Sub Prior’s Reflection on New Monastic’s Conference


Upon being appointed Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby set himself three priorities for his archiepiscopate: The renewal of prayer and Religious Life throughout the church, the churches role in reconciliation as a peacemaker, and encouraging every Christian to share their faith. It was under the first of these headings that the New Monastic Leaders Conference was held last week at Lambeth Palace and St Andrew’s Church, Southwark.

Over thirty new monastic communities were represented from around the UK, as well as visitors from the USA and Australia.

At the welcome to the conference Rev’d Ian Mobsby of the New monastics network spoke passionately and eloquently about the role of new monasticism in recontextualising the church for a new generation who are seeking answers to questions of faith and seeking a sense of belonging and a face of humanity in a world where people are increasingly alienated. He also shared an exciting vision of new monastic communities as a means of meeting the need for apostolic ministry – the gathering together and sending of the people of God. The growth and spread of new monasticism, he argued, is a call for action against the enormous poverty in our society as individuals seek to follow a calling that gives a great sense of belonging, is profoundly transformative and deeply giving.


The conference was structured around Ignatian principles of listening to others, which were led by the Chemin Neuf Community and the The St Thomas Way Community. We were invited to listen prayerfully and attentively, and we spent regular periods of companionable silence at the end of our small group sharing sessions: time to digest what had been discussed and to offer it to God, invoking the presence and action of the Holy Spirit to speak to us through our longing for community.


Within the Ignatian principles we heard a Story of Consolation from the Northumbria Community, through which they shared the moments of great blessing and joy in the building of community. We heard stories of everyday miracles from unexpected places, and ways in which living in community can set people free to do what they are meant to be doing all their lives.

To balance this we also heard a Story of Desolation from a member of the Chemin Neuf Community, which offered a profound reflection on ministering to others from a place of desolation, as Jesus did on the cross. It addressed the fact that in new monasticism and in fresh expressions and pioneer ministry we take risks, often walking on ‘fault lines’ between communities, within communities, and in dangerous places which may bring us suffering, but which are ultimately for good. We were reminded that in striking out into new ground we are often called to stand in difficult places which can bring individuals and instiotutions top their limits, but are prophetic for the sake of the kingdom. Desolation, we were encouraged, may be a point on your journey as a community, but it is not the destination. It was Martin Luther King who coined the phrase ‘suffering has it’s own alchemy’.

We were greatly blessed by Archbishop Justin’s perspective through our plenary, and it was wonderful to hear a church leader so keen to be associated with new monastic communities and the movement of new monasticism in the church. ‘It’s entirely beyond our control’ he said ‘and that is a wonderful thing’. ‘If the church isn’t doing things that aren’t incomprehensible to people outside then it’s not doing what it should.’ The archbishop went on to emphasise his dedication to the message ‘communities matter’ and that by celebrating vocational community ‘celebration puts possibilities into peoples minds’. He went on to discuss the dedication of his chaplain to a vocations system that would offer a central website for those considering vocations to community alongside ordained ministry. It would be wonderful to think that the Church in Wales would be similarly forward thinking in committing to and affirming the message ‘communities matter’. Christian life lived in community is, Archbishop Justin concluded, ‘the aspect of the churches life which is purely about God’.

The conference was a wonderful opportunity to meet people from a wide variety of different new monastic communities, all of which took a very broad variety of incarnations. I came away convinced of the important work God has entrusted to us as a new monastic community here in this place, and excited that in ministering through those moments of both consolation and desolation we, the Holywell Community, are a part of something much bigger and more wonderful in God’s church than cannot yet be fully grasped or comprehended.Sub Prior


Br Seb reflects on his first two months with us


Two months after joining the Holywell Community, Brother Sebastian sat down with the editor  of the Parish Magazine  to talk about how he’s settling in.


Br Seb came to Abergavenny from the other side of the country – Thorpe-le-Soken, around five miles from the nearest beach on the east coast of Essex.

His parish priest there, Fr Jeremy Dowding, used to serve and worship at Holy Trinity so knows Abergavenny well and suggested this would be a good move for the 18-year-old, after leaving college where he’d been studying English and maths.

Seb, who recently featured in a Church of England campaign to raise awareness of living with autism and exploring vocation, says he found moving away from home and settling into a new environment a bit confusing.

But, he went on, it’s been a really good experience, meeting new people and learning new ways of church.

“I served in Thorpe for two years,” he said, “and it was similar but St Mary’s is much bigger and there are differences in how things are done.”

Living away from home has also been a new experience but Seb told himself he had to move on and feels he’s settled down quite quickly. He’s enjoys sharing with Br Josh and is missing him being there but is looking forward to when he returns from New Zealand after Christmas.

“I tell myself any person my age would love to be living in a four-bedroomed house by themselves,” he said.

Seb has also had lots of new experiences since joining the Community – he assists with verging in funerals and is now reading the lessons, having never done that before.

“It took a lot of practice but I think I’m getting the hang of it now,” he said.

He also enjoys being part of the Crafty Women group, although he says it felt a bit odd at the beginning, being one of the only men there. But, he says, they are really good people and it hasn’t bothered him as much as he had thought it would.


Br Seb with Fr Tom OSB at Buckfast Abbey

Little Footprints is another of his duties and, while Seb says he’s taking a bit of time to get to know the parents and toddlers but he’s getting there. The parents are lovely and the kids very good and they’re getting to know each other more. He also enjoys making the crafts and, according to Fr Tom, is very good at it.

As to the future, Seb is helping to plan the Christingle service and both he and Josh will play a big part in the Thy Kingdom Come initiative next year.

Summing up his time here so far, Seb said: “I’ve tried to do everything the best I can and everyone has been lovely; thank you for the welcome.

And discussing the Community at a recent joint wardens meeting, it was agreed that this charming young man has grown in confidence and become a valuable member of the Church.


Where are the old Holywell Lay Members now?

The Prior writes,

I regularly get asked about those who have previously been in the Holywell Community. ‘How are they?’ ‘What are they up to?’ Having been at the Monastic Taster Day at the weekend, I thought now was an opportune moment to share news of them….and their journey.

I was great to see Br Adrian (2016-18) recently when we visited Mucknell Abbey to collect the St Jospeh Icon. Adrian has just completed his first year of noviciate. He has clearly found his home there.


Of the 6 at the recent Conference in Ty Mawr 2 were formerly with us : Joanna (2nd Left) and Br Adrian (far right)

After the recent postulants and novices Conference at Ty Mawr,  Joanna  (2017-18) visited us while dropping of a fellow conference member to the train. Many who have seen her at Ty Mawr confirmed the impression I got that she is very happy and contented there.

A few weeks ago I had Tea with Samuel ( 2014 -16) at the Hilton in Cardiff. He is now in his third and final year of Ordination Training. Following his Deaconing at the end of June, I have invited him to Deacon our End of Term / Feast of St Benedict Mass here on the evening of July 11th.

Jennii (2016-18) is working as a Parish Missioner in Aberavon. She is a regular visitor to Abergavenny and all seems to be well with her.

Amy (2014-16) and Michael (2015-17) have returned to the secular world. I spoke to both of them over the Summer . Amy was working as a Barmaid and Michael as a Librarian.

That leaves Simon (2016-17) who after gaining his BMus from Leeds has returned to the locality to live, while studying for his MMus at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff. Our former Concentor is now the Priory’s Deputy Director of Music.





The Prior Fr Mark and Br Seb joined other Anglican Religious at Anfield for their now annual Monastic Taster Day.

They travelled up to Liverpool the night before and were guests of the Sisters of Jesus Way, joining them for worship in the lovely chapel. SJW was formed by two Methodist Deacons. “Although the Community has become Anglican, you can sense the presence of the Wesleys in their worship”, said Fr Mark.


Chapel lights on ready for Morning Prayer

Among the other Religious Communities represented were the Mirfield fathers, Franciscans, Society of St Marys, Sisters of Jesus Way, the Brothers at Crawley Down (CSWG), Order of the Holy Paraclete and Sisters of the Love of God.


Mass was said during the day by Bishop Glyn Webster in the Church of St Columba.


We are excited to have been asked to host next year’s Taster Day here in Abergavenny.


Uprooted, Overlooked and Ignored

Today, there are around 40 million people in the world who are internally displaced. Internally displaced people have been uprooted from their homes and communities but remain in their countries of origin. Some are displaced by wars and violence, some by drought and famine, some by natural disasters. Whatever the reason for their displacement, their plight is often overlooked and ignored. We often focus our attention solely on those who have left their countries as refugees but internally displaced people represent two-thirds of people who have had to leave their homes. The Christian Aid campaign Uprooted and Overlooked draws attention to this problem and aims to ensure that any UN agreement on migrants and refugees includes provision for the internally displaced as well.

On Wednesday, we welcomed Christian Aid to the Priory to launch an exhibition which will be housed here for the duration of the Abergavenny Food Festival. We were incredibly privileged to hear from two new residents of Abergavenny who have direct personal experience of being displaced. Michael told us of the economic and political problems which caused his brother to leave Eritrea and of his own path to Abergavenny. He also spoke movingly of visiting his mother, who now resides in Sudan, after two years apart. Raasha told us of her flight from Syria and of the deep pain caused by separation from loved ones (if you’d like to support her, she will be selling baked goods on the lawn on the St Mary’s vicarage this Saturday).

Raasha addresses the opening of the Christian Aid exhibition at St Mary's Priory

Raasha tells her story

Finally, we heard from Mari McNeill, head of Christian Aid Wales, who put the scale of the issue into perspective for us. As she noted, 40 million is a mind-boggling number. Mari then pointed out that if all the displaced people were lined up outside the door of St Mary’s Priory and she were to introduce us to all of them, spending a minute each, it would take us 76 years to finish! And that’s assuming we never take a break! She also encouraged us to sign a petition to insist that the UK government pressure the UN to include internally displaced people in any detail concerning the current migrant and refugee crisis. We encourage you to do the same!

Please come down and check out the exhibition if you are able to. It consists of a series of stories of individual displaced people from Nigeria, Uganda, and Iraq. You will read, for instance, about Ayuba Azagwu who had to flee from Boko Haram. He now lives in a nine-room house in Maiduguri, sheltering up to 100 people who have also fled Boko Haram. The exhibition also asks a series of questions, which you may like to find somewhere in the Priory (or wherever you are) to sit quietly and consider:

  • Imagine if war came to your town — how would you decide whether to stay or to leave?
  • Imagine if you were forced to flee your home today. You must travel to an unfamiliar location. How safe would you feel?
  • Imagine there was no water in your home — or the shops. How would you survive?
Mari McNeill addresses the opening of the Christian Aid exhibition at St Mary's Priory

Mari McNeill addresses the gathering

It should be natural for Christians to be sensitive to the plight of displaced people. As Fr Mark noted, it was apt for us to be hearing about displaced people in front of the Jesse window in the St Joseph Chapel. The Jesse window contains depictions of many figures in Christian (and indeed Jewish history) who were displaced in one way or another, not least Jesus and Mary!

Thank you very much to Mari and all who have been involved in putting together the exhibition. It is a real privilege to be able to host it. We are also deeply grateful to Michael and Raasha for sharing their experiences with us. I’m sure everyone who was there will remember the night for a long time.

-Br Josh

Members of the Holywell Community help to set up the Christian Aid exhibition

Setting up the exhibition

Walking the Llantony Valley

Caroline Woollard, Chair of the Fr Ignatius Trust writes:

This year’s Fr Ignatius Memorial Trust pilgrimage took place on August 18— and the new members of the Holywell Community were all in the thick of it.

Fr Ignatius founded the Monastery at Capel y ffin in 1870 with the aim of restoring monastic life to the Church of England, and it remained in monastic use for over forty years.

The Trust holds an annual pilgrimage to Capel- y- ffin and the Abbey Church, including an optional 3 mile walk from Llanthony to Capel- y- ffin along the eastern side of the valley.

The day began with Mass for over 40 people at St David’s, Llanthony, celebrated this year by Fr Mark, Prior of the Holywell Community. The intercessions were led by Sub- Prior Fr Tom and the first lesson read by Br Seb.

After a shared picnic lunch, 15 intrepid pilgrims walked to Capel y ffin, this year along a dry track unlike other years when the mud has been shin deep. Both Fr Tom and Br Josh completed the walk while Br Seb waited at St Mary’s, Capel y ffin, after getting a life.

The very small, but beautifully formed St Mary’s was packed with people sitting on the stairs to the balcony or on the floor to hear the Rt Rev Cuthbert Brogan, Abbot of the Benedictine Abbey at Farnborough preach on the somewhat unorthodox Fr Ignatius and on his own life as a monk.


Everyone then processed from St Mary’s to the Monastery, now the home of Sue and Andrew Knill who have a holiday home business.

The cross was carried by Br Josh, pictured , all in all, the Trust had very good value from the Community in its first weekend.