Good news from our Alumni

Over the past two days we have heard some exciting news about our Alumni Joanna and Adrian.

Br Adrian , left, with Deacon Sam

Following on from the news that Joanna SSC is to became a Novice at the Ty Mawr Convent is the news that the Chapter at Mucknell Abbey have agreed to Br Adrian nOSB taking his first vows. This news follows the Ordination this Summer of Sam to the Diaconate

Welcoming the news the Prior, Fr Mark said

“As we go in to Retreat as a Community it was very uplifting to hear this wonderful news that our brother and sister are progressing in their vocation. Many congratulations and blessings from us all at Holywell.”

Prayers for Adrian & Joanna in the Chapel at Redacre Convent by the Community on Retreat


The First fortnight of the new Community

Much of our first week was taken up with Induction, being introduced to the various policies under which we operate and to the working of the site. All boring stuff you may think, but essential for good and safe working practices.

Church Warden Caroline Woollard taking us through the Policy File

We also had three sessions of training normally offered by the Church in Wales to Pastoral Assistants, as we learn to engage with the wider Christian Community in Abergavenny.

On Saturday of the first week we joined the Annual Fr Ignatius Pilgrimage from Llantony Abbey up the the Valley to the site of his Monastery. After Mass at St David’s Church, Llantony and lunch there is the walk to Capel Y Ffin for Evensong and then solemn procession to the Monastery. Fr Ignatius was one of the pioneers of the Anglican revival of monasticism. More information.

Canon Phillip Wyn Davies Celebrates at St David’s, Llantony

While at Llantony we meet with brothers from The British Orthodox Church: Abba Serphim the Metropolitan of Glastonbury, Archbishop James Titular of Caerleon-Upon-Usk and Archdeacon Anthony Holland.

The Community with the hierarchy of the British Orthodox Church

Week Two we are on our Induction Retreat with Bishop Dominic Walker OGS, and old friend of the Community and former Superior of OGS and Bishop of Monmouth.

Redacre Convent

We are looking forward to spending the week with the Sisters of Jesus Way in their Convent on the Wirral. The Sisters come from a Methodist back ground, so it will be interesting to see what they can teach us. While most of the offices on the Retreat we will say as a Community using our Benedictine Office Book, we will join them nightly for their Evening Prayers.

On Monday morning we will say our Office of Lauds and Mass in the Priory Church, then after breakfast head north, stopping enroute for a picnic lunch. We plan to be back at St Mary’s Priory for Vespers on Thursday. On Friday we will have a rest day.

Br Stuart OSB’s Sermon at our Admission Service

Rt Revd Br Stuart OSB, former Abbot of Mucknell, preaching at our Admission Service reminded us of the importance of seeing each other as gifts to us from God *especially* when we infuriate one another. That’s when God-the-potter is at work on us!

His address in full:

First of all, I bring greetings from our Br Adrian – formerly YOUR Br Adrian. He is a much-valued gift from your community to ours!

Secondly, greetings from the rest of my community on your Patronal Festival.

When my old archdeacon was invited to preach at a Patronal Festival he always began by telling the congregation that the reason we keep such festivals is to remind ourselves that the tenor and quality of the life of a church community should reflect that of its patron saint.

So: St Mary:- her vocation was to give Jesus to the world, and that is a vocation we share. But how do we do that?

St Francis is reputed to have said, “Preach the Gospel always, and use words only if you have to.” Live the Gospel rather than talk about it.

Brother Roger, the founder of the Taize Community, used to say, “Si vous etes de Taize, taisez-vous, et vivez!” – ‘If you belong to Taize, shut up and live!’

From what little the Gospels tell us about Mary, two of her qualities spring to mind: her silence and her obedience.

Unlike most proud mums who boast of their children’s giftedness, we are told simply that Mary ‘pondered these things in her heart’. She was there, we gather, quietly in the background, loving her son and ready to give a nudge when necessary – as at the wedding feast at Cana – but allowing him to do the speaking. STATUE???

Obedience? Not a popular concept today, but perhaps that is because the concept has been abused and the word de-valued. The word comes from the Latin ‘Ob-audire’ – to hear and respond appropriately. And when we look at the story of the Annunciation we see Mary’s puzzlement: “How can this be?” – and the Archangel’s assurance that she is loved – ‘highly favoured’ – by God. He is asking her to do this as an expression of his love for her — and the same is true for each one of us. We are loved enormously by God, and it is in that context that Jesus gives us what he calls his ‘New Commandment’. “Love one another as I have loved you.”

When we do that, he promises to be present in a special way amongst us. ‘Where two or more are united in my name, there am I amongst them.’ Jesus present, ready to be encountered by all who come.

That’s the theory. We need to remember that when Jesus gives his ‘New Commandment’ he continues, ‘No greater love have any than this: to lay down their life for their friend.”

It’s much easier to say than to live, either as a congregation or as a member of the Holywell Community. It’s a challenge to us all, and we are all charged with this task of giving the spiritual reality of Jesus to the people of our generation.

It was said of some of the early Christians: “See how these Christians love one another.” Sadly it’s not often said of the Church today, but that is something we are being asked to remedy urgently, and Mary gives us the way forward.

Silence. What happens when we try to be silent? Usually a hundred different voices start clamouring in our head. Many of those voices are coming from aspects of ourselves we ignore or don’t acknowledge or are ashamed of. We would rather be like someone else than accept the truth of who we really are. Basically, we are giving God a slap in the face and saying, ‘When you created me you didn’t do a good enough job!’ If, in the silence we can listen carefully to some of those voices, and begin to recognise and accept the truth of who we are – we will be in business. The Bible has the image of clay in the hands of the potter. God, the potter, hasn’t finished with us yet. We are more like the lump of clay. As long as we pretend to be a beautiful vase, the courteous potter can’t do much with us – but if we can accept the truth of who we are, God can work wonders.

Then obedience – the command to love one another. To love one another as we really are. The fact is that we can only accept the truth of someone else in as much as we can accept the truth of who we are ourselves. Otherwise we will always be disappointed, because the other will never match up with what we think they ought to be.

Mary was puzzled at the Annunciation: ‘How can these things be?’ We, too, will often ask the same question. Often it will be more like looking at the reverse side of a piece of complex embroidery – all we see is a tangle of coloured threads and it’s impossible to make out the design on the front! We simply have to accept that God knows what he is doing when he brings us together.

The Australian monk, Michael Casey, has a lovely passage in his book “Strangers to the City”. It applies to us all, but perhaps it could be particularly poignant for the members of the members of the Holywell Community as they begin a new year. 

He writes: “the cloistral paradise is still in the stage of becoming. But it is conformity to the image of heaven that is the goal of the community’s corporate journey. … The primary characteristic both of the ultimate expression of the ideal and its imperfect realisation here on earth is mercy. An earthly community approaches perfection in so far as it is a living expression of mercy, forgiveness, toleration, compassion, reconciliation. To implement these qualities there must be those who need to be endured, tolerated, forgiven, reconciled. By the grace of God our communities abound in such persons. Without them we would have no hope of becoming more heaven-like.”

For all of us there are moments when we are exasperated by others.  It is in those moments when we are feeling driven to distraction by someone that we need to remember that this may well be the Potter trying to do his work on us.

It is good to try to remember St Benedict’s advice: “Listen. Listen carefully, with the ear of your heart.” This person is here as God’s gift to me in the journey to wholeness. “Lord, help me to calm down and love you in this sister or brother.”  And later, in a moment of quiet, ponder these things in your heart as Mary did, and receive the gift. 

AND because we are all part of the same Mystical Body, the whole body will be enriched and strengthened. So, let’s give thanks for each other and continue to pray for each other, and especially today for Br Josh, Br Sebastian, and Br Nicolas and for Nathaniel as he prepares to come to join the Community in the New Year…and we pray for Fr Mark and Fr Tom and the community’s associates, and for Archbishop John and all the responsibilities he shoulders.  God bless you all.

Admission of New Lay Members of the Holywell Community

As we enter our fifth year the Archbishop of Wales this afternoon admitted three Lay Members of the Holywell Community. We welcomed back Brs Josh & Seb and welcomed Br Nicolas. Also present was Nathaniel who will join us as Concentor in the New Year.

During the service the Prior read a portion of the Rule of St Benedict, before the Lay members were presented with a copy of the Rule.

First of all, every time you begin a good work you should pray to Him with total commitment to bring it to perfection, so that He who has already been kind enough to count us as His sons will never be disappointed by our doing wrong.”

The Archbishop blessed and then presented Pectoral crosses to each Lay Member, while Nathaniel acted as Sub Deacon and Book bearer.

Thanks to our Associate Michael Woodward for the photographs

The new Community gathers

So we have gathered ahead of the Admission Service at 3.30pm today.

“Man can not live by bread alone”…but we do need food so our first task was to do the weekly shop. Brs Josh & Nicolas are seen choosing the vegetables, while the Prior supervises.

“……but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” So straight after shopping we went to say our Evening Office of Vespers, then three hours later the night office of Compline. Time and space to listen to God.

The photo shows Brs Seb, Nicolas & Josh on their way to St Mary’s Priory at 8.15am on Sunday to say Lauds.

Then as it is a FEAST (THE ASSUMPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY) we treated ourselves to breakfast at Luigi’s …

We are looking forward to welcoming Nathaniel later, but before that the Mid day office of Sext.

Also Br Josh is being busy tweeting as we are the host administrators this week of the Anglican Religious Twitter account. Do check it out!

Sub Prior:A Harvest for Hearing the Word of the Lord.

Preaching today at Holy Trinity Church, Baker Street the Sub Prior, Fr Tom Bates launched the campaign to re launch the churches book library

Remembering that Jesus said “the harvest is rich, but the labourers are few he said:

Within the greater scheme of things the rich man in the parable today (Luke 12.13-21) has lost the plot. He has all the peripheral things sorted: his wealth, his crops, abundant possessions, but he has neglected the most important thing of all: his life. The medium by which he can access and enjoy all his hard gotten gains, the one factor he cannot control or influence, is taken away: demanded of him just like that, turning all his hard work into worthless vanity. ‘This very night your life is being demanded of you’ God says: Stand and deliver, your money or your life! Well, God is not interested in our worldly wealth, but our lives belong to him, and he demands them of us not just at their earthly end, but every day of our earthly existence. That is why we’re here at the Eucharist, surely? To return to God, to know his pardon and peace, and to be reunited with him once more in Holy Communion.

So what does it mean to have life?

In the reading from Ecclesiastes the character of the teacher: Quoheleth laments the worthlessness of things. The worthlessness of material things and the observation that ‘all is vanity and chasing after the wind’.(Cheerful!) Should we, like Quoheleth give our hearts up to despair? In fairness to the teacher our lectionary today has chosen a particular passage which makes him sound like a bit of an Eeyore. He actually goes on to contrast his bleak observations about worldly ways with ones about how joy in life comes from heavenly things.

We can see that today in our readings. The teacher tells us that earthly things are worthless, and St Paul tells us that we are ‘to seek the things that are above’ because our life is not in worldly things, our future is not in worldly things, but is ‘hidden with Christ in God’. Like the rich man in Jesus’ story your life is demanded of you. Not just one day in the future, but here and now. God has plans for you. As the hymn by George Matheson says: ‘O Love that wilt not let me go,I rest my weary soul in thee;I give thee back the life I owe,That in thine ocean depths its flow May richer, fuller be.’

Our wealth, our fulfillment is not in the culture which surrounds us: Ours is the pearl of great price, that hidden treasure, which demands of us that we go and sell everything to possess it. So life is the dynamism, the potential power we have to write our fate. It is a limited economy, the five talents or so that we are given to go away and do something with. At the end of our earthly lives when our life is demanded of us in death that dynamism, our potential is complete. Like an exam, we put down our pens a the papers are collected by the invigilator. We have done what we can with what we have been given, in the time we have been allotted, and will be judged accordingly. We have written our fate and can do no more. Like the rich man in today’s parable, our fate is sealed. He has wasted the exam time sharpening all his pencils and thinking about getting a bigger pencil case but hasn’t actually written anything on the paper. All the potential he has to do good: His crops, his barns, his money, all good gifts which could help so many,can do nothing for him now. It’s the old expression ‘when you have more than you need don’t bring higher walls but a longer table’. God has given this man everything but he is so obsessed with protecting the means, walking along with his head in his wallet, that he completely loses sight of the ends.

In the bible the imagery of the heart is used to describe the hidden centre of the person. The place deep within from which all our thoughts, our actions our very essence of being proceed. ‘Blessed are the pure in heart’ says Jesus, for they shall see God.  Sometimes we are divided within ourselves when we say ‘My head says this, but my heart says something else’. I wonder when you are in that situation which you usually end up following? In the parable the rich man has a greedy heart. Material possessions have consumed him. 

On September 22nd, (next month), we will be celebrating our annual harvest festival. Harvest is an occasion in the church calendar when we come together to celebrate the gifts that God has given to us, largely the gifts that are essential for our health and wellbeing. Having grown up in a small village I remember harvest time as being an opportunity to reach out to the local community, to engage with our local farms and producers, and to give something of the good things we have received back to God in helping causes that spoke to us of who our neighbours were.

However harvest today looks very different: in 2004 the Trussel Trust launched its foodbank franchise initiative across the country in response to the growing numbers of those in need in our communities, and the fresh produce people had grown themselves and decorated as an offering of thanksgiving to God was replaced by the necessary long life goods that such foodbanks required. This is important and good work for the church to be involved with, however, by meeting a necessity what that has done is taken  the element of food production and it’s celebration and thanksgiving away from our first hand experience. What we give to help others has to be governed by food hygiene regulations and manufacturers guidelines, as we would expect, but it has taken the celebration of harvest from being something of the work of our own hands to the more consumerist model of what we can buy with our own hands, and celebrating how fortunate we are to be able to have the choice and to be able to buy those things in our local shop.

This has been mirrored in the life of our town. A town that has grown up around agriculture has lost it’s heart: it’s cattle market, and replaced it with a big shop: a step away from being producers to being consumers.

 When we sat down with the mission and outreach group after the joint wardens meeting last September we set to talking about and trying to understand why there seemed to be a lack of enthusiasm for harvest across our churches. Having served in two post industrial towns Abergavenny to me felt very different, yet, like those post industrial towns it too is trying to come to an understanding of what it is for, and what is at its heart. Jesus says ‘where your treasure is, there will your heart be also’. Where is our treasure as a town, as a community?

For me I think our churches are where our treasure is. In Matthew Jesus talks about the harvest being plentiful but the laborors being few, saying that we should pray the Lord of the harvest to send laborours into the harvest. Nurturing that crop is the mission of the church and therefore this harvest I would like us to focus on that.

Jesus uses lots of rural and agricultural imagery in his teaching to talk about the life of the believer. He used language and metaphors which the people around him would be able to relate to and understand as they grew in faith and in their understanding about the kingdom of heaven.

We have been very blessed as a church congregation to have the benefit of the church library to act as fertiliser to grow our roots in the faith. I believe that it was an initiative Gwyneth set up following her background in bookselling. As a PCC earlier in the year we were asked to revue the library, and we decided that we would like to keep it, but many of the books had started to look a little dated and perhaps it was in need of re-freshing, and as you all know you were asked earlier in the year to help ‘weed’ that patch and I’m very grateful to Tania for the time she has put in to sorting it out. (There may not look like there are many left, but I have been asked by someone local if they could borrow one, so it is working)

So what we need now are some more books to nurture discipleship and to grow the harvest in this place, and we don’t just need surplus books, we need resources that have been tried and tested and have done you some good in your growth as a Christian. Books which you would be happy to recommend, not only to your friends here, but to people might come here on their first steps of discipleship. That is the sort of harvest I want us to think about this year. If each of you was prepared to make your harvest offering a book which has meant something to you on your Christian journey then we would have a library adequately equipped for nurturing and growing Christ’s harvest here in this place.

Now this could work three ways:

There are those of you who, since I’ve mentioned it, will have a book straight in mind that you think all Christians should read. It’s been so significant to you on your journey that you perennially buy multiple copies to give to people. If you have a copy and would like to give it, then that is fantastic.

You know what you would like to give as your harvest offering book, but you don’t have a spare copy: please write it on the sheet and I can order it for you.

You feel overwhelmed at being asked: That’s okay. I have produced a list of books which I think it would be good to have in the library, and if you would like to donate one of those I can order that title for you.

The books will all be dedicated with a bookplate and we’ll be able to bless and dedicate the new library on our harvest festival next month as we offer to him our gratitude for how these titles have been vehicles of God’s grace bearing fruit in our own lives. We will be able to move forward in the knowledge that we are equipped as a church to declare this place the place where our hearts and our treasure are, and to build up our brothers and sisters and new believers, and to send them out into the harvest.

Details of Admission Service – August 11th at 3.30pm

The Holywell Community year starts on Sunday August 11th. Having said the offices of Lauds and Sext privately, the year formally starts with a Sung Eucharist at 3.30pm at which the Archbishop of Wales will be the Celebrant.

Prior to making their promises before the Archbishop members of the Community will hear a portion of the Rule read to them by the Prior.

The Communion Motet will be Trust in the Lord words from the Book of Proverbs set to music by Tim Pratt, Director of Music at the Priory, for our Prior’s Collation Service here on Epiphany 2012.

A good friend of the Community the First Abbot of Mucknell, Rt Revd Br Stuart OSB will be the preacher.

Among the guests expected at this service are families of the Community Members, the Archdeacon of Monmouth, other Diocesan clergy and Sisters from the Ty Mawr Convent.

It is customary for the Community Year to commence on a Sunday near the Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Patron Saint of the Priory Church.