THE first church to be opened in the disestablished Church in Wales is celebrating its 95th anniversary this weekend.
St Martin’s, Llay, in Wrexham, was opened five years after the disestablishment of the Church in Wales, on 21 February 1925. It was built to serve the community of miners working at the new Llay Main colliery.
The Church Times reported on the opening at the time: “Cheering evidence of the courage and vitality of the Church in Wales is to be found in the way in which it has met the spiritual needs of the great new colliery district that has lately sprung up at Llay near Wrexham. . .
“Ever since the coming of the ‘sinkers’ in 1915 the Church has literally been on the spot making such provision as was possible for this new flock. Now as the result of courage and persistency worthy of all praise her efforts have culminated in the spacious and beautiful church of St Martin.”
In his sermon on the day of St Martin’s consecration, the first Archbishop of Wales and Bishop of St Asaph, Alfred George Edwards, declared the building of St Martin’s “a silent but eloquent token of courage, foresight, vision, and generosity. In a country at the end of the greatest war in its history, its wound still bleeding, its resources well-nigh exhausted, it needed a stout heart not merely to dream about, but to plan and adventure the building of the new Church.”
Just months after the church opened, the colliery suffered its worst disaster: nine men and boys were killed in an explosion.
At its peak, the colliery employed 2500 men and boys — the largest workforce of any mine in Wales — but, in 1966, it was closed owing to geological problems.
The current Team Vicar in Llay, the Revd Huw Butler, said: “Over the past 100 years, there have been many examples of courage, foresight, vision, and generosity within the life of this Church and the wider community. Within the ever-changing nature of society and the Church, these are values which we do well to uphold as we move into the future.
“As we celebrate the double centenary of this village of Llay and the Church in Wales, we hope our changing and growing community uphold the legacy of these virtues, not merely in the beauty of bricks and mortar but in the building and fostering of a wholesome community in terms of physical, social, mental, and spiritual well-being.”
The Bishop of St Asaph, the Rt Revd Gregory Cameron, will lead a service of thanksgiving at St Martin’s this evening, the beginning of a weekend of events celebrating the first church of the Church in Wales.