Fr Tom’s 1st Sermon as Sub Prior

St Mary's Priory, Abergavenny

Fr Tom Bates our new Sub Prior and Associate Priest preached at St Mary’s Priory three times today, his first 11am Sermon is published in full.


Fr Tom said:

Receiving an invitation is exciting! Indeed, receiving any piece of post that is not a bill is exciting, but an invitation especially so. An invitation can be a means by which we receive some news: It may be some good news: perhaps a couple we love have decided to get married, or are having a baby, and want to share their joy with us. Perhaps someone we know is receiving an honour or an award, or graduating and is inviting us to celebrate their achievement. We hurriedly look through our diary to save the date so that we can be a part of that joyful celebration. Indeed it is increasingly popular now-a-days for couples to send out ‘save the date’ cards…

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The Bishop’s Sermon at Fr Tom’s Licencing

Preaching at the Service of Evensong at which Fr Tom Bates was Licensed as a Cleric within the Abergavenny Team the Bishop of of Monmouth, our Episcopal Visitor took 1 John 2:24-25 as his text.


Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is what he has promised us, eternal life.


Our Sub Prior, Fr Tom

Bishop Richard said:

In a shifting world it would seem hard to find rock solid certainties. Images are manipulated.  False news created and it seems you can tweet what ever you want!

What can you believe, and who can you trust?  The first letter of John reflects on the nature of truth and how it relates to our Christian faith. His views are non negotiable.  Jesus reveals the nature of God who is truth.  If you make out that Jesus is not the son of God you can have no part in him.  To say that Jesus is just a good man, a prophet or teacher, and you call yourself a Christian then you are lying.  St John does not mince his words!

But he is not launching personal attacks.  His motives are not about propaganda or scoring points. He is just seeking clarity in a world where there is a lot of fudge. As Christians we are not called to defend a religion or a set of ideas.  Rather we are, through our spirituality and our faith community, asked to disclose the God who has revealed himself to us.

So St John says let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. In other words what has grabbed your heart and mind in your authentic encounter with God, let that abide in you .  Let it grow and flourish and be the centre of your truth.  This makes sense.  When we meet people and if we ever talk about our faith it cannot be based on ideas but our personal journey. I can read a book about Christianity; it may impress me.  But what would change me is meeting a person who has experienced the transforming love of God in their lives, who have a story to tell.  That’s real, that authentic and will resonate with my spirit.


Bishop Richard & Fr Tom

One writer said that we are caught up in Gods story, his creative working out of his love affair with humanity. Our story is our own, but also it is his.  Each of us as Christians share a common narrative.  An encounter with Jesus Christ who is changing our lives. Let what you heard, tasted from the beginning, abide in you

Father Tom it is good to welcome you and Paul to the parish of Abergavenny. As a priest you have a story to tell that is both yours and God’s. Your work in this area will be yours and mine as we both proclaim, not through arrogance or personal credit, the good news of Jesus Christ, the love story of God.  Your task is to disclose the growing life of God in your soul.  Do not be distracted from this task. It is why your are a priest. Your acts of sacramental service, your care for others, your prayers and teaching come from the core of your relationship with God, nothing else will be true to your calling.

And you are blessed in coming into a community, with Canon Mark and the members of the Holywell Community and the ministry team you have a place where you can flourish as you serve the area.

May God bless you in your ministry and may your story in God be an inspiration to others.



The week that was…Sr Joanna looks back on our week


For most people, the week begins on Monday. Our week begins twice in the community; first on Sunday, and then again with the start of the working week on Tuesday, as Monday is our day off. After Mass, which is said every morning in St Mary’s Priory, we walk over to Holy Trinity Church to lead Little Footprints, our parent and toddler group. This morning the children are making birthday cards for St Mary, to celebrate her Nativity, and reading a story about food in preparation for the Harvest and food festival.

In the afternoon we set out tables on the vicarage lawn, and serve tea, coffee and Welsh cakes to the residents of Riverside Court, St Mary’s newest neighbours.  Despite the gloomy weather, many of the residents come out to chat with us and walk around the beautiful vicarage garden. As a tea drinker, one of the most important lessons for me so far has been how to work a coffee machine! Hospitality is a big part of the work of a Benedictine community, and so our lives here, but sometimes it seems strange to me that it counts as work – we receive so much more back than we can give. As the newest member of the community, I’m regularly asked how I’m settling in and if there is anything I need, which has helped me to feel at home already.



After Lauds, Sr Jennii and I walk across town to meet volunteers who work with Crafty


Decorating cakes with the Volunteering for Wellbeing service!

Women. It’s great to find out more about volunteering in Monmouthshire, and think about how the community can get involved. If you are interested in volunteering in the local area, and helping to support some incredible projects, you can find out more about it here. We’re back for Sext, and then across town to Abergavenny Baptist Church, to talk about community life and our journeys with the ABC fellowship group who meet their every Wednesday at 2.30pm. The group pray and sing hymns before we speak, including one of my favourites, Great is thy faithfulness. It seems to be the right word for Abergavenny – there is so much happening here, and the churches of the town are right in the middle of it all.



Thursday is normally my day for helping in the Tithe Barn Café, but today we are expecting pupils from Our Lady and St Michael’s Catholic Primary School on a Tudor-themed visit to the church. Pupils rotate through three workshops: a workshop on Tudor pastimes, one on Tudor food, and a Day in the Life of a Monk session led by Fr Mark, Sr Jennii and I. All the workshop leaders and assistants are dressed in period costume, including a Benedictine monk’s habit and hood for me. It’s a little strange seeing myself dressed as a traditional monk, with my Holywell pectoral cross on over the habit! Our visitors ask excellent questions, and to my delight, many decide that they would be willing to become medieval monks. The highlight of the tour for me is showing each group the Beadsman hidden in Sir Richard Herbert’s tomb – at eleven years old I would never have been brave enough to put my hand under the marble foot to feel the hidden carving.

Thursday is also the feast of the Holy Cross, which I have never really celebrated before. It’s good to have something to focus my prayers on. With Easter so far off, it’s also a good chance to think about the cross and Jesus’ passion once more.


Decorations from the Fringe Talk on Fishing in St Mary’s Priory


On Friday, set-up for the Food Festival begins in earnest. We set out tables, chairs and gazebos on the vicarage lawn ready for the church cream teas, and run through the schedule for the weekend. The food festival brings thousands of people into Abergavenny, and stallholders, exhibitors, and speakers from across the country come to share their knowledge. In the evening, the Festival Fringe runs a talk on sustainable fishing practices in the church, to a large audience. The Abergavenny Food Network run a community kitchen and campaign on food sustainability; you can find more information about them on their facebook page.




The main day of the food festival! Sr Jennii and I are based on the Priory site, helping out with the tea on the lawn and running a creation-based activity for children during the day. It is wonderful to see people coming into the church to pray and explore the building. In the middle of the day I venture out into the market hall to find lunch (pizza, with the most gorgeous, floury, fresh-baked base I’ve had outside of Italy). The atmosphere is incredible, but it also makes me appreciate the tranquillity of the church. In the midday office we thank God for time to rest in the middle of the day, and I’m coming to understand and appreciate that office more and more. Heavy rain breaks out in the early evening, bringing a damp end to the evening market, but by this point the Community are already in bed!


The last day of the food festival, but more importantly, time for the church community to gather and worship. It’s my week to serve at the 8am Mass at St Mary’s, which is one of my favourite services. I had never served at Mass before joining the Community last month, and I’m slowly learning the ropes. Several families join us for our 9.30 All Age Eucharist (also St Mary’s), which is wonderful – we hope that many more will join us over the coming months. The last service of the morning at St Mary’s is the 11am Mass. Serving duties mean that one of the Community will normally be based at St Mary’s on a Sunday, but over the next few months we will be spending time at Holy Trinity, Christ Church and St Peter’s, and I’m very much looking forward to meeting the other churches and worshipping with them. We also visit some of the stallholders and are treated to a few leftovers from the day! The final service of the day is Evensong, with a particularly excellent sermon from Fr Roger, and music from the Chamber Choir. Saying Evensong or Compline in the evenings is the perfect way to end a long day – we have a chance to give thanks for all that has been good, and give our cares to the Lord, going to bed unburdened. And so ends the working week, and another begins, each completely different from each other, with new challenges,  new faces, and the same wonderful, all-giving God.

~ Sr. Joanna 

Sr Joanna reflects on her life journey

As she takes up residence within the Community as  a Lay Member Sr Joanna reflects on the journey that brought her here.


Joanna collects signatures for Christain Aid

Joanna writes:

During her final year at university, my Dad used to make the long drive up from Slough to visit my Mum in Aberystwyth. On the way there, he always parked by St Mary’s Priory Church to stretch his legs, and have a cup of coffee in the café. When we drove up to Abergavenny this August, ready to start my year as a member of the Holywell Community, we were delighted to find the café still open!

My journey to the community has taken far longer than the two-and-a-half hours’ drive to Northampton. I started thinking and praying about my vocation three years ago, whilst studying English Literature in Norwich. During this time, I first encountered Julian of Norwich’s brilliant Revelations of Divine Love, which speaks of the love of Christ in the most profound and intimate language. Sitting in the chapel built over her cell, I wondered where God was taking me, and thought of Julian sitting at her window, praying with the weary travellers passing on their way to the docks. The Rule of St Benedict, which inspires the life of the Holywell Community, is based on hospitality: looking out for friends and strangers alike, sitting at the window between the chapel and the world.

As I sit writing this, a notification on my phone comes up to tell me that, according to NATO, the world is more dangerous today than it has been for many years. In these uncertain times, I believe that monasteries and religious houses have the duty of holding up a candle in the darkness. Abergavenny has a long history of faith persevering through conflict and struggle, and the relighting of that monastic flame with the Holywell Community is a testament to the strength of faith here. The monastic spirit of hospitality has also been very evident in the generosity of everyone I’ve met so far, and I look forward to getting to know the Churches and town over the coming year.


Big shift campaign -sign our Petition!

We will be supporting this – do join us!

St Mary's Priory, Abergavenny

We will be at the Abergavenny Market during the day on Saturday gathering signature for the Big Shift Campaign petition – do come and see us!


Christian Aid says

In the Paris Agreement of 2015, world leaders pledged to stop global temperatures rising above two degrees.

To achieve this, governments and scientists are united in agreeing that we must move towards a zero carbon economy.

There is also a strong financial case for shifting away from fossil fuels – in 2016, The World Economic Forum identified the failure to tackle climate change as the biggest risk we face.

Investing in renewables helps fight climate change

UK banks manage trillions of pounds of our money. It’s up to us to be interested in how they use it.

Our research shows that the banks managing our money are still much more heavily invested in fossil fuel companies than in renewable energy companies…

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Back to work!!!

The Community life gets back in to routine this week. We lead our First All Age Worship of the new Community Year today at 9.30am and our prayer routine is back to normal.

Tuesday morning sees the first Little Footprints (Parent & Toddler Group) gathering after the Summer and the Bereavement Group is back on Wednesday evening. We will also be re-engaging with Crafty Women this week.


More news of our other plans for the Autumn Term to follow.