On the 24th July we celebrated the 125th Anniversary of the original Church on this site and the 25th Anniversary of becoming a United Church with the United Reformed Church.The special guest preacher was the Revd Sally Thomas, Ecumenical Officer of the United Reformed Church in Wales.
In 1991, St Paul’s Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church in Penmaenmawr, came together to form St Paul’s United Church, on the site of the Methodist Church on Bangor Road and as part of the Bangor & Holyhead Methodist Circuit, the north-western most area of the Methodist Church in Wales. St Paul’s is the only mainstream English-speaking (with some Welsh-speaking people!), non-conformist church in Penmaenmawr.
St. Paul’s United Church
It is fitting to endeavour to give a short history of the Church. Keeping the history short is not difficult as there is very little record of the early years!
A Methodist Society, as termed in John Wesley’s day, was formed in the 1880s as part of the outreach of the Bangor and Caernarfon Circuit, (a Methodist term for a group of churches) and taken into the Circuit in 1889. At that time there was an “iron chapel”, which was destroyed by a storm on the 8th January 1890, and immediately rebuilt. The people seem to have had little faith in the stability of the iron chapel because later that year, on the 10th of December, the foundation stone was laid for the new chapel.
The North Wales Weekly News records, “This is in continuation of the movement initiated five years ago by the Revd. F. Payne, for the accommodation of English visitors to the Welsh Coast ... The church will stand on a picturesque site which has been purchased on easy terms from the trustees of the late Mr. Darbyshire (Quarry owner), of Pendyffryn and Manchester, who supplemented their liberality by the donation of £100 towards the Building Fund.”
The style of architecture of the building to be erected is described as early Gothic. The walls are of local stone from Mr Darbyshire’s Penmaenmawr quarries, the dressings of Talacre stone (from the Point of Aire on the Dee Estuary), and the interior fittings of Pitch-pine. The School (now the Church hall) was to be built below the chapel and the cost including site was £2,600.
A service in the iron church preceding the stone-laying included addresses by Revd. Dr. Richardson and Revd. Dr. Stephenson who commended the largeness of the scheme: “People must think of the future and prepare for it”.
A church to seat ‘three hundred’ was indeed a large undertaking for a membership of fifteen! The work was completed by the following summer and the Church was opened on the 22nd July 1891. It is not surprising that despite generous help from friends in Liverpool and Shropshire the debt took a long time to clear.
As the town grew in popularity as a holiday centre so the worshipping congregation during the season grew. The provision of the premises proved wise and over the years many holidays have proved holy days through the ministry of the Church’s worship.
In 1965 major changes to the interior were undertaken. The scheme, based on the theme, “The Light of the World”, was drawn up by Mr. Sydney Ormerod, of Radcliffe. The theme is expressed in the provision of glass doors allowing as much light into the transept as possible, and then in the provision of lit communion area, cross and mural painting. On the glass panels of the porch screen there is an etching of the conversion of St. Paul, a reminder that the church bears the saint’s name and the light that shone on the Damascus road. The work of refurbishment was completed and the church re-opened on the 9th of April 1966.
For the centenary much work was done to bring the premises into the best condition possible and to retain the theme of the Light of the World. Today the worship area is light, warm and welcoming. The ministry of welcoming does not involve the large number of holidaymakers of former years, indeed the whole town (village, by census standards) has gone through difficult years with the mechanisation of the quarry and consequential mass redundancies, and the changes in tourism. That the buildings are a base for a caring and worshipping community is an important ministry of welcome to all the community including those who come to retire in Penmaenmawr. There is currently a property scheme under consideration in order to enhance the practical use of the premises.
Dr. Stephenson’s words at the stone-laying ceremony return to us more than a century later: “People must think of the future and prepare for it”. That is what has been happening over the last two decades as gradually we have looked at English and Welsh speaking Church witness and worked towards ‘doing things together rather than separately’. Within the English speaking Church worship, the 20th of September 1991 marked a significant stepping stone when in that centenary year the Methodist and United Reform Churches in Penmaenmawr came together. Twenty years on we have grown in that strength. We have enjoyed a succession of Methodist and URC ministers appointed for our pastoral charge and care, glad to be part of both a Methodist Circuit in the Methodist (UK) Connexion and the United Reform Church, confident in the presence and blessing of God, to “praise him for all that is past, and trust him for all that’s to come”. As the “travelling people of God” remembering our past, living in the present and looking in faith to the future, we invite you to share with us whenever you are in Penmaenmawr.