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.

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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
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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.

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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.

….and it’s good bye from her

As Sr Joanna prepares to leave us she reflects on her time with us.

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Sr Joanna wrote in the Parish Magazine:

Almost eleven months ago, I arrived in Abergavenny to begin my year as a lay member of the Holywell Community. I wasn’t quite sure what was expected of me or what I’d be doing. I had an idea that I would spend the year morphing into a very serene, very wise monastic-type. Unsurprisingly, this hasn’t happened!

The real gifts of this year living in community have all been surprises. I learnt that living with other people requires graft and organisation; that to make the peaceful moments and time worshipping and praying together happen also means time spent shopping, comparing diaries, planning sessions, and plenty of emails! One of the best surprises has been discovering how much joy can be present in difference. The Rule of St Benedict, and our shared love for this community and parish, holds us together despite occasional theological and political disagreements. Living in faith in this world means living with the wound of our divisions and disagreements, but in community we are able to talk about that wound in Christ’s body, and by living as one body, make it whole. In short, I came to community expecting it to be a group of holy people, trying to be perfect, and what I found is a group of imperfect people, trying to be holy.

There were a few ‘firsts’ for me this year – my first time preaching, my first time leading a study group, my first time eating potatoes… Now the last few weeks are rapidly upon me, I’m thinking about lasts, of which there are far too many. I’ve never been good at goodbyes. Bilbo Baggins’ party goodbye at the start of The Lord of The Rings comes to mind: I’d happily slip on a magic ring and disappear – which it would make my last service here rather exciting!

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Sr Joanna soon to go to TyMawr Convent, Br Adrian (Mucknell Abbey) & Br Samuel (St Padarn’s Institute)

The Holywell Community is a transient community. It takes young people in for a little while, and it sends them out again. In coming here, we get to be part of the community of believers in Abergavenny for a little while. Later this year, I will be spending some time with another community; our sister convent of Tymawr, just outside Monmouth, considering God’s calling on my life. I’m not sure I’ll ever feel ‘ready’, but being in the Holywell Community has taught me that I don’t need to be: I only need to trust in our God, who has strength and patience and love enough, enough for the unprepared and uncertain, the anxious and the doubtful. Please pray for me as I go on with my journey, as I will continue to pray for you.

The Prior Fr Mark :

I wish Joanna many Blessings as she explores her vocation with the Sisters at Ty Mawr and thank her for her service of the last 11 months.

Sr Joanna will leave us on St Benedict’s Day (July 11th ),the end of the Community Year. A new Community will be Commissioned a month later on August 12th.

Sr Joanna: “I called you but you did not answer”

Preaching Evensong this evening Sr Joanna reflects on our identity as disciples of Christ.

 

She said:

In our Old Testament reading tonight, the prophet Jeremiah speaks to the people of Israel in frustration. ‘I called you, but you did not answer.’ The people of Israel seem to spend the Old Testament caught in a negative cycle: they live faithfully for a while, the Lord protects them; they forget him and let him down, and when calamity strikes, they repent and briefly start again. You do not have to flick through many pages to find a passage where God, through the prophets, weeps for his disobedient nation.

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We often use phrases like ‘God’s people’, but I think the cultural distance and semiological differences between ourselves and the people of pre-Christian Israel has reduced the impact of this phrase. I know that, coming from an easy start in a white, British household, national and ethnic identities meant very little to me; only when I found out about my Jewish heritage as a teenager did I start to think about how national identity had shaped my life. For much of the world, the privilege of forgetting or ignoring one’s nationhood and ethnicity is not a possibility. But issues of conflict over collective identity are not new. The Old Testament is in many ways a story of the changing identity of a people, and the struggle between religious, cultural and ethnic identities in establishing dominance as the primary mode of identification. By what mark do the people of Israel identify themselves as God’s people? Is it by their presence in the Holy Land, or by possession of Jerusalem? Is it by following the laws and rites of the Torah exactly? Is it by circumcision? Or is it, first and foremost, an identity in the Lord?

In this passage from Jeremiah, the prophet speaks to a people who believe strongly that they arethe people of God. But they are disloyal to God in their behaviour, and no longer know or love him. They have forgotten that being the people of God means being of God – living in him and following his way.

Whilst I was at university, I became involved with the student Creative Writing Society. We had great fun putting on workshops, socials and creative activities, and I considered that group of kind, creative people to be my family. But after a while I lost interest in turning up to the workshops, and only went to the socials. And then I dropped out of the socials, and just talked to the friends I had already made. But I still called myself a proud member of the Creative Writing Society, and because I’d been there a while, I felt pretty important. Eventually, I was one of the longest-standing members! But when I did go back and join in a workshop, I realised that I hardly knew any of the people attending, and I’d missed out on all the projects the society was working on. I wanted to belong without giving anything back.

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The early Christians in Rome were wrestling with questions of their identity. The Jewish believers in the community were part of a diaspora flung far from their homeland, which was so strongly connected to their identity as God’s people. And then there were the Gentile converts, uncircumcised, and part of a nation which was then oppressing the people of Israel. How could either of these groups call themselves the ‘people of God’? And with that doubt in mind, how could they be sure that the resurrection was meant for them, that this Jewish messiah’s message was for them at all?

Paul’s strategy in challenging this is to quote the prophet Hosea.

Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people’, and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved’, he says, and in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they shall be called children of the living God.

By referring to one of the great prophets of the old testament, Paul connects the believers in Rome to the prophecies given to the Jewish people; he affirms that these prophecies, these promises, are made for them as well. Just as the Israelites lost their identity as the ‘people of God’ through their behaviour, so the new believers could gain it through their faithfulness.

So we have two models of how we can look on our identity as the people of God. The disobedient believers of Jeremiah’s time, who take that identity as a right; and the uncertain, self-deprecating believers in Rome, who understand what a gift it is to be known as one of God’s people.

As we come to understand what it means to be one of God’s people, it can feel like the bar has been set far too high for us. But what we must understand is belonging to God is not a qualification. It doesn’t come with a list of pre-requirements. It doesn’t rely on your ancestry, your place of birth, your marital status. It is a way of being in God and with God, suitable for rough and ready, and entirely reliant on God’s grace. Paul says in this passage: ‘Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means!’; there is no injustice – we must learn to trust in the judgement of the Lord, and not on our own understanding. The message is this: I will choose whom I will choose. And if I choose someone, who can say, ‘not them?’. No flaw, no degree of difference, no inexperience, no background, is insurmountable to God. And he is also saying: If I chose to forgive you your sins, who are you to hold on to them? If I chose to call you, who are you to hang back?

Growing up in a church family, it came as a shock to realise how uncomfortable people who have not been brought up in the faith can feel around church. If you’ve been to funerals, weddings or baptisms where the majority are not regular churchgoers, you may have noticed that some people are shy about entering the building. They may not know if they can take communion, may not feeling worthy or able to join in. And some do not participate because they don’t feel it’s for ‘the likes of them’. How often have you heard of, or even witnessed, the distance between those ‘in the know’ about faith, and those who are as yet untaught?

And yet God is absolutely calling them. He will chose whom he will chose. Those who do not feel that they are his people will be called his people. Every uncomfortable stranger, unchurched bloke who doesn’t join in at the funeral, every noisy parent and toddler, gawping tourist, too-loud coach tour, every one of them are God’s called and beloved. How do we welcome the stranger in our midst and tell them that they are the beloved one of Christ?

 

The truth is that none of us deserve to be called the people of God, because it is not a title we have to earn.  And as God sees and calls the stranger and outsider, he also calls the stranger and outsider within ourselves.

In my journey through faith, there have often been times when I have not seen my own value, and I find it hard to understand why and how God could love me. I often feel that my faith is too small to even deserve to be called a Christian. But to this St Paul says: ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy’ – to paraphrase, ‘I want you, so deal with it!’ During Lent the community read about the prophet Jonah, whose life is characterised by fear of the calling God has sent him. But no matter how far he runs, and how often he insists that he is unable to do what God tells him, he cannot escape from that call – and when he accepts it, he is able to transform the lives of all the people of Ninevah.

In the Benedictine monastic tradition, three promises are made at life vows – not poverty, chastity and obedience, but stability, obedience, and conversion of life. Conversion of life; life transformed in response to God’s love, not as a precondition, not as a requirement, but as a response. We do not have to be ‘good enough’ or get all the rules right to be called as one of God’s people, but we must respond to that call. The love extended to you and to each of us is a challenge to change our lives.

In the places in your lives where you say ‘I am not one of God’s people’; in the places where we say to others ‘you are not one of God’s people’, God replies: ‘There you shall be called children of the living God.’

 

 

S

A Strange week – dispersed

This week has been a strange week for the Community.

Sr Joanna has been at the Convent in Ty Mawr and our Prior went to London to mark HRH The Prince of Wales’ 70th Birthday.

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Meanwhile back at the ranch the Sub Prior and Sr Jenni have been in to schools telling them about the Pentecost message.

We are all back together again today , before we say good bye for good to Sr Jenni on Sunday.

Praying to God for help in this time of change!

Visit by Monks from Mucknell Abbey

It was good to spend May Bank Holiday Monday hosting a visit by the Abbot and four monks from Mucknell Abbey. Sadly Sr Jenni was to ill to help us host.

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Among the monks was Br Adrian who joined the Abbey after a period of time in the Holywell Community.

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Three Generations: Sr Joanna (Current), Br Adrian (2015-16) & Br Sam (FOUNDER MEMBER)

One of the Monks Br Michael wrote an Icon of St Benedict for us to place in the newly named St Benedict Chapel at St Mary’s Priory.

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The Prior recieves the Icon from Br Michael

Following a tour of the Priory we had Tea together. The Monks then gave a Question & Answer session on life under the Rule for interested local people, before we sung Vespers together.

“THY KINGDOM COME” prayer initiative

St Mary's Priory, Abergavenny

Launching a new prayer initiative our Sub Prior Fr Tom Bates quotes  the following words which led Jesus to teach  the Lord’s Prayer

 “Lord, teach us to pray…”

Simple words which, in the midst of an ever faster paced, increasingly complex world, resonate deep in the heart and can draw us not only back to the wellsprings of our own faith, perhaps our childhood, but back to the fundamental roots of 2000 years of Christian heritage.

Simple words that have hung upon the lips of so many people each day, in every kind of situation and condition of human need.

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When we consider that, even these very simple words can blow us away with their awesome power and far reaching influence.

Those simple words can do that, because by their simple eloquence we can come to know the Father as the Son, and in those simple words we, mere dust and shadows, can become children of God as we dare to call him ‘Our Father’.

In the gospels, we learn about prayer as…

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