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

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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.


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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.

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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.

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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

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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.”

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Speaking at his Farewell Eucharist as Bishop of Monmouth held at St Mary’s Priory, The Rt Revd Richard Pain asked the congregation ” Why are you attending church or involved in some community work or outreach?  The core motive of service is grounded in love.”



Text in full:

What I like about some scenes of St. John’s gospel  is how you feel that you are sort of listening in on a very intimate conversation. And you know it’s ok because you are supposed to be listening in  because it includes you as well.  So Jesus and Peter talking about the next step in Peter’s ministry is really personal and yet it is for all of us and we also know the outcome.  Jesus challenges Peter and we know Peter will come good. He will clearly show that he loves Jesus, even to death.  Both Jesus and Peter die for love.

The scene is particularly associated with clerical ministry but is appropriate for all Christians.  As Christians we need to ensure that our motives are right.  Why are you attending church or involved in some community work or outreach?  The core motive of service is grounded in love.

As I reach the end of this particular path of ministry as your Bishop I am reminded that when I have served well it is by living in love and when I failed, which I definitely have, it is when I am motivated by all the things that diminish love.  But this is not just a personal reflection, it applies to all of us in the church. When the church fails it does so when it no longer has that conversation with Jesus, where he asks everyday- do you love me?  The conversation is at the essence of relationship with God and with each other and ourselves. 

So, let’s move it up a step.  When has anyone felt ostracised, unwelcome or not listened to when they have experienced genuine love?  Of course not. All our mission programs, all our community projects won’t mean a thing unless they are grounded in love.  But, and this is the key observation, when they are grounded in Christ’s love.  You see Jesus did not challenge Peter to be a nice chap and get along with everyone, like a salesman. He didn’t say just love, he made it deeply personal, love me.

I’ve spent my whole Christian life trying to fathom out what he means.   Remember where this conversation is being recorded.  In John’s gospel and John always sees the wider view.  The universal cosmic view.  It is Jesus Christ, the son of God who asks, not just a rabbi.  And the answer will have universal significance for from it the catholic, the global church will germinate and take root. 


Richard Rohr, in his new book The Universal Christ makes the important note that our faith has not only liberated us personally, it allows us to participate in God’s restoration of a broken world. Feed my sheep. Nourish my sheep.  Faith at its essential core, is accepting that you are accepted. We cannot deeply know ourselves without also knowing the one who made us and we cannot fully accept ourselves without accepting God’s radical acceptance of every part of us. 

But none of this really makes any sense until you realise that this love of God is the DNA of the universe.  Which can make us all relax!  We don’t have to defend, put boundaries up or judge through our survival mechanism. For our deeply personal God is also the God in all things and is the flow of the universe.  Jesus the Christ. Now this is not just sentimental talking.  To be loved by Jesus enlarges our heart capacity. To be loved by the Christ enlarges our mental capacity for we need both a Jesus and a Christ to get the full picture. A fully transformative God for both the individual and history needs to be experienced as personal and universal.

And this is what we gather from this encounter with Jesus and Peter and it sets up the relationship of the church with God and the world.  It is clear that Peter is chosen as the chief apostle because he’s most like us. He’s human, he makes mistakes, he thinks he is better and stronger than he really is and he lets Jesus and his friends down all the time. Sounds familiar?  It certainly sounds like my ministry!  

So the question Jesus asks Peter is a learning curve. Do you love me?  Then be like me and do the Father’s  work. And what is that?  Jesus came to show us how to be human much more than to be spiritual and the process is still in its early stages!  (ff Richard Rohr).  Our spirituality is to help us imaginatively, creatively and honestly to become human. Spirituality is like the first cup in the morning that makes a human being again.  

So as I finish as your Bishop I ask you to continue the mission to be people in Christ.  To see Christ in others and also to see their humanity in Christ.  Our mission is simply to accept others as Christ accepted Peter, Paul , Richard and you.  And then in acceptance to allow others to become themselves in Christ, to trust, accompany and help.  And then we can say, yes Lord, I love you. 

May God bless us all.

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Details of Tomorrow’s Farewell Service for Bishop Richard have been announced.

The Priory’s Director of Music, Tim Pratt has written a new motet to be sung during the Administration of Holy Communion based on words from the Gospel:

Simon son of John do you love me more than these ?” he said to him “Yes Lord; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said to him “Feed my lambs”, “Tend my Sheep” , “Feed my sheep”

Other music will include the Hymns: Lord who in thy perfect wisdom, Lift  High the Cross and How shall I sing that Majesty.

Bishop Richard will lead the service and Preach.


The Lessons at the Service will be read by Nick Ramsay AM and Diocesan Secretary, Dr Paul Glover. The Deacon of the Mass, will be the newly ordained Revd Samuel Patterson, whose sending parish is Abergavenny.

There will be  over 450 guests at the service which will include  clergy and laity from across the diocese; as well as  the High Sherrif , Immediate- past Lord Lieutenant, Chairman of Monmouthshire County Council, The Rt Worshipful The Mayor of Newport and the MP for Monmouth.

The service will conclude with Bishop Richard ‘laying up’ the Diocesan Crozier a symbolic sign that his ministry as Diocesan Bishop has ended. Although Bishop Richard formally retired as Bishop of Monmouth at the end of April the Archbishop of Wales has given permission for him to use the Diocesan Crozier for this service.

The final act of the service will see Canon  Mark Soady pray the Celtic Blessing over Bishop Richard, surrounded by the Diocesan Clergy.

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