THE diocesan Pioneer Minister, the Revd James Barnett, started
with one-to-one conversations with 600 people among the 10,000 who
had come to live in the new communities in and around
Leeds. The result was that a small group began
meeting in a disused shoe-shop.
That core group gradually grew, until it is now 80 adults and 25
children, half of whom were totally new to the idea of church. In
this year alone, five people have been baptised (above).
"It's really proved to me", Mr Barnett says, "that if you invest in
personal relationships, then people show up."
Now known as Riverside Church, it has recently been officially
launched by the Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Revd Nick Baines, who, at
the same time, licensed the Revd Hannah Smith as assistant curate.
"Essentially we are a church without a building," Mr Barnett says.
"Along the way we have met in different places, including the Royal
Armouries, and now we meet on Sunday at Holy Trinity, Boar
"But we're not just about Sunday: we have seven 'missional
communities' around the city, which are small weekly gatherings of
people who are committed to the values of Riverside. They're quite
diverse. Some are based around a pub quiz or a curry so that it's
easy to bring friends along; and one is a traditional Bible-study
group. We prefer not to use the label 'fresh expression': we think
of ourselves as just another church doing the same things
They keep their stated values deliberately simple and clear, he
says. They seek to "live by a faith which is illustrated by hope
and known by love". They have a number of lay leaders, and their
services are "pretty informal", especially when they are held in
the heart of Trinity Shopping Centre, when they often include
tourists wandering in to take photos. "But we are growing into
Pastoral care has its difficulties: there are some particularly
broken and vulnerable people, as well as those that are new to the
faith. But, he says, they are now really growing together.