St Paul’s has been a mission-minded church in the heart of Newport since 1836.
At the first service in St Paul’s building, the Bishop of Llandaff, Rt Revd Edward Copleston, preached from Matthew 11:3-4 – ‘Jesus replied, ‘Go back and report to John what you hear and see: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.’ This text has set the tone for much of St Paul’s history, which is packed full of stories of Christian witness, enterprise and innovation.
Serving the community
This extract from Revd T. Parry Pryce’s book, ‘One hundred years of evangelical witness (1836-1936): Being a brief history of St Paul’s Parish, Newport‘, highlights the role that St Paul’s has played in serving the community, particularly those who are struggling:
During the winter of 1878 and the spring of 1879, in consequence of the deep distress amongst the poorer portion of the population of the parish, it was found necessary to organise and to bring into operation special measures of relief… Many members of the congregation contributed money, clothes, bedding etc., while other undertook to support a number of families with soul and bread upon several days of the week. A Coffee-shop was also opened, where a basin of hot coffee and a great piece of bread might be had for one penny or in exchange for a free ticket. In this way, for many months, a considerable amount of relief was served out amongst the starving ones. The Coffee-shop alone supplied 12,429 rations of bread and coffee. Nevertheless God graciously turned the time of deep distress into seasons of spiritual blessings.
During the ministry of Revd J. Tinson Wrenford, St Paul’s experienced significant growth through Wrenford’s passionate evangelism:
His long ministry in the parish, of nearly fifty years, will be specially remembered and deeply cherished for the series of successful and soul-stirring missions, which were the outcome of his burning passion for souls. These missions… greatly affected the spiritual life of the whole town , and it is on record that literally hundreds were converted within the four walls of the church.
St Paul’s is also a church with a passion for planted new churches and engaging in new missionary activity. During the ministry of Revd Canon Alfred A. Matthews, we’re told:
Rarely has any Parish witnessed a greater extension of Church work in a corresponding period of time. Nor was his vision bounded by Parochial boundaries. His great passion for the extension of God’s kingdom can best be seen in the Missionary activities of the Parish.
During this period, three new churches were planted to serve the South and West of Newport, which were dedicated to St Barnabas, St James, and St Thomas.
A new era
In spite of the building having been recently renovated and re-opened, in the summer of 2015 the Church Council made the difficult decision to close St Paul’s building and look for a new home in the city centre. While it was with huge sadness that we said our goodbyes to our historic building, we were confident that we journey onwards in the same missionary spirit which has guided St Paul’s since our founding.
For 3 years, our home in the old Post Office in Bridge Street has provided a wonderful base for our mission and ministry. We have created new partnerships with charities, community groups, and other churches to best serve the needs of the city centre. Of particular note are our partnerships with The Trussell trust to provide a Foodbank, a Chinese church in Cardiff, Street Pastors and Amazing Grace Spaces.
In the next year, we are exploring a merger of the city centre parish and that of St Stephens, Pill. It seems we are destined to be a nomadic church, this time extending our ministry to one of the poorest areas in Newport, whilst maintaining our passion to love and serve in the city centre.