Archive for December, 2019

We look back at 2109 as the year draws to close, giving thanks to God for his blessings, and for the hours of paid and voluntary work that make all these things happen.

1&2: Rt Hon & Rt Revd Lord Williams of Oystermouth (Bishop Rowan ) being welcomed as Visitor of the Holywell Community

3: High Sheriff (Dame Claire Clancy) viewing he work of Cantref School :”The Abergavenny Parables”

4. One of the 30 Gospel scene  paintings by Jezz Thomas, Artist-in-residence

5.Br Adrian takes his simple vows

6. Fr Tom at Little Footprints Teddy Bear’s Picnic

7.Bishop Richard’s Farewell service as Bishop of Monmouth, with newly ordained Deacon Sam (Holywell Community founder member)

8. Visit of World Wide & Provincial Presidents of the Mothers Union

9. Filming for ITV on Easter Day: a visit by our French Twin Town

10. The Archbishop of Wales welcomes new Holywell Community Members

11. Arriving at Buckingham Palace for a Reception  with HM The Queen, HRH The Prince of Wales, TRHs The Duchess of Cornwall, The Dukes & Duchesses of Cambridge & Sussex, The Princess Royal, The Viscount Snowden and his sisters.

12.Br Seb sending off shoe boxes to Eastern Europe- 3 of 100 we sent

13. The Choir at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, where they were choir-in-residence for a week.

14. Feeding police cyclists

14.Easter Vigil

15/16/17/18 Lent Preachers: Liz Brown, Diane  Williams, Jezz Thomas and Cllr Sheila Woodhouse (Chair of Monmouthshire County Council 2019-20)

19. Dedicating a new Royal Welsh Association  standard


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We will host the Abergavenny Council of Churches Christian Unity Service here on Saturday afternoon, January 25th.


The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is traditionally observed from the 18th to the 25th January – the octave of St. Peter and St. Paul. However this year we will join other areas and observe the week at Pentecost, but we are additionally having this service on the Feast of the Conversion of St Paul.

On 10th February many Christians in Malta celebrate the Feast of the Shipwreck of St Paul, marking and giving thanks for the arrival of Christian faith on these islands. The reading from the Acts of the Apostles used for the feast is the text chosen for this year’s Week of Prayer.

Hospitality is a much needed virtue in our search for Christian unity. It calls us to a greater generosity to those in need. The people who showed unusual kindness to Paul and his companions did not yet know Christ, and yet it is through their unusual kindness that a divided people were drawn closer together. Our own Christian unity will be discovered not only through showing hospitality to one another, but also through loving encounters with those who do not share our language, culture or faith.

In such tempestuous journeys and chance encounters, God’s will for his Church and all people comes to fulfilment. As Paul will proclaim in Rome, this salvation of God has been sent to all peoples (see Acts 28:28).

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We will mark a number of significant Anniversaries at the Priory during the coming year, as well as marking the usual events in the Christian calendar .




On Sunday, March 29th we mark the Centenary of the Church in Wales coming in to being. The Preacher at the 11am Service will be the Archdeacon of Chichester.

In the Summer a social will be organised with the proceeds from the event going towards the Centenary Appeal. The Appeal supports Housing Justice Cymru and the Anglican Church in South Sudan.  

The Church in Wales will launch  a video showing its work as part of the Centenary celebrations, this video includes a piece on our work with Syrian refugees.


We will join in celebrations of the College’s 450th Anniversary with an event here on May 1st.

The College’s first Principal, Dr David Lewis is buried in the Priory Church.




May 8th we will host the Town’s VE Party in the Prince of Wales & Priory Courtyards from 3pm. Locals are invited to bring their own picnic and join in the Party . Entertainment will be provided by A2B.


At 7pm that evening our Bells will ring out in union with bells from across the kingdom

Fr Mark’s Farewell
We will say farewell to our Vicar Canon Mark Soady with a Farewell Eucharist at 10.30am on Sunday, March 8th. He will be licensed in his new parish at 7pm on April 1st, and a number of us will go up by bus to support him.


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In his Christmas Day sermon our Vicar Canon Mark Soady  reflected on the presents we give at Christmas and the gift of God’s son – the Ultimate gift of Love.


The gifts Fr Tom gave Fr Mark

He said: “Fr Tom give me two gifts this Christmas a smelly cheese with a cheeky reference to me in the title and  a very useful gift to help me stop loosing my keys – or at least helping me to find them when I have lost them. ”

The gift of Jesus at Christmas is the ultimate gift, it is :

  • A gift given  by God without God counting the cost of the gift.
  • A gift that is the most useful gift of all , for it is  a gift that wipes away our sins.

Fr Mark ended his sermon by asking the congregation how they will respond to this gift of love. Suggesting we may in return show love and show it in abundance – and not just at Christmas, but throughout the year.

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Canon Mark Soady looks back at a turbulent year in his Christmas message and reminds us that Jesus was born 2000 years ago in to a turbulent world.



He says: The year began with a great deal of uncertainty over Brexit. That uncertainty has caused some people extreme anxiety – there is now an official illness related to Brexit anxiety. Time will tell if that anxiety goes away as a result of the General Election.

In addition to Brexit, some of us will have had other hardships during the year. For me personally, it has been a year of change with the death of my father and the severe illness of my mother. As Anglicans we have just come through a year without a Bishop, as Bishop Richard retired in April following a period off sick.

Jesus was born in turbulent times; the Jewish people were ruled by a foreign power who did not understand their religion and customs.

The Christ child came into the world following a journey by his mother across the country to get her and her husband registered by the conquering power.

We can be sure that God empathises with is in our hardship, for in the person of his son Jesus, he has been there too. I pray that you find comfort that as God came in to a troubled world two thousand years ago to save his people, so he has been, and is, with us in our turbulent day.

January 6th will mark the eighth anniversary of the start of my ministry among you, and the time has come for me to move on to pastures new. I have been blessed by my time among you and thank God and you for 8 glorious years. I hope my ministry has been as much of a blessing to you, as you have been to me. For some, my moving on will bring with it more change and uncertainty, but in this newness God will bring new life.





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Mari McNeill, Head of the Christian Aid Office in Wales. will be our preacher at the Joint Incumbency Eucharist at 10.30am on December 29th at our daughter church of Christchurch in North Street.

The service will be around the Christian Aid Christmas Appeal which works to help mothers use their God given gifts to escape poverty.

The Vicar, Canon Mark Soady said

On this Sunday when we give thanks for the Holy Family, it is right that we focus on the important gifts and qualities God has given to all mothers.  We especially want to support those mothers who are fighting to protect and feed their children.


Mari McNeil 2.jpg

Mari is following in the footsteps of her predecessor who preached at our Joint Service on the first Sunday after Christmas some five years ago.  Mari is the head of the team and is based in the Cardiff office.  She leads the work in Wales.

Find out more about the appeal.

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Even though Fr Mark has announced his departure he is still developing the site.

In response to a request for us to provide a quiet area for prayer, our review of the use of the Priory Church has created this important area for those who come not as tourists, but as people who want to meet God in prayer.

In a separate development, we have updated our phone system on the site making it fit for purpose ongoing.

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On the last Saturday before the General Election at least two parliamentary candidates visited the Priory’s Christmas in the Courtyard. Tonight at Evensong Canon Andrew Willie in his sermon urged us not only to be prayerful about how we cast our vote on Thursday,  but also ” to love those whose views are not the same as our own. ”

Canon Willie’s  Sermon in Full

Today’s lessons for Evensong reflect the fact that among the concerns of Advent is the ministry of St. John the Baptist.  This ministry fitted some of the Jewish expectations of the forerunner of the Messiah. Curiously, the expectations were drawn fairly widely and not fully defined.  That said, John was looked upon by many of his contemporaries as the new Elijah referred to in the book of Malachi (4:5). Hence our first lesson speaks of Elijah’s dealings with the prophets of Baal.  I’m afraid that it did not give you the full story. The next verse describes how the defeated prophets of Baal were butchered. Its omission shows that because of Jesus and the love He preached our emphasis in the 21st Century is a little different.

In fact John denies that he is Elijah; he even denies that he is a prophet vaguely referred to in the book of Deuteronomy (18:18-19)  who is told to speak God’s word to the Nations. Instead, John refers to himself as a ‘voice crying in the wilderness’.  This is more significant than superficially seems to be the case.

The book of Isaiah witnesses to the sayings of two different prophets.  The first at the time of King Heziakia writes before the exile and speaks of a Messiah as a great leader who will save the Jewish Nation.  The second, sometimes called Isaiah of the Exile, speaks of the return of the Jews from Babylon and has as his key figure a Suffering Servant.  John quotes from near the beginning of the work of Isaiah of the Exile (40:3) talking of ‘a voice crying in the wilderness’  and later speaks of a Suffering Servant rather than a military leader.  He thus shows the sort of person that Jesus will be.

The tension between being a military leader and being a Suffering Servant was with Jesus all his ministry.  It was certainly there at The Temptations when He totally rejected the idea of being a great military leader and failing to fulfil expectations, inevitably became a Suffering Servant.  

For us, the expectation is that Jesus will one day return to judge a world in melt-down.  When he does so, there will be no forerunner to warn the world of what is happening.

The world is constantly threatened by mismanagement by human beings, mismanagement in terms of war and of a vanity which makes us feel we can handle situations when we can’t.  Currently we are threatened by the phenomenon of global warming. It is in our hands to stop it with God’s guidance and help.  

This coming Thursday, we go to polling stations to elect a new parliament.  We need to be very prayerful. We need also to love those whose views are not the same as our own.  It was very strange, but soon after I was ordained two people independently spoke to me of politics within three days of each other.  One said you cannot be a Christian and a Conservative: the other that you can’t be a Christian and a Socialist. They were both very wrong.  We are meant to see that our Christian influence needs to be spread throughout society and its political parties.  

That said, I am very worried about a recent statement by President Putin.  What he said was this; that liberal democracy was dead and being replaced by a new populism.  Populism was what led to the French and Russian Revolutions. It was also behind Hitler’s rise to power and the absolute wickedness of many of his policies.  My wife and I went and looked at an exhibition of what Hitler called ‘Degenerate Art’ produced in the Weimar Republic. He used this approach to attack Jewish artists such as Hans Feibusch who escaped to this country from Germany, and so avoided the Holocaust.  Feibusch went on to decorate churches and cathedrals and his one secular work is the beautiful mural in Newport Civic Centre.

The trouble with populism is that it leaves no room for meditative consideration of problems before God.  It encourages people to go with the crowd. Hence when Jesus went into Jerusalem that first Palm Sunday he was seen as a Messiah in the old sense to make Israel great again.  When the crowd understood that he was not going to do this, they shouted for his crucifixion. As for the authorities, those of the Temple connived at his death and the Roman Governor handled the situation badly.  Instead of recognising the religious truth which Jesus embodied, all he could do was ask cynically, ‘what is truth?’

We need this Thursday as we cast our votes prayerfully to consider the teaching of Jesus, and to realise that if we wish to make our country great, we must also strive to make it morally good and with regard to the proper tolerance of a liberal democracy in which all people respect the rights of others as much as they respect their own.



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As well as celebrating Christmas with services in the Priory Church we will spend December taking out the Good News.

Carols in our Care Homes

Sunday afternoon (December 8th) at Avenue Road Nursing Home at 3pm, followed by the Holywell Community hosting mulled wine and mince pies at Holy Trinity Vicarage with more carol singing with the Almshouse residents.

Sunday, December 15, there will be carol singing at Cantref Care Home, Brecon Road, at 3pm and Belmont Road Care Home at 4pm.

Ecumenical Walking Nativity

Meeting at the Salvation Army Hall, Victoria Street on Saturday, December 14, at 1.15pm we will  walk to St Mary’s Prior, ad-libbing the story of the Nativity as we go. Christians from across the town will be  dressed as any of the characters in the story, or just warmly. We will be joined by donkeys from Vision of Hope.

Christmas Carol Walks:

Starting at Holy Trinity Church on Wednesday December 18, at 6.30pm to sing carols through the town outside pubs and restaurants. The walk will end in the Hen & Chicks.

Christmas Gifts

Having sent 100 shoe boxes  full of gifts off to Pakistan and Easter Europe, we are now collecting for teenagers in Monmouthshire who have recently come out of care.


Brother Seb with some of the 100 shoe boxes

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It has been announced today our Vicar, Canon Mark Soady, will  be leaving us for a parish in Lancashire in March next year.

Fr Mark will become Rector of Tarleton and Rufford (subject to the usual health & legal checks) in the Bishop of Burnley’s Episcopal area in the Diocese of Blackburn. The living is under the patronage of St Peter’s College, Oxford.

In a separate development Fr Mark, Outgoing Prior of the Holywell Community, has been appointed Secretary to the Committee of Anglican Religious Communities in England.

Fr Mark said:

On the Feast of the Epiphany (January 6th) I will have served as your Vicar for eight years – the longest I have been living and working anywhere as an adult. There is never a good time to move and I shall be sad to leave Abergavenny, but it will be good for me to have new challenges , and for you to be challenged by my successor in different ways. In this way we will grow and deepen our faith.


Commenting on the news NSM Curate Fr Jeff said:

We shall miss Fr Mark’s example of dedication and hard work, to say nothing of his preaching. His sermons are always brief, but often contain a challenge to the listener. Although clearly a busy man, he always finds time to give comfort, support and guidance to those who require it.

A deeply spiritual Priest, his greatest achievement here has been his founding of the Holywell Community. The setting up of the Community required vision, and an ability to plan, organise and to obtain financial support.

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