Once a national centre for the chemical industry, Widnes has a population of 60,000 which is pretty static and largely white. There are rural areas of affluence but the urban centre is significantly deprived. Central and South Widnes are particularly marked by poor health and poverty. For example, you are more likely to die prematurely of cancer in Widnes than in any other part of the country; 1 in 6 are depressed and the number of hospitalisations due to mental illness are the highest in the UK.
At the civic centre of the town is St Paul’s. In this parish there are 2,100 households, from which in the last four years there were 1,700 reported instances of domestic violence.
The challenges that these conditions bring have attracted positive community leaders; the council is clear on their strategic goals; local schools are graded good to outstanding and the College of Further Education is highly ranked nationally. The town has bottomed out and is on an upward turn.
At St Paul’s there are 100 people with no church background that are now part of a weekly, worshiping community. There are leaders pursuing vocations in the Church of England, who have come to a new faith through St Paul’s. There are patterns of discipleship emerging which are appropriate for the different demographics. However, there are key strategic opportunities which can only be taken as the church’s capacity increases. The development of a Resource Church in Widnes would build upon these early signs of transformation and spiritual revival. An injection of staff and skills at this point would be catalytic, speeding up the journey that St Paul’s has already started.
St Paul’s is here to be on the side of local people – in the good times and the bad, on the special occasion and in the normal everyday.
We welcome the opportunity to come close to local people, and those with a connection to St Paul’s at some of the crucial moments of life. Whether this is for occasional offices – baptisms, weddings and funerals; in moments of struggle in relationships, finances or with addictions – we want to stand with you.
Working together is important for us at St Paul’s.
We are part of the wider community here in Widnes, and of the church across the world.
In church terms we together with our sister churches of St Mary’s West Bank and St Mary’s Hale form the South Widnes Team. We are part of Widnes Deanery which is part of Liverpool Diocese which is itself part of The Church of England.
The history of St Paul’s Church is closely linked with the history of the town. It seems strange to think that the land in Victoria Square where St Paul’s now stands used to be a rural area.
In 1874 the first chemical works opened in Widnes. The area had good transport links via the river and the canal, and the town soon grew into a thriving industrial area. As new factories were established, the population of the town grew rapidly.
“The Church Extension Scheme” committee was set up to provide extra Church of England churches for the Widnes area, as there were 9000 Church of England worshippers and the only churches were at Farnworth, West Bank and Ditton, all of which held only 200 people at a time. When the population of the town had grown to 25,000, the people, with the help of the famous masters of industry of the day, raised the necessary money and St Paul’s was built as a daughter Church to the “old St Mary’s.” St Paul’s, without its now familiar tower and clock, was finished in November 1884.
In the 1890’s St Paul’s Church was a very busy place. It had several halls and school rooms, and at the height of its popularity over 1,000 children attended the Sunday School. On 30th June, 1901, having had 13 years of busy life as “daughter” to St Mary’s, St Paul’s was established as a separate parish and its first Vicar, Rev. Douglas Edward Morton, was appointed. During his seven years as Vicar, the red brick vicarage adjoining the church was built, and the tower and clock were added to the church.