Community goes on retreat to 1000 year old Benedictine Abbey

The new Community will next week travel to Buckfast Abbey in Devon for its Inaugural Retreat.

The Abbey which is well known to the Holywell Community is this year celebrating its Millennium, founded as it was in 1018 by King Canute. Our Prior joined the Buckfast Community for their special celebrations last month on the Feast of St Benedict.

The Community will stay in Avila Cottage in the Abbey grounds and join the monks for their offices.



From Monday, August 20 to the Thursday no offices will be said at the Priory Church in Abergavenny.


Abbey’s West end


New Lay Members Commissioned, as Holywell Community enters its Fifth Year.

Bishop Dominic’s Address

Speaking at the Commissioning of Br. Seb  and Br. Josh  today, Bishop Dominic Walker OGS said: “We are not here to build our own kingdom but the kingdom of God”.


Bishop Dominic (2nd right) with the Community and the Archdeacon of Monmouth (right)

“St Benedict knows what builds and what destroys communities and that applies to parishes as well as monasteries and I would hope that with its historic Benedictine roots and the presence of the Holywell Community, that the congregation as well as the Community will be Benedictine in spirit. Benedict taught that learning to listen – to listen to God and one another is at the heart of Christian life and the longest Chapter in the Rule is about following the path that leads to humility”.

Sermon in Full here.

Who are the new members?

Br Josh  comes to us from Sheffield. A native of Christchurch New Zealand, Josh has just completed his PhD in Philosophy. Whilst in Sheffield Josh was baptised and worshipped at St Matthew’s Carver Street. He arrived by bicycle having travelled as a pilgrim through Wales to engage with the Welsh saints before undertaking his commission with the Holywell Community.


Dr Josh Black enroute to Abergavenny

Br Sebastian comes to us from Colchester where he worships at St Michael’s Church in Thorpe-le- Soken. Sebastian recently featured in a Church of England campaign to raise awareness of living with autism and exploring vocation.


Sebastian Sands before her left Colchester

The Prior and Sub Prior have welcomed the new lay members:

“We look forward to our Community life together and we hope that you will join us in affording them a warm welcome along with your support, encouragement, and prayers as they journey with us in their process of discernment and seek to serve Christ amongst us.”



Prior(left) and Sub Prior(right) put the finishing touches to the Induction programme

Bedrooms in the Community House named after Benedictine Saints

All four bedrooms in the Community House have now been named after four Benedictine Saints



St Scholastica

The Sister of St Benedict, may be his twin sister.

The most commonly told story about her is that she would, once a year, go and visit her brother at a place near his abbey, and they would spend the day worshiping together and discussing sacred texts and issues.

One day they had supper and continued their conversation. When Benedict indicated it was time for him to leave, perhaps sensing the time of her death was drawing near, Scholastica asked him to stay with her for the evening so they could continue their discussions. Not wishing to break his own Rule, Benedict refused, insisting that he needed to return to his cell. At that point, Scholastica closed her hands in prayer, and after a moment, a wild storm started outside of the guest house in which they were housed. Benedict asked, “What have you done?”, to which she replied, “I asked you and you would not listen; so I asked my God and he did listen. So now go off, if you can, leave me and return to your monastery.” Benedict was unable to return to his monastery, and they spent the night in discussion.

Three days later, from his cell, he saw his sister’s soul leaving the earth and ascending to heaven in the form of a shining white dove.Benedict had her body brought to his monastery, where he caused it to be laid in the tomb which he had prepared for himself.

St Gregory

St Benedict’s Biographer.

St. Gregory the Great was the first monk to be elected pope (Gregory I, 590 to 604 AD) and a great proponent of St. Benedict’s monastic vision and avid promoter ofThe Rule. He was himself touched and moved by St. Benedict’s words and by his followers and monks who resided in Rome following the first destruction of Montecassino. St. Gregory the Great was an extremely active and influential man himself during his lifetime, having been born right around the time that St. Benedict gave birth to The Rule.

He instigated the first recorded large-scale mission from Rome to England.

St Dunstan

Abbot of the Benedictine Abbey at Glastonbury

He also served as Archbishop of Canterbury and Bishop of both London and Winchester.

Dunstan served as an important minister of state to several English kings. He was the most popular saint in England for nearly two centuries, having gained fame for the many stories of his greatness, not least among which were those concerning his famed cunning in defeating the devil.

St Placidus

A disciple of St Benedict.

Placidus was the eldest son of the patrician Tertullus. When he was about eight years old, his father placed him under the care of St. Benedict at Subiaco, to be educated.

Saint Gregory relates an account of Placidus being rescued from drowning by his fellow monk,  Saint Maurus who, at Saint Benedict’s order ran across the surface of the lake below the monastery and drew Placidus safely to shore. It appears certain that he accompanied Saint Benedict when, about 529, he removed to Monte Cassino, which was said to have been made over to him by the father of Placidus.

New Lay member set to arrive in Abergavenny ahead of their Commissioning on Sunday.

Josh Black has spotted  his first road sign for Abergavenny as he cycles through Wales to Abergavenny, while Seb arrives by a more traditional route.

The two new Lay Members will be Commissioned at a Service at 11.15am on Sunday morning. In the absence of our Episcopal Visitor the Service will be Conducted by Bishop Dominic Walker OGS, in the prescence of Sisters from the Convenat at Ty Mawr and the Archdeacon of MONMOUTH. Founder Lay Memeber, Samuel Patterson will act as Sub deacon for the Mass and the Parish NSM Curate Fr Jeff as Deacon.

The Prior, Canon Mark Soady said

“ I am very much looking forward to welcoming Seb and Josh to the Community, both have had an interesting journey – physically and metaphorically- to get to this point. It will be good to journey alongside them in the coming months. “

Sub Prior reflects on the last year

Fr Tom  reflects on his first year as Sub Prior:

Martha and Mary as Ora et Labora in the Rule of St Benedict.

St Bernard reflects on the monastic life as containing a balance of vocations which we find modelled in the Gospels by Christ’s companions at Bethany. Martha the active, and Mary the contemplative. A balance of which Thomas Merton suggests is representative of monastic perfection, and it is easy to see the character of these disciples as we seek each year to build community together.



In the account of Jesus teaching in Bethany in Luke 10.38-42 he tells an indignant Martha that it is Mary who has chosen the better part, ‘and it will not be taken away from her’.. Mary who takes time to sit at his feet, to rejoice in his presence and to contemplate his teachings.

One of the highlights of my first year serving the Holywell Community has been our weekly Holy Hour on a Friday evening. The words carved upon the altar in the St Benedict chapel taken from the local boy and metaphysical poet Henry Vaughan, read: ‘Thy God, thy life, Thy cure.’ Like Mary of Bethany sitting at his feet ‘God works in us while we rest in him’: the words of the 12th Century Benedictine Peter of Celles.

Sometimes we pray on our own as a Community. Sometimes we are joined by friends and strangers. Recently we were blessed to find that during adoration the Priory had been visited with a coach load of tourists who had all joined us in quiet prayer.

Our visitors over the period of the ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ initiative, were able to follow a specially devised prayer trail leading people to engage at their own pace over the ten days between Ascension and Pentecost with a journey of Christian initiation around the church from the font to the tabernacle.




Whilst the contemplation Mary embodies is a vocation within monasticism in and of itself, the Rule, like the home of Bethany, ensures balance between Ora et Labora: Prayer and Work. Martha must accompany her sister Mary.

When we think of Martha, the first thing that springs to mind is probably that great Benedictine principal of hospitality. It is after all Martha who keeps the house, opens her home to Jesus and is busily ‘distracted by all the preparations that are to be made’.

Hospitality is central to our mission as a Community, whether it is the way we practice hospitality to one another at our weekly ‘family’ meal, or welcoming new families to our toddler group and All age Eucharist. It could be welcoming those who come to use our church buildings or conference centre, reaching out to the Syrian refugee families living amongst us, or welcoming those who come as individuals to discern where God might be calling them. We have also been greatly enriched in our teaching by welcoming a wide variety of guest preachers for an Advent series on the Sacraments, and a Lenten series on the Benedictine Life.

Recently we were able to host members of other churches who joined us on a discipleship course to nurture new Christians, and we are looking at ways to take that forward. Currently we are planning redecoration and maintenance work on the Community house as we look forward to welcoming our new members in a few weeks’ time.


Getting to know the Welsh Saints by bike.

One of our new Lay Members, Josh Black, is planning on cycling to Abergavenny before joining the Holywell Community on the weekend of August 12th.


New Zealander, Josh will cycle from Bangor to Abergavenny calling at places like Bardsey Island. This cycle will enable him to get to know his adopted country better….and more importantly the Celtic saints who brought the faith alive in this land.

  • Bangor has been a Christian site since St Denial settled there in around 525
  • According to legend Bardsey Island has 20,000 saints buried there

Community goes International

As we get ready for the Commissioning of the new Community in two weeks time (Sunday, August 12th at 11.15am) we are pleased to announce that we are looking forward to welcoming in to our number Dr Josh Black and Sebastien Sands

Sebastien Sands joins us from Colchester  Diocese. See him on a video released at a Lambeth Palace Conference here.

From New Zealand we are joined by Josh Black who has just gained  a doctorate from Sheffield University.


The Prior, Canon Mark Soady welcoming the new lay members  said

Since the inception of the  Community 5 years ago we have welcomed members from England we now welcome our first member from the Commonwealth, in Josh. Having seen and heard Seb in the Lambeth Palace video I am sure you will agree he is a man of faith.

They will both add greatly to the life and work of the Community I am sure.

Please pray for us as we prepare to gather as Community.