History: St Peter & St Paul


PPsketchThe Parish Church of St Peter and St Paul is a place of worship that has been at the centre of the community of Tonbridge since the Saxons settled here.

It has seen many changes in its architecture and in its activity, but the Christian faith has remained at the heart of the building. The architecture is designed to reflect this with vaulted arches drawing the eye upward to heaven, creating a sense of openness and space as we come to focus on God.

PPPlanLooking down the central aisle you may notice the chancel is at an angle; this is not a mistake but an intended feature of the architecture to reflect the crucifixion, when Christ's head fell to one side.

In this way the building itself is shaped by the Christian faith and it is this faith in the Living God that makes our building a place of continuous history.

Who were Saint Peter and Saint Paul?

Our church is named in memory of two followers of Jesus. Peter was a fisherman and became a very close friend of Jesus Christ. Although he abandoned Jesus at the crucifixion, he met the risen Jesus who forgave him. Jesus asked Peter to "feed my lambs," to lead those who believed in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God.

Paul was a highly educated member of the Jewish religious group, known as Pharisees. He studied religious laws and was concerned with achieving purity before the Holy God of Israel. Paul didn't meet Jesus Christ until after the crucifixion; he met the risen Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus, and was trans-formed by this experience. His whole life turned around and he joined the other disciples, becoming a major teacher and leader of the early church. Many of the books in the New Testament are letters which he wrote to encourage the first churches.

Peter and Paul were very different characters, and although we don't know when our church was named after them, that naming reminds us of many important things. They were founders of the church, and teach us that Christians need to be focused on Jesus Christ in their prayers, their worship and their living. 

However, we can also learn from their differences. Peter spread the Good News of Jesus Christ (the Gospel) among his own people - the Jews. While Paul did this as well, God called him to share the Gospel with Gentiles, or non-Jews, in Asia Minor and Europe. This reminds us that as a church we need to support spiritually those within our congregation and our faith, but also go out to those who do not yet know Jesus Christ, and share the Good News with them. Peter knew the historical Jesus Christ; he had breakfast with him; but Paul knew only the risen Jesus Christ through prayer and spiritual experiences.

This difference helps us to remember that Jesus Christ was a person – a first century Jew, and also God, who is every-where; as Paul wrote: "in Him we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28). Like Paul, we meet Jesus Christ in prayer and find that we too can develop a relation-ship with God through him.

The dedication of this church to St Peter and St Paul reminds us that Church is about the ordinary man (Peter) and the intellectual search (Paul); about grounding ourselves on the rock of Christ (Peter) and about going out to others (Paul). But while we can learn lessons from these disciples, our building and our fellowship worship the same Christ that they did.