A 100-YEAR-OLD former church in Newport that served as a performing arts academy has been returned to its use as a place of worship after a £1.6 million project.

The Philippines-based Iglesia Ni Cristo, which translates to Church of Christ, has renovated the Grade I-listed Burleigh Hall in Llanthewy Road, Newport, to be a base for its congregation stretching from West Wales to the West Country.

The church is the first of its type in Wales to serve members of the Church, thought to have between four million and nine million members.

According to planning documents the building was constructed as a baptist church in 1912.

In 1996 the church was closed and was later used as the Burleigh Academy.

Restoration work on the £1.6 million project, funded by donations from the Church’s members, has included restoring some of the church’s pews to their original design. Contractors replaced the church tower’s steel structure, and a stage was installed at the front of the sanctuary for ministers to give services.

Crystal chandeliers hang from the sanctuary’s ceiling, but within the church there are no pictures of Jesus Christ – the Church does not worship idols.

Members of the Church come fromall over the world but the vast majority are Filipino.

According to Gerardo Aliermo, resident minister, members of the congregation stretch from Pembroke and Swansea to Bristol and Bath.

Most are healthcare professionals such as nurses.

He said more than 1000 members came to see the church dedicated on August 23, with an average of a couple of hundred attending other services.

Brother Tony Smith, district minister, said Burleigh Hall was an “absolutely beautiful building. It has so much character.”

“The congregation went for a number of years without a proper chapel.

“They rented halls here and there until the time came to find a place of worship,”

he added.