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In one of her first acts, the new Bishop of Monmouth has appointed our People’s  Warden, Caroline Woollard as a Lay Canon of the Cathedral.
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As he stands down this month as a Canon, Fr Mark explains:
“ After nearly 100 years of its existence the Cathedral Chapter recently lobbied the Governing Body of the Church in Wales  to allow the appointment of Lay Canons, this change will come in to force in April.
The Chapter recognised that it would be useful to draw on the skills of Lay people in the Diocese to help mange and develop the life of the Mother Church of the Diocese. Caroline will bring to the table immense skills in the field of communication, as well as administration and human resources.
 Caroline, congratulations!- you will be a great asset to the Cathedral.”
Caroline will be Installed at the Cathedral at Evensong on Palm Sunday.

 

A number of events have been announced as being hosted at the Priory in May and June.

MAY

1st Jesus College, Oxford 450th Anniversary Event. More details 

8th Abergavenny Town VE Day Party from 3pm in the Prince of Wales’  & Priory Courtyards. The Priory Bells will ring out at 7pm.

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13th Bishop of Monmouth’s Visitation to the Abergavenny Deanery. Service at 7.30pm

 

JUNE

6th Priory Sessions Concert: Eric Bell Trio and others  (50th Anniversary of Thin Lizzie)

15th & 16th Art Exhibition.

20th Friend of Friendless Churches Year of Pilgrimage walking Pilgrimage  Art+Christianity starts and ends at the Priory. 4.30pm Vespers and 5pm Tour of the Priory.

27th Book Festival hosted by Matthew Butler MVO

Our Vicar, Canon Mark Soady preaching on The Feast of Candlemas  – two days after BREXIT – said that the hoped we would not be like the Judges in the Old Testament, but would be welcoming to all comers.

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The Candlemas window pain, North Transept of St Mary’s Priory Church

Lift up your heads, you gates;
be lifted up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
Who is this King of glory?
The Lord strong and mighty,
the Lord mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads, you gates;
lift them up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
Who is he, this King of glory?
The Lord Almighty—
he is the King of glory.

PSALM 24

He said:

I have learnt that the old King Henry VIII Grammar School had two houses. Oppidan was for the town’s folk.  Rustican was for those from the country. Such a division is not peculiar to this town or to the Grammar School era.

In the days before Christ, normally the gates of Jerusalem and other cities in Israel would be open and those who lived and farmed in the surrounding countryside could enter the cities with their produce to sell. When the Judges, as the rulers of the day were called, knew they were about to be invaded by the army of their enemies the city gates were closed.

Prior to the gates being closed the Judges sitting  in the gateway would decide who could come in to take sanctuary in the city and who could not. Although the rural dwellers provided the provisions for the city dwellers to be able to live through a siege, they were not allowed to take refuge in the City, because extra mouths would be needed to be fed.

Psalm 24  speaks of the shame of the Judges who sat in the gateways, their heads hung in shame because they excluded their fellow Jews from the sanctuary of their city.

As we leave the European Union, I hope that we in Britain will not close the gate and pull up the draw bridge on our fellow human beings who need sanctuary ……especially not because we are worried about them taking our homes and our jobs.

On This Feast of Candlemas, it is worth remembering what Simeon prophesied of  Jesus: “This child is destined for the falling and rising of many”.  As Jesus came to turn norms upside down, so we his followers need to stand up for the less fortunate in the world.

I pray we will do that rather than closing the metaphorical gates on them.

@frsoady

PALM SUNDAY

8am Blessing of Palms & Holy Eucharist

9.30am Blessing of Palms & Family Eucharist

11am Blessing of Palms, Procession & Sung Eucharist

6pm Evensong & Sermon

 

Holy Monday & Holy Tuesday,

8.30am Holy Eucharist

5pm Stations of the Cross

8pm Choral Compline and Reflection

 

Holy Wednesday

10am Holy Eucharist

5pm Stations of the Cross

8pm Tenebrae by the Ethelbert Consort

 

Maundy Thursday 9th April

8.15am Lauds

12pm Midday Prayer

4.30pm Vespers

5pm Stations of the Cross

7pm Triduum Part 1: Mass of the Lord’s Supper, Stripping of the Altars.

9pm-midnight Watch of the Passion (St Joseph Chapel)

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Good Friday, April 10th

9am Stations of the Cross (Christchurch)

Ecumenical Walk of Witness and Service at Castle Street URC

2pm Triduum Part 2:  Liturgy of the Day

7pm Sacred Concert The Hour Is Come by Sullivan

 

Holy Saturday 11th April

8pm Solemn Vigil of Easter with Paschal Fire and renewal of Baptismal Vows

 

 

Details of Ash Wednesday Services and Lent Study programme have been announced 

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Our Artist-in-Residence, Jeremy Thomas’ depiction of the Temptation

ASH WEDNESDAY (February 26th)

10am Ashing & Holy Eucharist (said)

6.30m Ashing & Sung Eucharist

STUDY COURSE

Wednesdays during Lent, we are studying the Pilgrim Course:

Church & Kingdom (The final evening of the course will take place on Tuesday March 31st, to allow us to go to Fr Mark’s Induction in Lancashire)

  • Praying through life;
  • At Home and at Work;
  • Living Generously;
  • In all my relationships;
  • Confronting injustices;
  • Treading lightly on the earth.

Lent Godly Play Session

Saturday, February 29th at 3pm

Diocesan Event 

God who speaks with the Diocesan Spirituality Team in the Priory Centre at 7pm on Tuesday, February 4th in preparation for Lent

 

 

This weekend we have welcomed the Bishop of our twin Diocese of the Highveld, hosted the Abergavenny Council of Churches Prayers for Christian Unity and the Monmouthshire Holocaust Memorial Day Service. 

Bishop of the Highveld’s visit 

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Bishop Charles (right) was impressed by the work of Jez Thomas (Left)

On Friday we welcomed Bishop Charles, from our twin Diocese of the Highveld

Although it was Bishop Charles first visit to the Priory Church, both his predecessors have visited and our Prior visited the Highveld nine years ago.

During his visit the Holywell Community  entertained the Bishop and his entourage to Tea, during which they shared with him news of our work and prayer life. He toured the church stopping to spend time studying the paintings of our Artist-in-Residence, Jez Thomas.

The Bishop then joined us for Adoration of the Sacrament and Benediction. Read more.

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

Saturday afternoon Christians from all the denominations in the town gathered at the Priory Church to pray for greater unity in the church. The service involved readers from across the Christian churches taking part. You can read Fr Tom’s Sermon in full here.

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Holocaust Memorial Day

On this the 75th Anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz we hosted the Monmouthshire Holocaust Memorial Day Service here this afternoon.

The event was attended by local school children, HM’s Lord Lieutenant and High Sheriff, the Chairmen of Carmarthenshire and Gloucestershire County Councils as well as the Mayor of Abergavenny.

Passages were read by pupils of King Henry VIII Comprehensive School and Llanfoist Primary School. While pupils form Our Lady and St Michael’s RC School enacted Pastor Martin Niemoeller Poem First the came for… Pastor Neimoeller was himself a victim of the Nazis.

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Speaking at Yad Vashem last Thursday our Royal Patron HRH The Prince of Wales said:

“The Holocaust must never be allowed to become simply a fact of history: we must never cease to be appalled, nor moved by the testimony of those who lived through it. Their experience must always educate, and guide, and warn us.”

Speaking at the Abergavenny Council of Churches’ Service of Prayers for Unity  Fr Tom, Associate Priest and Sub Prior reminded us that ‘the opposite of faith is not doubt. The opposite of faith is certainty, and from that certainty comes fundamentalism.’ 

 

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The address in full

Almighty God who caused the light of the Gospel to shine throughout the world through the preaching of your servant Saint Paul: grant that we who celebrate his wonderful conversion may follow him in bearing witness to your truth. Amen

I wonder whether you when you were children would long for it to snow? I certainly did. Nowadays I find it a bit of an inconvenience, but as a child there was this real air of expectation and plenty to be excited about. Predominantly of course, living in the countryside the ancient school heating would inevitably pack up and people would be unable to travel, so school would be closed for the day. Brilliant!

However at this time of year, when everything is dark and brown and muddy there is something amazing about waking up on those days and sensing even before you open the curtains that the light beyond them is different, and you pull back those curtains and see that the dark brown sludgyness has been replaced by a gleaming white blanket of snow. All those things which have become familiar and irksome suddenly have a new life and interest. The simple jobs, chores of everyday are no longer boring because you are doing them in the snow, and I remember being filled with a curiosity as to what the places we visited were like in the snow and how they would be changed. And so I would spend the day with my friends going around the village to see what our everyday hideouts looked like when transformed by a vesture of white.

Sometimes life deals us a hand which can suddenly change our outlook. I’m sure you can all think of a phone call, or a conversation which has unexpectedly changed you in some way, and made you view life differently. Perhaps it changed the way you feel about something or someone. Perhaps it closed a ‘door’ and opened a ‘window’ you’d never even considered looking through. Like the snow it may disrupt our day as an inconvenience, or it may captivate us with its mysterious beauty.

Today the church commemorates the conversion of St Paul whose life as Saul was so certain, yet as Paul today we hear about shipwreck, uncertainty and living at the mercy of God. Perhaps his conversion could be likened to the first century equivalent of Richard Dawkins becoming the Archbishop of Canterbury, or the Pope or something like that.  Saul’s life changed  in a flash of light.  He was committed to his course: the harsh extermination of the early church, but rather like pulling back those curtains on a snow morning, he is stopped in his tracks by that bright light.

Today marks the culmination of Week of prayer for Christian Unity; that week when we are asked to consider and pray for the Body of Christ on earth, that we may be united, drawn together in our intention of witnessing to and manifesting the Gospel. Paul, or Saul as he then was, wants not only the persecution of that body, he wants it’s complete destruction, when Jesus, the head of that body, resurrected, living and breathing in and through it, speaks to him in person:

‘Saul, saul, why do you persecute me?’, and Saul the terror of Christians becomes blind and helpless as a newborn baby, for as we know ‘those who do not accept the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it’. In a matter of seconds his life is turned upside down and will never be the same again. He will become one of the church’s most ardent apostles writing and travelling all over the Mediterranean, putting his life on the line for the same Christ whom he persecuted. In our readings just now we heard of shipwreck, being bitten by a snake, being at the mercy of those in a foreign land and of how through grace he experiences their unusual kindness.

I don’t know whether you have a moment in your life, an epiphany if you will, that you can describe as your conversion. There are people who can tell you the time, day and year that they became a Christian, but there is perhaps the danger of focusing so much reliving one’s birth into this way of life that one can forget to focus on bringing it to maturity. Others of us who were raised in the church can doubtless remember a time when Jesus asked us ‘who do you say that I am?’ as we own our faith for ourselves for the first time. However in my experience this is not a one off event. Christ keeps asking that question because everytime we choose Christ we say ‘yes’ to his transforming presence in our lives. In this sense, every day is a snow day, when we can see our daily lives transformed by the power of Christ if only we will say ‘yes’ to him.

A wise man, one of my tutors and an inspiring priest once said that ‘the opposite of faith is not doubt. The opposite of faith is certainty, and from that certainty comes fundamentalism.’ The type of fundamentalism that has been responsible for IS, the Taliban, Al Qaeda and all kinds of terrorist groups who are so certain of what they believe that other people, their beliefs and the sanctity of human life become subject to their certainty with catastrophic results. Perhaps Saul could be described as a fundamentalist whose certainty in his conviction is shaken in his encounter with the risen Christ.

Paul was chosen by God for the powerful and unique witness he could bring, and Jesus tells the other apostles ‘You did not choose me, but I chose you.’

We can be grateful for the grace that is revealed through faith not being opposed to doubt as it means that every day God is gracious enough to allow us to choose him again. Every day we are given the gift of saying ‘yes’ to Christ once more, and every day we are free to receive that conversion in our lives.

 

 

Every day is a ‘snow day’ when we can see the world transformed in the dazzling light of Jesus. Every day we as Christians are being converted again as we choose him, even as we seek to be reunited with him through word and sacrament, and in our bond to one another.