Sunday, 9 April 2017

105 LifePoint

105 LifePoint
The aerial bombardment in Swansea during the Second World War that destroyed a Jewish place of worship also provided the site for its replacement.  The place of worship was the synagogue in Goat Street - the upper part of present-day Princess Way - which had been opened in September 1859.  After its destruction during the February 1941 Three Nights’ Blitz, various buildings were used temporarily by the Jewish community, such as Cornhill House in Christina Street, the Unitarian Church in High Street, and Henrietta Street Welsh Chapel.  But a large house in Ffynone called “Ashleigh” had also been destroyed, and this was the site on which the new synagogue was built, and opened in April 1955.  A separate synagogue (which closed in 1961) had been in Prince of Wales Road for Jewish immigrants who initially settled in the Greenhill area, but most transferred to the new Ffynone Synagogue after 1955.
“Ashleigh” was one of three adjacent large homes in Ffynone of the proprietors of the building and contracting firm Thomas, Watkins & Jenkins, of Brunswick Street.  “Cilwendig” was the home of William Thomas, “Llwynhelig” the home of David Jenkins, and “Ashleigh” the home of William Watkins.  A justice of the peace and a freemason, Watkins was twice mayor of Swansea, and a deacon of Castle Street Congregational Church.  The firm had built congregational chapels in Walters Road and Ebeneser Street, as well as Swansea’s Albert Hall, the Palace Theatre and the Hospital (where Home Gower now stands).  Mayor in 1899, Watkins died long before “Ashleigh” was destroyed by enemy action.
Swansea’s Hebrew congregation flourished for many decades in the new synagogue, but numbers dwindled at the start of the present century.  The “Jewish Chronicle” of December 2008 reported “Swansea Hebrew congregation is selling its 67-year-old synagogue building to a church group.  The community has fewer than a dozen-and-a-half active members, with an average age of 70.  Others have moved away but retain membership for burial or sentimental reasons.  If the sale to the LifePoint Church is completed, the congregation will be able to rent a small hall in the premises to continue services.”  The negotiations proceeded amicably, and LifePoint took over most of the building and adapted it to their needs.
Traditional Christian denominations such as Anglican, Baptist, and Methodist have been challenged since the 1970s by the “Charismatic Movement”, and Christian groups like New Frontiers, Vineyard and New Covenant have emerged, which seek to proclaim a radical Christian message, relevant to modern society.  In the late 1970s a young couple named John and Carol Reeves were inspired by the teaching of former Swansea Bible College student Bryn Jones at Dales Bible Weeks in Yorkshire, and in “Restoration” magazine articles, to use their Swansea home to worship with others, as did the early followers of Christ in the New Testament.  Their “house church” grew to become New Covenant Church, and for large meetings they would use at different times the former Philadelphia Chapel in Neath Road, and Bishop Gore and Parklands Comprehensive Schools.  But a permanent building was soon required, and before the move to Ffynone, co-pastor Mike Sutton Smith suggested changing the name to LifePoint, which was more relevant and understandable for a contemporary church. 
The LifePoint Centre is a newly-refurbished facility in use seven days a week and available for hire by community and business groups.  The light and spacious main auditorium seats up to 200, with a conference lounge for up to 50, and smaller rooms with fine views across Swansea Bay.  There are facilities for the disabled (including a lift), a garden and patio for warm days, and kitchen facilities.  LifePoint now hosts a food bank and is involved in outreach around Mayhill; co-pastor Mick Walford initiated the Swansea Street Pastors.  LifePoint has activities for all ages like Fitness League and Mumstop, as well as LifeGroups which meet in various homes.

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