"This is the story of St Julian’s Baptist Church and the huge impact our new hall has made for us as a church and the local community. Commercial Street Baptist Church was founded in the main high street of Newport in 1828. In the 1950s the church went forward with a vision of selling the town centre premises and moving to a new estate – St Julian’s - that was being built at that time. The aim was to be at the centre of the community and so the church was purpose-built at the heart of the estate, opposite the primary school and library.
Our church is group of about 80 committed Christians, all volunteers, who seek to follow the example of Jesus, practically living what we believe about the need for everyone to be actively caring and practically participating in the life of the community here in St Julian’s and the Old Barn area. The work of the church is very wide and is funded from these committed volunteers. We use our skills, talents, time and premises wherever possible in partnership with others to enable every aspect of this community to flourish. However, we became acutely aware that the level of need was outstripping the facilities available. This in turn was limiting what could be done and reducing the future possibilities for people in the community.
We embarked on a project is to demolish and rebuild our church hall which we funded through a large grant from Welsh Government’s Community Facilities Programme, a loan from the Baptist Building Fund (now Baptist Building CIO) and our own giving and fundraising. Our previous community hall was constructed in the early 1970s and was leaking, unstable, had no insulation, incurred high expenditure on heating and was significantly detrimental to the environment.
We have demolished the old hall and built a modern one-storey building to meet our current and future needs. It is around 50% greater in area with the main hall having the facility to be partitioned into two rooms. It has two large side rooms, storage a kitchen and toilets so it is self-contained and does not rely on facilities in the main church building
Our new hall was completed and handed over to us in October 2020 after delays due to COVID. From that time the use of our premises built up incrementally as COVID restrictions eased which was slower in Wales than in England. We have found huge demand as new activities were looking to set up and others were taking the opportunity to restart and improve. The church building and new hall are regularly used by the community, so our overall use has expanded more than we expected.
So what is going on now? We have a playgroup and toddlers group, after-school and breakfast club, Junior Church and holiday bible clubs, church lunches, coffee groups, choirs and creative groups, which all help people to come together. The church is also a hub for Credit Union, Night shelter, Alzheimer’s meetings, District nurse visits for baby weighing and menopause help. We even have a Hungarian cultural community meet here to learn English.
It’s been a whirlwind year since opening so we have paused for breath. There’s never a day without a lot on. There’s more we’d like to do in time as we build up our volunteers, such as more opportunities for older people to socialise and church activities for young people, and adding a coffee shop. We would also like to offer more help to the community on finding jobs and IT skills but need to wait till the local providers are ready to relax their restrictions post COVID."