Our Story

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The Lab has been experimenting with growing community and church in Newport, South Wales, since Autumn 2005.

The Lab was initiated in 2005 by the former Bishop of Monmouth, Rt Revd Dominic Walker, who wanted to develop a church community of students and young adults in Newport who would otherwise not have contact with a traditional parish church.

The Beginning
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The Lab, as it is now, evolved out of a group of students and young people who were looking to do church in a different way. A team, led by Revd Justin Groves, began drawing people together to meet on a Sunday night and a core group of young adults emerged.

Since then things have developed and evolved.

We tried out different venues, and for a while tried out meeting in the upper room of a pub. People have come and gone, and that community has grown to about 20-30 people, mostly young adults with a few others.

As well as that, about five years ago a group of us were looking for somewhere to live, and had a desire to live somewhere intentionally on mission. We approached the diocese and they offered us an unused vicarage on the Alway estate, which is an area of deprivation on the eastern edge of Newport. The community in Alway has continued to grow as we’ve experimented with rhythms of life and prayer, and developed different initiatives to serve the local community, especially local young people.

Developing and Evolving
Recently things have continued to develop even further. In September 2012, James and Amy Henley moved across Newport to an area called Duffryn, in order to try and grow community and church there. The main Duffryn estate is in the top three per cent of deprived areas in Wales. In September 2013, we launched a new project called Eli Music seeking to connect with children and young people through music. And in the next year, we will be beginning to develop another hub on the Ty Sign estate in Risca.

So The Lab is increasingly evolving into a network of different pioneering communities, initiatives and people connected together for mutual support, encouragement and accountability.

We’ve seen many young people and young adults begin new journeys of faith over the last nine years, and seen lots of others grow in confidence and self-esteem which has been amazing to see. We’ve also been recognized by local community associations and given a couple of awards for different projects we’ve initiated.

Hopes And Dreams
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Our dream is to see little pockets of hope and peace bubbling up all across Newport, where young leaders are being called to innovate new forms of mission and church amongst those on the edges.

Ultimately, we dare to dream that we might see transformation across the whole country of Wales as we begin to get to grips again with what it means to be God’s people on mission. To see transformed, hopeful communities appearing across the whole of Wales, from the cities and the Valleys in the South, to the coastal towns in the West, to the rural towns and villages of North and mid Wales.

Part of the Welsh religious heritage is that the country was originally evangelised by small missional communities of monks. It seems fitting now that we are attempting to be part of a new wave in mission by essentially doing the same. That’s inspiring and challenging!