Shared Pontypool church is focal point of community

A Pontypool church building which has been shared between worshippers, local groups and businesses for the past seven years has become the heart of the community.

St John’s Church and Community Centre in Wainfelin, which provides office space for four businesses as well as holding church services, fitness classes, coffee mornings and craft clubs, has been awarded more than £32,000 from the EU-funded South East Wales Community Economic Development (SEWCED) programme towards heating improvements.

Supported by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government and run by a six-Valleys local authorities’ consortium of Merthyr Tydfil, Bridgend, Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly, Rhondda Cynon Taf and Torfaen, SEWCED has invested £7.3m in 106 social enterprises since it began in 2010, helping to create 22 social enterprises and 110 full-time jobs.

St John’s, a Grade II listed Victorian building was much larger than the congregation needed and in 2007, the decision was taken to share its resources with the community. This gave it a new lease of life, providing flexible accommodation for a range of activities. 

After a number of funding packages supported a refurbishment programme, the church now provides self-contained spaces suitable for IT and other training, a large meeting hall and a room for worship.

The SEWCED grant has allowed the installation of new radiators, double glazing at the main entrance glass lobbies to minimise heat loss and enhance security on site, and improved broadband reception throughout the building.

Community Centre Chair and Rector of the Parish of Pontypool, the Rev Canon Brian Pippen said: “As an old stone building, prone to cold draughts and chills, we wanted to create a safe and warm environment for the people using it.

“We’re hoping the improvements will allow us to run new types of events, including parties and banquets, which were previously impossible given the lack of heating. We’ll hopefully be able to increase the number of people using the centre and achieve our goal of attracting families.”

Torfaen County Borough Social Enterprise Grants Manager Caitlin Eales said: “The project is centred on the listed building and is striving to make it a sustainable, not-for-profit business benefitting of the residents of Wainfelin and the wider Torfaen community.

“As well as preserving the local heritage as recognised by CADW, the building has become a very important and much-loved community hub.”

St John’s Church and Community Centre will be holding a number of events to celebrate Christmas. As well as having already held a very successful craft fayre, Monday, December 1 will see the lighting of Pontypool Community Council Christmas tree in the grounds of the church and at 6pm.

Following the ceremony will be a community carol service with the Salvation Army Band and entertainment by young people from the Junior Church Craft Club.