Archive for November, 2019

During December & January St Mary’s Priory will be one stop on a trail around Abergavenny arranged by MENCAP – The voice of learning disability.. The project which looks at social networks is funded by National Lottery Heritage and supported by the Welsh Government. Each point will have a audio unit on which visitors can hear oral hsitory interviews, conversations between friends and partners.
MENCAP says “ We want the public to be exposed to the lives of people with learning disabilities. To reflect on their pwn friendships and how they compare to people with learning disability”.

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St Mary’s Priory Church will host one of over 20 remembrance services which will take place across the UK, as part of a global movement to remember the unacceptable number of lives lost and broken on our roads. Those bereaved by road crashes will be joined by politicians and representatives from the emergency services. The services are also an opportunity to thank first responders, the police and medical professionals who deal daily with the traumatic aftermath of road death and injury.

The service here at 3pm on November 17th, is jointly organised with Gwent Police. Canon Mark Soady is both Vicar of St Mary’s Priory and Lead Chaplain (East) for Gwent Police.


Road deaths and injuries are sudden, violent, traumatic events, often with a lifelong and life changing impact. Each year, millions of newly injured and bereaved people from every corner of the world are added to the countless millions already suffering as the result of a road crash. The burden of grief and suffering experienced is all the greater because many of the victims are young, because crashes can be prevented and because the response to road death and injury and to victims and families is often inadequate, unsympathetic, and inappropriate to the loss of life or quality of life.

The scale of the problem is such that:

  • 24 million people are killed every year globally
  • Between 20 and 50 million more suffer non-fatal injuries on the world’s roads every year
  • In Britain, 1782 were reported killed in crashes in 2018.


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Speaking at the main morning service on Remembrance Sunday at the priory Church Fr Tom Bates Sub Prior reminded us that “Remembrance: re-membering the events that happened and counting the terrible cost that was paid is what it is truly about, because if we have learnt nothing from the past then it has all been in vain. “

He said:

An 89-year-old Holocaust survivor has been assigned police guards for protection after receiving hundreds of threats.’ reported the BBC. ‘Liliana Segre, who was sent to the notorious Auschwitz death camp was subjected to a barrage of abuse and anti-Semitic hatred.’

It would be easy for us to presuppose that this piece of news was from a bygone age. Perhaps the period following the second world war. But it wasn’t. This was a news story run by the BBC, not forty or fifty years ago following on the coat tails of the Holocaust, but on their news app this week.

And what prompted this tirade of abuse? Mrs Segre called for the Italian parliament, where she is a life senator, to establish a committee to combat hatred: An extraordinary commission in Italy to combat all forms of racism, anti-Semitism, incitement to hatred and violence on ethnic and religious grounds. In short, a commission to stand up for what is fair, ethical and good and to seek to make a 21st Century European country a better and safer place for all people to live. It was this aim that made her the target of 200 hate messages per day. Not in the past, but now, in the world in which we live.

The racism that led to the Holocaust has roots stretching far back in time. It is about ethnic cleansing, greed, and fear. It’s very easy for us to look at some of the atrocities which have been committed in conflict and in times of war and say ‘how could something like THAT ever happen?’ or ‘how did people allow that to happen?’ One of the lessons that the Holocaust teaches us is never to get used to an injustice. It was the Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller who wrote:

‘First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.’

It is a warning and wake up call to all of us never to walk on by when we see injustice in life.

I’ve recently finished an excellent book by Holocaust survivor Heidi Fried in which she writes ‘An injustice is like a grain of sand in your hand; on its own , its weight may seem insignificant, but injustices have a tendency to multiply, they soon become so heavy that you can no longer bear them.’

It’s easy to see Remembrance as being about nostalgia. To look at all the uniforms we see on the Festival of Remembrance and feel sentimental. To think of Spitfires and taking pride in our national identity. To think of a time when boundaries and enemies were more obvious: an age before cyber terrorism and modern hate crimes. But to view the purpose of this weekend as purely nostalgia is to have completely missed the point.

Remembrance: re-membering the events that happened and counting the terrible cost that was paid is what it is truly about, because if we have learnt nothing from the past then it has all been in vain. Through remembrance we are standing on the shoulders of those who have gone before us and paid the price for the freedom we enjoy and the fair and ethical society we want to live in, in which nobody, regardless of their background or ability is discriminated against or diminished.

Writing specifically about the Holocaust Fried writes ‘I finally realised that I had survived so that someone could tell what happened…if no one tells the story of the Holocaust it will be forgotten, and what is forgotten may easily be repeated.’

Archbishop Desmond Tutu fought for justice for black people in apartheid South Africa, and after Apartheid he chaired the Peace and Reconciliation Commission to build a future for his country. There is a Zulu term ‘Ubuntu’ which is a sort of word for humanity. It means ‘I am made who I am, by you being who you are’. If you are homeless, if you are hungry, if you are degraded and suffering then I am diminished as a person, because who you are is a part of who I am. Suffering and hatred in our society makes us less than the people we are created to be because no man is an island: we are all bound up with one another. This is certainly something that Jesus saw and modelled in his ministry as he brought healing, wholeness and peace to those around him.


You and I are diminished by the story of Liliana Segre in the news. That such a thing can happen in our society is very frightening indeed and a cause for great shame. We are made less than the people we were created to be by the hatred and intolerance in our society. When we display racism, hatred and prejudice we diminish not only others, but ourselves and those around us, and the society we belong to which has given birth to that hatred.

Remembering is about showing we have learnt where hatred and intolerance got us in the past, and the lives it cost us, so that we never ever have to pay that cost again. Remembering is important for all who have a vital role to play in shaping the future and deciding what the society of tomorrow will be like. Even if we feel powerless there are simple things we can do like using our democratic right to vote in the election next month. We can ensure that apathy and frustration with the current political situation doesn’t allow hatred in by the back door, and have our say in what the society of tomorrow will look like. Will it be a society that learns from its mistakes, or one that keeps making them again and again? Will it be a place to live where people speak out about injustice and stand up for those who are made less than God intends them to be? Will it be a Society that remembers with honour, or forgets at its peril?




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Preaching at the 8am Holy Eucharist at the Priory Church on Remembrance Sunday, Canon Mark Soady reminded the congregation that 100 years ago HM King George V granted the Royal prefix to the Army Chaplains Department (now the RAChD) in recognition of their service in World War 1 and before, in offering pastoral and other care to those who served in the land  forces of the crown.


Fr Mark (who was a member of the RAChD until 2012)  said “In this Centenary Year is right and proper that we remember those who serve those who serve. The many hundreds of chaplains down the decades who have gone in to conflict zones unarmed to support the forces of freedom and justice”.

As part of the Centenary celebrations the Department commissioned a veteran of Afghanistan, Harry Parker to paint three images depicting three qualities of a PADRE: Sacrifice, Engagement  and Service.

Sacrifice Was depicted by a painting of PADRE Theodore Hardy the most highly decorated Army Chaplain ever (VC, DSO,MC) who was invited by King George V to became his Chaplain after he was awarded his VC in 1918, but PADRE Hardy chose to remain on the  trenches. It is said he spend a whole night in a trench comfort a soldier he knew was dying.

Engagement is depicted in a picture of Monsignor Hugh Beattie MBE engaging with civilians while deployed in Northern Island. The last PADRE to be  killed in action was Fr Gerald Weston MBE in 1972, while in Northern Island.

Service is depicted by a PADRE in a remote base in Afghanistan, experiencing the most continuously dangerous conditions.

While these three qualities related to the ministry of Army Chaplains – and for that We give thanks – they should also be the qualities which all Christian disciples should emulate. After the example of Christ the whole church should be willing to sacrifice, engage and to serve.

Fr Mark will later this morning, at 11am, lead the Abergavenny Town Act of Remembrance and at 11am on 11/xi will lead the Monmouthshire County Council Act of Remembrance at County Hall. 

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The Anglican Churches in Abergavenny have collected around 100 boxes of gifts to go off to Albania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Kosova, Moldova, Pakistan, Romania, Serbia and Ukraine in time for Christmas.

Fr Mark thanked all who contributed, and to Audrey and Anne for coordinating the collection.

When I came to Abergavenny eight years ago our total was in the sixties, so it is a valiant effort to hit the century.

We now start collecting Christmas gifts for a more local destination, as we will be giving gifts to teenagers who have recently left care with Monmouthshire County Council.

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Details of services and events over Advent & Christmas have been announced

Sunday, December 1st (Advent 1)

6pm Advent Carols: We move from East to West and from Darkness to Light as we hear God’s salvation work in music and readings.

December 2nd

7pm Gwent St John’s Ambulance Nativity & Carols Service

December 3rd

6pm Cantref School Christingle

December 6th

7pm Lovelight Concert

Saturday, December 7th

10am – 4pm: Christmas in the Courtyard: Christmas market of Made in Monmouthshire craft stalls.

 December 10th

2pm  Ysgol Cymrieg y Fenni Carols

December 11th

5pm Deri View School Christingle

December 14th

1.15pm Ecumenical Walking Nativity through the town

7pm Vision of Hope Christmas celebration

December 18th

Beer & Carols in various Public Houses in the town 7pm – 10pm

December 22nd

6pm Festival of Nine Lessons & Carols, followed by Mince Pies & Mulled Wine supplied by Abergavenny Rotary Club


Christmas Eve / Day

December 24th

4pm Christingle Service : A great family service including an interactive Nativity Play.

11.30pm Midnight Mass

December 25th

8am Holy Eucharist

11am Sung Eucharist with Carols

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