“ Address: Darwall St / Walsall / WS1 1DA / West Midlands / England „
The Crossing at St Pauls is situated in Walsall in the West Midlands which was my home town until six years ago when I moved to Llandudno. St Pauls is next to the main bus station in the centre of the town.
There has been a place of worship on the site ever since the mid 1800's when it was just a chapel linked to the local Queen Mary's School. The church building in its present form was consecrated on 28th September 1893 when the area around the building was mainly residential. It remained as a church until 1994/95 when the inside of the building was redeveloped into The Crossing at St Pauls to reflect the fact that the surrounding area had become mainly commercial.
I know the church because it is the church where my parents got married in 1948 - and no, I wasn't there! It is also the church where my younger sister was christened in 1966.
My mom used to worship at the church as a youngster with the rest of her family. They used to go to both of the Sunday services and the Sunday school.
You can imagine our horror when we heard that the inside of the building was to be gutted to make way for commercial units! The final service was held and the church deconsecrated. A high metal fence was put round the building and work began inside.
I was really quite upset, more on my mom's behalf than my own, that this beautiful church was to be ruined and become a place just for people to make money. In fact I likened it to the money lenders that Jesus threw out of the temple! I was that cross!
I was, however, in for a very pleasant surprise.
The outside of the building remained the same as it had always been which was a good start. Inside an extra floor had been added and a lift installed for disabled access.
On the ground floor there are half a dozen or so small retails outlets selling crafts, flowers and gifts together with a Christian bookshop.
Also on the ground floor is the original Lady Chapel from the church which has been left as a place of quiet prayer and contemplation in the middle of a busy town. It has pews for about 40 people and short services are held there during the week. I notice on the website that it is referred to as the Day Chapel but it will always be the Lady Chapel to me. When I worked just round the corner in the Council House I often used to pop in during my lunch break just to have a word with The Boss.
There is a mezzanine level around the edge of the building which incorporates a coffee shop selling drinks, cakes, snacks and light lunches.
The inside of the building is painted in light colours and the stained glass windows of the church remain so the area looks stunning bathed in natural light.
On the top floor there are 5 conference rooms and all except the smallest one have at least part of the original church windows. These are all available for hire and catering facilities can be provided.
To my surprise when the refurbishment was complete the building was reconsecrated and began to function again as a church. There are still services every Sunday and Christenings, Weddings and Funerals still take place there for time to time.
As you can see from my comments at the start of this review I was always going to take some convincing that this was the right thing to do with this lovely old building but it has been sympathetically renovated and provides a place of meeting and worship for the whole community. I was and remain very impressed with what has been done there.
They also have facilities for local artists to display their work and each one has an exhibition in the coffee shop area for a month at a time. One or two of the artist's pictures are put onto the website to give you a flavour for their work.
Next month from the end of January until the beginning of March the local artist will be a lady named Jan Keenan and if you are in the area it will be well worth a visit believe me - she is really good! I already have a couple of her paintings here in the cottage and they are gorgeous.
Anyway if I have whetted your appetite about The Crossing take a look at the website at www.thecrossingatstpauls.com I admit I was wrong; they have made a lovely job of it!
The Crossing is an inspirational social enterprise company.