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.