel that responsibility that Martha feels here in this story? Oh yes!

The reality for many of us is we all have a bit of a Martha inside us, and that life and all its demands pulls her out of us, bringing her to the surface we have no choice because who else is going to get the job done? Certainly not Mary!

Now Mary, well it seems that somehow she has got it all sorted, she has figured out what that something ‘better’ is and it isn’t found in the kitchen with Martha, but that doesn’t change the fact that the dishes still need doing, the guests need looking after, the nitty gritty of doing life still needs to happen and so on works Martha.

Yet here is Jesus telling us to not be distracted by all that stuff going on around us. You know, as I spent time reading this story a thought came to me.

Maybe this isn’t a story about which sister is right or wrong, maybe Jesus isn’t telling Martha off or saying Mary is better than her like it seems on the surface, Maybe it is about him giving them permission to be who they are.

Now, hospitality was taken extremely seriously in this culture, creating a gathering such as this one would have taken a lot of work and doing it well said a lot about who you were and how important your guests were to you. Presenting poor food or a house that was not swept and ready for your guest was an insult. So with all her rushing around, actually in her own way Martha is trying to honour Jesus.

Then we have Mary sitting next the Lords feet. This was a pretty scandalous action. Not only was she shirking her responsibilities as a woman and leaving her sister to do all the heavy lifting, but she was putting herself in the place of a disciple. Again in this culture only the closest disciples of a Rabbi would sit at their teacher’s feet. So Mary is putting herself in the place of one of the men closest to Jesus and for a woman, an unmarried woman even, this will have been unheard of in these times.

So Martha is in the kitchen, she has been working all day and she comes into the front room, not only is she tired and fed up of being left to sort it all out by herself but she is now also horrified at the picture before her, I mean completely embarrassed and she was probably trying to get her disgraceful sister out of sight and get some order and respectability back into the whole thing.

Now in light of that information try to put yourself in Martha’s shoes for just a second.

How maddening does Jesus’ response seem? You can almost hear her reaction can’t you? I think it sounded a bit like this ‘Calm down?? But the bread needs baking, the table needs laying and the dishes need washing! Somebody has to do all of this or it won’t get done, and none of you will get any dinner if it isn’t me!’

And that, friend’s, is where Martha is getting it wrong.

This whole belief that Jesus needs something from her, that he is relying on only her that is where Martha falls.

How often do we find ourselves running around doing God’s work? Trying to please him? Or to please others? Keeping the church running, giving all of ourselves to make sure the work gets done over and over again? And then be honest with yourself How often do we just feel drained?

You know the Lord does not need you to do anything for him,

Yes he has called us to take part in his mission for the world and for this community and yes he has called us to serve one another but he does not rely on only you to do it.

He has not called us to a great burden of carrying out his purpose in the world but rather given us a golden opportunity to work with him.

So when you find yourself giving and giving and giving, when you find that you are tired and fed up of others not doing their part, when you find yourself in despair because how will all this ever get done?! It is in that moment that Jesus invites us to just stop it.

The point of this story of two sisters is not that Martha is wrong and Mary is the golden sister, Jesus isn’t saying that.  What he is doing is simply calling Martha to just be with him for a while, he is telling her that he does not need her to run around for him all the time, he just wants to spend time with her.

The something better that Jesus was referring too, was himself. and that same Jesus held out his hand to Martha, not to scold or rebuke but to invite her to join them.

Now I am not saying that we should all pack up and go home to concentrate on being with Jesus; I am from The Salvation Army.  We are known for doing, for being a very practical church and I love that, I being a Martha fit right in!

 But Mathew’s Gospel  (6 v 33) says ‘But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well’ and just like Mary they will not be taken away from you.

Seek first, then get doing.  I am not saying today that we can all sit back and do nothing because Jesus will do his business.

I am just asking you all to consider whether you acknowledge a relationship with Jesus as the something better, and if everything you do, at work, at home and yes here as well is done within that. Are you trying to do for Jesus or are you doing with Jesus. Because that one short word with makes a massive difference.

Jesus called Martha not to stop working but to not let it all get in top of her. As we head into the sweet time that is the summer holiday period where things wind down and we have a chance to stop a little, let’s take time to let our inner Martha rest in Jesus’ presence.

Let’s let ourselves hear Jesus’ permission to rest and prioritise our relationship with him because there will be times that are busy but when we are facing them with Jesus we face them far stronger then facing them alone. Amen.



Following the service Tea was served in the Priory Centre.


Read Full Post »

Although the Choir year ends with the Sunday Services on July 21st they have a busy rest of the Summer. 

IMG_0362 (2)

The Choir at Gloucester Cathedral (August 2018)


The Choir will be heading to Dublin for their annual Singing Week.

Dublin is unusual in that it has two Anglican cathedrals within half a mile of each other!

Christchurch cathedral is the diocesan cathedral, whereas St Patrick’s is the national cathedral.

We are looking forward to our residency at St Patrick’s from July 31 to August 3, during which time we will sing five services.

On Tuesday, July 30, most of us will fly out from Birmingham airport, with others going by ferry, to start our Irish adventure. We’re planning to make the most of the cultural opportunities available in this lovely city (many of the adults are looking forward to visiting the Guinness factory), as well as the chance to spend the better part of a week singing together.


We’ll be back in Wales in time for the Holywell Community service before resuming normal duties at the beginning of September.


This summer will be the third time we have held our festival of Liturgical Music at St Mary’s Priory. Starting on Monday, August 27, we will be taking our usual tour through the history of Liturgical Music. Each day will feature a different choir singing music from a different century, reaching a triumphant climax in 21st century music on Sunday, September 2.

From Tuesday to Friday we will also host a series of lunchtime recitals, this year featuring organ, voice and flute. We are looking forward to welcoming (as well as our own Priory Choir) the Thomas Hardye Alumni Choir, The Cardiff PGS Chamber Choir, the Festival Trebles’ Choir, Academia Musica Choir (Hereford), and the Ethelbert Consort.

The journey starts with Pre reformation music for Vespers and Compline on Monday 27th before daily Evensong at 5.30pm charts the development of choral music from the16th century to the present day.

Entry is free to all events and we look forward to welcoming you to some or all of them.

A full programme will be published here shortly


You can keep up with the choir’s Summer activities here.

Read Full Post »

Preaching at St Mary’s Priory Church this evening, Fr Tom Bates reflected on the days readings and today’s collect. He reminded us that God wants us in our brokenness.



Full Text:


Our collect today implores the Father that we may ‘so pass through things temporal that we finally lose not the things eternal.’ In other words, it is asking that we may journey through this life without losing sight of where we are headed, and all our readings today have reflected upon this. This morning we heard the parable of the Good Samaritan featuring a man whose journey through this life (from Jerusalem to Jericho to be precise) was considerably impeded by being beaten up and robbed. His journey was further impeded by assorted religious types who were more concerned with ritual cleanliness than they were with the wellbeing of their neighbour lying in the ditch. It is an outsider of a perceived schismatic and heretic sect who has actually grasped what God’s message is about on a basic human level, and who helps the man.

In our reading from St Mark this evening we hear some more examples of the things the scribes and Pharisees do to place temporal obstructions in the way of God’s people: To bury them under legislation rather than raise them from the dust and point them towards heaven. We find the true image of God, the one which he put into human beings in creation, truly displayed in Jesus, and sadly lacking in the Pharisees. In the passage it is noted that the Pharisees were more concerned about rules concerning pots and pans and kettles than they were about obeying God’s law to love God and to love one another, and I will come back to the image of pottery in a minute.

In a similar vein Jesus addresses the subject of food being clean or unclean.

In the creation narrative in Genesis we hear of the choice of Adam and Eve which leads to the fall. ‘This is what you may eat’, ‘this is what you may not eat’, they are told. The food itself is not evil, but the decision is in their hearts: to choose God’s way or reject it. Ultimately it is their hearts not the apple which betrays them, betraying the nature for goodness for which God has made them.

Eating, not eating, what goes into our bodies and what comes out of them is all too much for the disciples and Jesus has to explain this to them when they get home. His point is simple: what one consumes does not lead to evil actions. The ability to choose good or evil, and the ability to do good or evil are in the heart. Ritually clean food and ritually clean pots and pans are secondary to the hygiene of the heart. Remember Jesus teaching: ‘blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God’.

We are very blessed. God has come to us in the love and compassion he created us to reflect in the first place in the person of Jesus: He is the new creation and the very image of our hope that we must keep before our eyes as we journey through this temporal world in the hope of his promised life to come. In the ancient hymn Ubi caritas we hear that in the heart where love is abiding God is in that heart. Jesus tells us that if we hear his voice God will come in and dwell with us. Therefore we have before us the same decision as Adam and Eve, the free will decision to choose God and enthrone God in our hearts. If God, who is the all and only good, dwells in our hearts there will be no room for the evil intentions Jesus speaks about to emerge. No room for that which is unclean. No room for fornication, theft, murder, adultery , avarice, malice, deceit, indecency, envy, slander, pride or folly. Only room for the light of Christ that we pray may shine before us from our hearts that others will see and will give glory to our Father in heaven.

We are made in God’s image, reflecting his love, his compassion and his goodness, like the good Samaritan in the parable. God doesn’t ask us to be concerned with the 600 plus rules that fascinate the scribes and Pharisees about clean vessels and all manner of other things. God asks us to have a pure heart that it may be our compass through things temporal and follow Christ to things eternal.

However, we all fall down. As Paul points out in 2 Corinthians we have this treasure in earthenware jars. We are fragile and can easily break spilling our treasure on the floor just as our first ancestors did. In essence, it is easy to follow the check lists of the Pharisees. You have either done a thing or you haven’t. But life, this temporal world the collect refers to, is versatile and varied in what it throws at us, and to view our relationship with God as a series of tick boxes does not equip us to meet the challenge neither is it the key to developing any kind of relationship. It is easy to tick boxes, less easy to conform ones heart to Christ in love. One can spend a whole life ticking boxes without coming close to being Jesus Christ to others. That is what Jesus is telling his followers in this tirade against the Pharisees. An incarnate faith which offers transformation from the deepest and most precious part of our being, guiding all our outward actions is what is required of us: The treasure God keeps in us will be that which bears fruit in us, and goes forth from us bringing blessings to those we meet.

Our own brokenness can be intimidating. We recognise our own inadequacy and sinfulness as vessels unworthy of God. Coming back to the imagery of pots and pans, in Japan they have a custom concerning pots and ceramics. (See picture above of Fr Tom holding the bowl). It is a bowl which has been broken and mended. However it hasn’t been mended to hide or disguise the fact that it has been broken or to make it look ‘good as new’. It’s brokenness is deemed to be a beautiful thing, a part of it’s unique character, a part of its story, and it has been repaired with gold to bind it together using a technique called Kintsugi. When we break something it is very easy for us to think it is useless and to be discarded. Yet God meets us in our brokenness and his grace and love are like the gold which transforms that brokenness into something both beautiful and useful to his purpose. Our fragility, our temporality, our fallenness in no way impedes God’s desire for us. Like the bowl the Lord sees the glint of the gold in its brokenness, a glimpse of the eternal in the fragile clay, and has made all things new in the most beautiful way possible. Through the incarnation of his Son in this temporal world, that through his human brokenness on the cross we may experience with him the eternity of his resurrection.


O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that with you as our ruler and guide we may so pass through things temporal that we finally lose not the things eternal…Amen.

Read Full Post »

In our lates series of An Audience with…” we welcome former Lions player and Manager Gerald Davies to the Priory Centre at 7pm on October 3rd. 


Gerald Davies CBE DL

Canon Mark Soady said,

” I grew up with Gerald as one of my Rugby heroes , and am now privileged to call him my friend. What better way can there be to celebrate the Rugby World Cup in Japan this Autumn than to spend an evening with him at the Priory.”

Gerald Davies CBE DL played international Rugby for Wales from 1966 – 1978, winning three Grand Slams. Having played in the Lions jersey five times he managed their 2009 tour of South Africa.

This former Times Rugby writer will on the night be questioned by Newsquest Production Editor, Caroline Woollard.


Gerald Davies – the player 


Previous An audience with.. guests include: Lord (Rowan) Williams of Oystermouth, Lord (Michael) Howard of Lympne, Baroness (Shirley) Williams of Crosby and Lord (David) Rowe-Beddoe. Last year we heard Roy Noble OBE talk about his life.

Proceeds from the evening  will be shared between St Mary’s Priory, Abergavenny and St Peter’s Church, Llanwenarth Citra.

Tickets can be purchased from the Tithe Barn.

Read Full Post »

For the past nine months  Jez Thomas and Fr Tom have been working on a project that tells the story of the Gospels through art and poetry

Nine of the paintings are now finished and are on display at St Mary’s and Jez has made a start on the next two.

He says:

I may have been fortunate enough to talk to you about it during the Lenten services.

Here is a little update and a few things that you may like to look for when studying the paintings.

You will notice that the themes of fire and water are significant throughout; sometimes the images will show fire ‘becoming’ water and vice-versa, challenging our perceptions of physical reality and echoing stories found throughout the Bible.

Also, look for the thirty pieces of silver that are in each image; the ‘blood money’ that was paid to Judas, which was so necessary to fulfil the earthly role of The Christ. The significance of an all-powerful God, that became the ‘loser God’, the ‘tortured God’, the ‘sacrificial God’ and of course, the ‘Human God’ for the mere price of a bag of silver is beyond comprehension.

… a demonstration of love in the truest and most perfect sense.


Lots of people have commented upon the ‘Nativity’ painting, but have you  looked closely enough to see the angels in the clouds? Have you found Golgotha inthe image of the Baptism of Jesus? And seen the bubbles that capture His breath? The dove in the clouds? Or the ichthys symbols within the waves that become living fish in the ‘miraculous catch?’

Note also how the sail on ‘The Calming of the Storm’ image bellows away from Jesus, as does rain, for “Even the winds and the waves obey him!” The images are full of symbolism, metaphor and hidden details.


I do hope that you are enjoying the project so far. If you have any comments, suggestions or queries, then please do feel free to contact me… it is always good to get feedback!

If you want to get in touch email: jezthomasart@gmail.com

Read Full Post »

Twenty Years ago today HRH The Prince of Wales became Patron of the St Mary’s Priory Development Trust. To mark the occassion we are publishing some photos of the last 20 years.


Sir Trefor Morris, Chairman of the St Mary’s Priory Development Trust,  thanked HRH for the support we have recieved over two decades:

“His Royal Highness’s understanding, involvement  and advice have been invaluable in our developoment projects here at St Mary’s. I would like to pay particular tribute to HRH’s work on the protection of the  Environment, which we have tried to emulate.”

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »