Looking forward to our new year

Now that we are reruting for new members to join the Holywell Community we are starting to think about our new year.

We are very pleased that the founder Abbot of Mucknell Abbey, Rt Revd Br Stuart OSB will be the preacher at our Commissioning Service on Sunday, August 11th at 11am at St Mary’s Priory Church, Abergavenny.

A week later Bishop Dominic Walker OGS will lead our Retreat at the Convent of the Sisters of Jesus Way on the Wirral.

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Preaching to the Choir

On Friday nights the Choir’s trebles sing Vespers and are given a short homily. The following is from Br Josh, reflecting on their singing of Psalm 73:23-26:

“Yet I am always with you
you hold me by my right hand.
You will guide me with your counsel
and afterwards receive me with glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing upon earth that I desire
in comparison with you.
Though my flesh and my heart fail me
God is the strength of my heart
and my portion for ever.”

When I was younger I was very snobbish about music. I’m still a bit of a snob, but I’m slowly getting better.

I hope that you don’t suffer from the same problem that I do. You’re all excellent musicians and you obviously care a lot about your music, so you would have an excuse!

One kind of Christian music which I really did not like when I was a teenager is what sometimes gets called “Jesus is my boyfriend” music. You might have heard some if you’ve ever attended Christian youth events or perhaps at worship services in other churches.

It’s goes something like: “oh, oh, oh I need you, I need you, I need you” or “I want to feel your warm embrace”, or whatever. One song even has the line “heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss”.

You wouldn’t need much to turn some of these songs into non-Christian love songs. Because of this, I was quite cynical about the people who really liked them: ‘they don’t care about Jesus, what they really want is a boyfriend. Gross.’ I on the other hand was a good strong non-sentimental Christian.

Now no matter what you think of how good the kind of music I’m talking about is (and I still don’t like it!). I was being a terrible snob. But much worse, I was being a terrible Christian!

What many of the fans of these worships songs see, and what I failed to fully grasp, is that love of God is something like the love of another person.

Thankfully, you don’t need contemporary worship bands to have access to this idea. It runs throughout the Psalm you’ve just sang and in most of the Psalms you sing on Sundays.

God, through Jesus, can be thought of as (in verse 23) holding your hand, (in verse 24) giving you advice and welcoming you home, (in verse 25) as more important to you than anything else on earth, and (in verse 26) as someone who you can rely on no matter what happens to you in your life.

Thinking that God is worth more than anything else doesn’t mean that you should think any less of the other people and things in your life. In fact, rather than bring other things down, you can think of other things as bringing God up. Every time you experience something good, your idea of what God is can expand. God is, almost by definition, the best thing and every new experience of a good thing can help us to grow our idea of what the best thing is like.

Finally, one other thing which runs through the Psalms is the idea that God is always with us. And this is one way that God is different from anyone or anything else. Everything in our world can break, but God is not like that. This means that we can rely on God to be there no matter what happens.

Anyway, all this doesn’t make me want to sing modern “Jesus is my boyfriend” songs. I’d much rather listen to you singing the Psalms. But it does make me regret how condescending I was to my fellow Christians when I was an teenager. These ideas also help me to engage with the Psalms when I read them. I hope you will find them useful as well.

Alumni Reflections (2): Joanna

I came to the Holywell Community a year after graduating university, having spent a year working in university administration, and beginning to explore my sense of vocation in the Church. At this time I thought that I might have a call to the Religious Life, but I wasn’t yet sure, and wanted some time to reflect, grow in my faith, and examine the different options available to me. My university chaplain passed this email on to me, and after visiting the community, I decided to move to Abergavenny and take a step forward on my vocational journey. 
My year in Abergavenny gave me the opportunity to live in a Christian community, and explore what that might mean, in all its blessings and challenges. Working alongside clergy, lay readers, lay leaders and leaders from other denominational backgrounds gave me a chance to reflect on what areas of ministry I might be called to, and to step outside of my comfort zone. Over the year I helped with an ecumenical youth outreach centre, helped lead a toddler group, preached at Evensong, gave talks on life in community, learnt to make a decent cup of coffee, and much more! The support of the community and the time to pray built into the monastic rhythm of our life gave me time to think about my own journey, and led me to joining a traditional Anglican Religious Community as an Alongsider, and more recently as a Postulant. 
Spending time in a new monastic community isn’t just for those who think they might be called to the Religious Life, or even to the Priesthood (although it’s a great way to explore those options.) Previous members of the Holywell Community have gone on to a diverse range of careers, and different ways of serving the Church. Spending a year living in Christian community and having the joy of talking about my faith every day was transformational for me, and I’m very thankful for the support of the Anglican parishes of Abergavenny and the Holywell Community on my journey. 

Joanna Postulant SSC (2017/18) is now at Ty Mawr Convent


ASH WEDNESDAY SERMON

The Holywell Community attend the Ashing and Holy Eucharist at Holy Trinity Church Baker Street Abergavenny this morning. During the Service the NS Asst. Curate Fr. Jeff Pearce called us to prepare for renewal.

Fr Jeff’s Sermon in Full:

During this season of Lent we are invited to prepare our hearts and lives for renewal. In our Collect, we asked God, who hates nothing He has made, to create and make in us new and contrite hearts.

Biologists regard the heart as a pump which circulates blood around the body. But we can also regard it as a driving force from which spring our thoughts, our actions, our choices, and our words. So it is a right and good and challenging and ultimately joyful thing during this season of Lent if we carry out some cleaning, pruning, and general sorting out of our lives.

The renewal of our hearts begins in this service with two important steps:

Firstly, our foreheads are marked with ashes – the dust of the earth, as a reminder of our fragility and our complete dependence upon God, the God who hates nothing He has made, the God who loves us completely because we are His very own.

Secondly together we confess our sins and receive God’s pardon.  

Then we are invited and indeed challenged to leave this service to continue the work of preparing our new hearts. The good news is that we have the sure, certain and steady presence of a loving and forgiving God to be with us and to give us guidance and encouragement through the Holy Spirit as we take on this challenge.

A primary part of Lenten renewal is repentance. Another word for today’s Collect’s “contrite” heart is a repentant heart.

So what is repentance?

Firstly, repentance is active, not passive.  Lent is not a season to sit back and let Jesus do all the work. 

Secondly, repentance is about renewal. It is not about wallowing in guilt or shame, fixating on failures, wrongdoings and mistakes – in other words about looking backwards – but about moving forward and making a new start.

Thirdly, repentance is about repair. It is about working with God to repair anything that is broken or that is wrong in our own hearts and lives, and anything that we have broken in the lives of others.

Finally, repentance is about restoration – about healing, moving through and beyond pain, awkwardness and brokenness to restored relationships with God, with ourselves, with anyone else amongst our family and friends and with those we meet in our daily lives. 

Lent gives us the opportunity to repent – to achieve our own redemption and renewal. We can seek God’s help in some form of positive action to take steps to renew and repair our lives. The way in which we do this will vary for each one of us.

We may feel the need to limit or give up something. If we do, we may wish to ask God to help us not to numb any discomfort, but to fill it with something that continues to contribute to our well-being and the well-being of those around us.

But Lent is also about taking something up. Consequently we may choose to take on a new activity, such as attending a Lent group or reading one of the many Lenten themed books which are available. Whatever we take on, it is important that we give it sufficient time to obtain the peace, contemplation and self-examination which are part of Lent.

May we all have a Holy, Blessed and fulfilling Lent – one of repentance: one of renewal, one of repair, and one of restoration.

Do you want to join us this Summer?

We are now starting to recruit for the new Community year starting in August.

Are you perhaps thinking what you might do for a year or two after college or wanting to give a year to God?

For more information

What our Alumni say

Br Adrian and Sam

“During my time in the community I discovered a love of youth and kids work and I developed a deep appreciation of liturgical worship. Both of which I have carried into my training and continued to develop.

I loved living in community, it shaped how I think about Church, and the rhythm of the offices, prayer then food then work and back to prayer, I hope these are things I can bring to my future ministry”

Samuel Patterson, Founder member and Ordinand , who God willing will be Ordained Deacon this Peteretide


“Being part of the Holywell Community was a great privilegefor me.  Having come from a career in pharmaceuticals and not having the opportunity to properly discern my vocation to the church, the year offered the opportunity to take time out, to reflect and to test various aspects of both priestly ministry and the Religious life under the Rule of St Benedict.  


It was through the daily rhythm of the monastic office, through the psalms seeping their wisdom into me, and living life in common in community that began to draw me towards the monastic path.  The Community then allowed me to take periods away to test that calling further.  I don’t think I would be at Mucknell Abbey now living the Benedictine life if it hadn’t been for my time in the Holywell Community gently nudging me in that direction and this along with the lifetime friends I’ve made in the process made the time very worthwhile and an experience I will always hold dear.”

Br Adrian nOSB is a Novice at Mucknell Abbey and was with us during 2015/16

If its Tuesday – it must be Parents and Toddlers Group

Each Tuesday morning in Term Time the Community leads a parent and Toddler group called Littlefootprints at Holy Trinity Church Hall.

Most of the morning is free time for parents to chat over tea/coffee and biscuits ( fair trade of course!) while the toddlers play with a range of toys suitable for 0 – 4. Mid way through the morning snacks of toast, apple and banana with a soft drink are provided for the toddlers and provided by ladies of the parish.

Dewi making an autumn leaf mobile

Each week there is a craft for the older children linked to the theme of the week.

Recently we ‘ve made

  • little candle holders for Candlemas
  • marked Chinese New Year
  • Snow men cakes
  • Poppies
  • Doves
  • Bird feeders

Each session ends with a story on the the theme of the week and action songs.

The new Abergavenny Gospels – and our schools work this term

As part of the Abergavenny Anglican Churches initiative Proclaiming it afresh, our work in Cantref School this Term is based around the Parables.

Books on the parables donated by the Church to Cantref School

Br Seb said:

“We are explaining the message behind the parables, the messages are sometimes about acceptance, trust and helping others. I think it helps the children understand Jesus a bit better by telling them parables stories with examples of what actions and inactions can lead to. “

This sharing of the parables with the pupils will develop into the pupils re-writing the parables in their own words and creating the Abergavenny Gospels

Br Seb preparing a School Assembly

This project is the idea of our Sub Prior Fr Tom, he explains:

“We believe that children of all faiths and none have a right to these stories which belong to all people in the art, literature, and culture of our shared heritage. In inviting the children to engage with these stories creatively we are excited to see what they will teach us as they engage in activities which will provide opportunities for multi-disciplinary growth and development.”

This multi disciplinary project will cover :

  • Religious Studies
  • Personal social
  • Literacy
  • Art

Detail of our hopes for the project

Juniors: An attractive piece of work which is a written retelling of one of the featured parables from each child’s unique perspective (this could be, for example, retelling the story in a particular genre or as a news report, play or comic strip). The children will apply the lesson of the parable in settings of their own choosing and could work individually or in groups to suit the needs of each class. At the conclusion of the project, the work will become a part of ‘Parables of Abergavenny’ book to be displayed at St Mary’s Priory for the public to see.

Infants: An attractive piece of work which is a pictorial retelling of a scene from one the featured parables from each child’s unique perspective, displayed with an explanatory caption. At the conclusion of the project, the work will become a part of ‘Parables of Abergavenny’ to be displayed at St Mary’s Priory for the public to see.