In all the four gospels, Christ gives a personal name to just one sole character in his parables: Lazarus (of “The Rich Man and Lazarus”). It’s a striking point to recognise because, not only is this unique in Christ’s stories, but the name Jesus chooses is that of his own best friend. Clearly, he loves the character at some deep level, uniquely and specially, and the naming bestows honour. Our names are important; they are crucial to our identity, and we use them accordingly.
Thus, it is important that the Newport No. 2 Ministry Area have a strong and fair name, which Christ can bless. We have been aware that “East Newport Ministry Area”, though familiar and comfortable to five of our six parishes, does not describe the new area so accurately as it did the old. However, “East Newport and Caerleon” singles out one parish for special treatment in a way that is unfair to five others which also have their own distinct identities. Further, either choice runs the risk of treating Caerleon as “bolted on” to an otherwise established Ministry Area — which would not create a healthy dynamic for the future.
We therefore took the decision to treat the new Ministry Area as a new creation entirely — as, in fact, it is — and to let the name to reflect that fact. (Language has a strong impact on culture and culture on language; best to start as we mean to go on.) The hope was to take a single, simple name that gives no preeminence nor special treatment to any of our churches (there will be no “mother church” in Newport No. 2, a point for discussion in a future article), but embraces us all as equal in dignity and equally valued in the contribution to our common life.
The Transition Team soon found easy agreement on Beechwood Ministry Area as our new name. Initially suggested by Archdeacon Jonathan because Beechwood is the exact geographical centre of the new MA, the name was adopted by the Transition Team at their most recent meeting (12th May), and welcomed and ratified by the Clergy Team at theirs (19th May). In both cases, consent was unanimous. The advantages to this name are that (a) the geographic centre is a fair and simple descriptor; (b) there is no Beechwood parish; the name is neutral; (c) all of our churches can therefore start afresh on a level pegging; (d) a new name allows us to look to the future without the baggage of trying to shoehorn old names into new circumstances. We hope the choice is well received in the pews; it is certainly offered in good faith and with care for all.