Community links up with the Ty Mawr Convent

Following an invitation from the SSC Sisters at Ty Mawr we today spent the afternoon with them, we joined them for tea and stayed for Vespers.

The Prior, Canon Mark Soady commenting on the visit said, “Being a ‘New Monastic Community’ it was good to spend time with the only Anglican ‘Traditional Religious House’in the Diocese and to share about life in Community. They have much to teach us about the contemplative life, but they were also very interested in the work of outreach we do”.


Fr Mark presents Sr Veronica SSC with a Plaque contaning our pectoral cross

Our Episcopal Visitor, Bishop Richard has been a Companion at Ty Mawr for many years, so there was already a link between the communities at that level, but today we agreed to find ways we good continue to build on our working together for the kingdom of God.


The Society of the Sacred Cross, SSC, was founded in Chichester in 1914. In 1923 the move was made to Tymawr and the contemplative life was developed and strengthened. The members of the small Community, dedicated to the Cross, live a monastic, contemplative life of prayer based on silence, solitude and learning to live together under vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.



Reflecting on the New Monastic Conference

Our Prior, Canon Mark Soady  this weekend attended a Conference entitled ‘New Monasticism: A UK gathering of new forms of mission all and religious life’ at St George the Martyr at Southwark.

Over 60 existing or emerging communities were represented, all doing ‘ new monasticism’ in a slightly different way. Some are large and international like L’arche or Northumbrian Community others like St Thomas Community, Ipswich are very small. Some have a house and are a resident community others are dispersed.

Canon Phil Potter, the Archbishop’s advisor on ‘ fresh expressions’, speaking at the Saturday morning service challenged us with the need to be refreshed if we are truly ‘new’.

Fr Mark reflected in response to this challenge, that as we as a Community have a rolling change of membership we are always refreshing. New members bring new skills and new gifts which enhance the Community. This is balanced with the stability of the Prior and Sub-Prior knowing the narrative of the community- knowing what has been tried before, what are the pitfalls of the previous trials and the like.

Canon Potter went on to claim that an “Imagination of the Spirit is  needed to enable the church to go to where it needs to be.”

Fr Mark reflected that a  community like ours is freer to do the imagining and has the space to reflect and so imagine what the Spirit is calling us to do.

The beauty of such conferences as this are the little gems that come out our chat and discussion, while it is not possible to mention them all, here are two.

Blended- How New Monastic Communities are a blend of contemplation and active mission. We have noted a ‘ fault-line’ in our Community which is that we tend to attract introverts, people for whom contemplation comes easier than ‘ active mission’ . For we have found that one needs to be extrovert in order to engage with strangers, especially about such issues as faith. The Community has done well to fight against its members natural reticence to be out going and ‘force’ itself in to mission and outreach.

The Roman Catholic Canons speak of religious communities role is to support the sanctification of the church and not its structures. In the two plus years of our existence there has been that tension between serving the church and growing us and our mission. How much time do we spend talking internally to church bodies about what we do: rather than do it? How much time do we spend on ‘church maintenance’: rather than growing disciples?

Fr Mark concludes such a conference as this has given  him a time to stop and reflect what has been created over the last two years and the direction we should move on in.

Sister Jennii’s sermon on Jesus Healing the Blind Man

Teenager, Foreigner, Rich, Poor, Atheist, Christian, Clergy, Monk.

These are all words which conjure up an image of a person, we expect people to behave a certain way based upon who they are.

This is human nature, John 9:2His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”Here we see the disciples making snap decisions about people they meet.

Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.John 9:3 this response shows us that all our flaws and failings, all our strengths and our characters are from God; they are tools for us to live our lives, not just to survive this world.

Yes we have progressed in society to a point where we no longer believe that disabilities and illnesses are caused by God punishing our sins, but have we really progressed?

We still make those snap judgements about people we meet. We still focus on what we see as each other’s flaws and failings. We use each others weaknesses as justification for the way we see them.

Let me try another word and focus on what type of person you image and why.


For most people this word will have very negative connotations, and why? Because it was the Pharisees who were responsible for the crucifixion, it was the Pharisees who plotted against Jesus, it was the Pharisees who tried to undermine Jesus at every chance they got, and it was the Pharisees who warped the Jewish religion to suit themselves.

But can we really say that?

A pep talk I had with a priest not too long ago sticks in my mind whenever I need help, he told me ‘If you were the only person ever to have lived, Jesus would still have come, he would still have died, for you. That is how much God loves each of us, individually and collectively.’ This provides me with great strength but at the same time it adds responsibility, the Pharisees were not to soley blame for the Crucifixion, we all are, we all must carry that burden. No matter how unique and different we are; we all have that in common.

Surely not the Gospel reading from tonight show us that the Pharisees where individuals and were just as diverse as you and me. Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not observe the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And they were divided.’ John 9:16

Here it shows that not all the Pharisees believe that Jesus was a sinner, but it also shows they were willing to stand up and say that. Further proof is found later in the reading some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we? John 9:40

Jesus had gone in search of the blind man after he had been banished from the synagogue John 9:35, so for the Pharisees to be near him they must have been looking for either the blind man or for Jesus, possibly to try to understand the situation more upon finding them they listened to Jesus’ teaching and they asked questions, not to entrap Jesus but questions so they might be able to understand. By asking ‘Surely we are not blind, are we?’ the Pharisees present are beginning to understand that Jesus isn’t speaking about physical blindness, for they themselves would know if they were physically blind but they do not understand that Jesus is speaking of spiritual blindness, by asking that question they are looking for knowledge about spiritual blindness that they may learn how to achieve it.

I think this is a question we should all ask of ourselves, are we also blind. Are we blind to those we meet that we cannot see Christ living in them? Are we blind to see the individual person behind the label?

Next time you see someone and judge them because they are a teenager; or they are a foreigner… Because they are rich; because they are poor… Because of their religion whether that be Muslim; Christian; Jewish; or any other

Because you expect them to behave more like a cleric or Monk

Ask yourself what each of those words mean and if that’s the person or the projection that you believe they should be.

I spent a year working in walsingham last year, there was an unprecedented number of clergy who came to visit, each and every one different from the next, there is no ‘perfect model’ for a cleric, different locations, different parishioner, different traditions entirely different situations leads to the need for clerics to be different and that’s the same for everyone not just clerics.

Look at the Holywell community, yes we all have little quirks in common but we are also so very different from each other… and yet we are all monks.

Remember that these labels don’t make the person, its people who make the labels. Not everyone fits the model of the person we expect them to be, we all have our weaknesses but it is these that we build our strengthson.From our past bad experiences we form our current gifts.God made us all who we are, to try to be anything else or to expect others to be anything other than they are, isn’t right, we should embrace our differences after all variety is the spice of life.

I will leave you with something to think about

When somebody new walks into church, the way you react to them and welcome them will shape your interpretation of the word Stranger but more than that it will shape their interpretation of the word Church and what Christians are like.

The first month of the new community

This year we welcomed our new member Jennii Shaw into the community and said goodbye to Sam and Amy, a sad time of goodbyes but the joy of fresh beginnings and what better way could we start the new year but with the retreat led by Bishop Dominic.  This provided us with a reminder of the spirit behind the rule of St. Benedict and a good time for the old and new to bond together.

Once this had finished it was full steam ahead to prepare for the New Year of Little Footprints, Harvest Festivals, Abergavenny Food Festival, All Age Worship, 7 Corners and Hotspot.

This first month has been all about settling in, getting to know each other and how we work together as community.  The dynamics are quite different to last year but with that comes a whole new way of looking at things and fresh ideas that wouldn’t have been possible last year, which is quite exciting.

We have introduced a new Bereavement group on a Wednesday, offering our traditional Benedictine Hospitality by just offering people the space and time as well as refreshments to meet with each other and share in the experiences of grieving and their lives. Through this we hope new friendships can be formed and mutual support can be offered.  The group meets on a Wednesday evening at 1715 in the priory center and has made a promising start after two sessions.

We spent the best part of two weeks preparing for the food festival, which happened over the weekend of the 17th and 18th September.  The Holywell Community put on a food justice trail in the church in which we educated people on the impact that our Western lifestyles have on the food chain and the number of miles food has to travel to end up on our plates as cheap as it does and thus the knock on impact on the environment and greenhouse gas emissions.  We did this through the illustration of building up a pizza and where all the different toppings came from, so people actually carried their cardboard pizzas around the church adding toppings as they went, colouring or gluing them on and then calculating the miles it had travelled.  The display was a hit among the younger children, which was good.  We also had displays on Fair Trade and Food Bank initiatives for the adults to partake in as well as they wondered around.  In addition to this we offered church tours around all our monuments and windows and brought people into a closer experience of God as a result.  It was a wonderful weekend in which many visitors felt the warmth of the Benedictine welcome.  This highlighted, on reflection, the impact of just doing the small things well, just welcoming people as they walk around with an open smile, this was often enough so people felt able to ask questions and have conversations without feeling you were intruding.

Our toddler group Little Footprints has also restarted again after the summer, and has restarted with a Harvest theme.  A harvest banner has been made by the children there, which is now travelling the churches as they celebrate Harvest Festival.  We have got off to a quick start this year and haven’t lost many parents with new ones coming along every week so Little Footprints continues from strength to strength bringing people into contact with Christ in new ways whilst offering a relaxed environment for all to catch up with each other and a warm environment to encourage play for the children.

Hot Spot has also begun again, taking a caravan to the young people of Llanfoist in the evenings and offering them something to do and a safe place to meet, chat and have something to eat and drink.  This is a great ministry to the young people of our town in going out and meeting them where they are rather than expecting people to come to us.  This is another expression of Christ being present in Abergavenny, which brings a lot to our town.

Looking ahead with Harvest Festivals in full swing and new initiatives taking off I think we’re all in for an exciting year in the Holywell Community and in Abergavenny as a whole as we seek to bring Christ into our communities and make the rule of St Benedict real in our lives.

The Shrewd Manager

Br Michael’s sermon on today’s Gospel – Luke 16:1-15…

The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light.

I have always found this particular parable rather confusing, it seemed to make no sense to me. A rich man has a steward who is accused of dishonesty, so in order to prove his honesty and his worth, he tells his master’s debtors to each pay a small proportion of their debt. I am sure this would please the debtors: they avoid paying half their debt, but I wouldn’t have thought it would please the rich man very much: he only gets half his money back. In order to understand what Jesus is trying to say, we need to fully understand the parable.

The first thing that I had to realise when reading through this parable is that the rich man is not purely the victim. Although it is a nuisance, having a dishonest servant, it seems as though the master had been engaging in some rather dishonest practices himself.

Jews were, at the time, forbidden to lend money at interest, but many of them got around this rule by lending in kind, with oil and wheat being easy commodities to use for this purpose. What is most likely, in this story, is that the money the steward deducted from the debtors’ debts was simply the interest the rich man would have charged. This would have delighted the debtors, as they would only have to pay back the principal – the simple amount that was lent, instead of paying back interest also. The rich man, however, could not lay a charge against the steward without first admitting his own dishonest business practices. It was a safe way out for the steward – he had made friends with the debtors by reducing their debts and had trapped his employer into being unable to lay a charge against him for fear of himself being found wanting. It seems, therefore, that when the master heard about the steward’s dealings, he could only admire the man’s clever approach. He had acted shrewdly – it didn’t say he’d acted honestly, or kindly, or faithfully. The definition of shrewd reads: “showing sharp powers of judgement or being astute”. It is certainly fair to suggest that the steward acted astutely.

I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.

The second thing we must realise about the parable is that it is, in fact, a parable, not a teaching or dogma on money and how (not) to use it. Parables have meanings behind them. We need only look at the Parable of the Sower… the different characters and types of ground refer to different people. The same is true here. The master is God. The steward is Israel. The steward is meant to be God’s ‘property manager’, responsible to God and set over His possessions, yet Israel, as we see so much through the Gospels, has failed in the task and finds itself under the threat of immediate dismissal. What, then, should Israel do?

The Pharisees had an answer. Their solution was to tighten the regulations of the law yet further, but this served only to exclude the very people that Jesus was trying to reach out to. In this parable, Jesus tries to explain that if Israel is facing a major crisis, the solution is actually to forget the extra bits and pieces of the Law that the Pharisees have found and collected together and to make friends as and where they can. That is what ‘the people of this world’ would do and ‘the people of the light’ – that is, the Israelites – the believers – ought to do so too; learning from the cunning people of the world in order to cope with the crisis that was looming upon their generation.

Thus, instead of hoarding lands, possessions and money, Jesus’ advice was to use it, as far as possible, to make friends. A crisis was coming and the people of God had to be prepared. When I think of that, I think of the Public Safety videos they showed during the Cold War, showing families how to make nuclear fallout shelters in their front rooms. The motto was ‘Prepare and Survive’ and this was similar to what Jesus was advising.

This parable, it seems then, was very much aimed at the people of the day and, on first reading, seems to have little to do with us today. After all, Jesus’ death on the cross has saved us from the crisis to come. How then, can we use the parable to learn today?

Obviously, the parable has nothing to do with commending sharp practices in personal finances. Rather, it advises us to focus less on the extra rules and regulations that we as a church self-impose, which are over and above the Gospel teachings and values. The church, in the present day, is passing through turbulent times, with crises occurring almost daily. In these turbulent times, we as a church need to frequently assess what matters and what doesn’t.

The twentieth century saw the so-called ‘mainstream’ churches in many parts of the world – the ‘traditional denominations’ as we know them – fall into a state of decline, with many newer churches growing and spreading. We need only look at our own Diocese and town to see the Church in Wales being forced to close churches and use unpaid clergy, whilst cinemas and old shops across town are being opened as newer churches. So what can the traditional churches do? We need to learn to think slightly less conventionally, be prepared to make new friends across the traditional barriers that used to separate us and to discover again, in the true fellowship of the Gospel, a home that will last.

It is my prayer that we can all begin to do this, to ensure that we can continue to bring the Good News to the people of Abergavenny in the twenty-first century and beyond.

Food glorious food

Food has dominated our week this week….no we’ve not gone in for gluttony!!

We’ve been picking apples from our orchards and the Tithe Barn has made Apple Crumble, Apple Tarts and Apple & Date Sponge out of them.  Why not pop in and try some.

We have also had a ‘ week of prep’ on food related themes as we prepare for our Food Justice display at the Food Festival and Harvest theme for All Age Worship and Little Footprints (our Parent & Toddler groups).



New Term – what we plan!

As the Summer draws to a close, our minds turn to our Autumn activities.

Little footprints

We are excited that Little Footprints will return after its Summer break on Tuesday, September 6th. Do hope to see some new faces and lots of older ones.

Our craft and stories will start with a look at Harvest  and in the first Half term we will also look at angels and animals.

This Parent and Toddler Group meets each Tuesday in Term time from 10am – 11.30-am at Holy Trinity Hall, Baker Street.


Bereavement Group

The following day sees the first meeting of our new group for those who are bereaved.

Meeting weekly on Wednesday between 5.15pm – 7pm in the Priory Centre at St Mary’s Priory, Monk Street it is  a safe forum for people to meet others who are bereaved to make new friends and/or share experiences.


Schools Days

On Thursdays in Term time we will again join the St Mary’s Priory Development Trust Learning Service Volunteers in hosting visits by local primary school children as they learn about the Tudors.

Spend a “Day in the Life of a monk” with us!


7 Corners /Hotspot

You will see us volunteering in the various 7 Corners / Hotspot activities to. To find out what they do click here.