We remember; we trust; we are influenced.

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November is a month of remembrance. We remember the people who have a had a significant influence on our lives, on the 1st of November we remember all of the saints of God, those people who through their lives have shaped our faith; on the 2nd we remember our loved ones who are no longer with us, those people who have shaped each of us personally and on the 11th we remember those who help to shape our countries, those who gave their lives in battle and those who still fight for our country today. Having these days however does not prevent us from remembering these people on any other day of the year.

In the church there is a practise of remembering the church Fathers, the early Christians who passed on the message of the Good news, whose writings provide us with a reference point for our faith and traditions. The office of readings is a service that the church provides where these writings are read alongside scripture readings and psalms.

Many Seminaries (theological colleges) offer a module on patristics which is the study of these writings. But why are these writings held with such importance?

To look at who the fathers of the church are, it is first important to understand who they aren’t. The apostles and others from the New Testament age are not church fathers neither are the Doctors of the church from medieval or modern times such as St. Thomas Aquinas, both these grouping have their own classification. Rather the Church fathers are those who wrote spiritual letters, sermons or catechist from approximately 50AD to 800AD. This period contains the first 7 ecumenical councils of the church. This is what is known as the patristic period, these great writers can be split into a variety of groups such as the Apostolic Fathers who were alive within 2 generations of the Apostles and many had encountered the Apostles; then there are 3 groups who take their names from the language they wrote in, those being Greek, Latin and Syriac. Then are grouping based on what the writings are about these include Councils and synods, Creeds, Canons and Apologetics (explanation/ defense of the Faith).

So know we know who they are, why should we read them? simply, to remember; to remember those who made the passing on of our Faith their life’s work. But it is so much more than that. The fathers provide us with invaluable guidance and insight based on their own faith and experience, they interpret the scriptures and other Holy elements and traditions in a way as to educate us about them, many of the traditions coming from so long ago that we, in this age may have forgotten their significance, here we are reminded of these things and they offer us an image, an example of the Christ-centred, self-sacrificing Love that WE are all called to emanate.

There 750 years of writings, how can they all be relevent? They all provide us with a different context, a way of showing how the scriptures have been interpreted over a great period of time, without becoming irrelevant to the society at that time. If the scriptures can span so long without losing relevance that it is only natural to believe that they are still relevant to this day we just have to find that point of common ground, a way of explaining them to our society today. Also another fact to consider is that the bible which contains 66 (73 including apocrypha) was written over a period much greater than 700 years.

faith of our fatherspatristic readings also offer us an insight into the lives of the writers, many of whom are saints that are well-known such as: Augustine in Hippo; Alexander the Great; Athanasius of Alexandria. There are also lesser known saint and some who aren’t formally recognised by the church as saints, such as Tertullian. But saint or not, none are infallible, and given they span three continents and over 700 years, if they agree on anything that is spectacular and so improbable, and yet they do agree on a great many topics, and this is a sign and testimony that they’re writings did not originate with them but with a higher power, influenced by the Holy Spirit, which is passed to us, by studying them but we also get a world-view of their lives through reading them, we learn about the historic significance of that time and we may even come to see, that these writers where just ordinary people like you and me, who made mistakes and fell into temptation but who ultimately gave their lives to follow Christ. It can be so easy to place the saints on a pedestal of unattainable height that we forget they were human just as we are, they felt the weight of being Christian and choosing the right path, they faced difficulties just as we do.spirit inspired.jpg

A lot can be written in over 700 years, St. Augustine alone wrote over 4 billion words, in fact it is reported that a medieval monk, St. Isidore of Sevile, once said (corrupte apud Florezium, Augustine) “Mentitur qui te totam legisse factetur” which translates to Concerning Augustine ‘ who so ever claims to have read all his works is a liar’ or the more literal translation would be, concerning Augustine, ‘He is a liar who confesses to have read the whole’. So where do you begin?

Luckily, you don’t have to jump right in and choose a place for yourself as there are many resources for following a structured reading list, the office of readings would be a great place to start as it gives you the prayerful approach to the readings and there are many resources to provide recomended excerpts from many of the patristics orif you have a discipline of bible study then there are many commentaries from the fathers on most of the new testament and psalms. If you are looking for more than just excerpts from the writings or more than commentries then I personally would suggest beginning with the Apostolic fathers for a few reasons, most obviously because their lifespan overlapped in some degree with the apostles, in some cases such as St. Polycarp there is evidence that they had personal contact with some of the Apostles. Beyond the simple fact that they came first and so provide the groundwork for the later fathers, they have undisputable apologetic values coming from witnessing the unwritten apostolic tradition. Also they are mostly, simple pastoral men and there for are easier to read, you don’t need to take a platonic philosophy to understand what they are saying. And many of them follow the same format that we are used to reading in the epistles and Acts of the Apostles where asthe later fathers are men or great learning and their writings reflect this.

saints

Sr. Jennii

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

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.

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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!

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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.

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