Riverside began 5 years ago from an idea to connect with the 10,000 people who’d come to live in the new communities in and around Leeds. Team Leader, the Revd James Barnett (right), conducted 600 one-to-one interviews with the new residents and as a result a small group began meeting in a disused shoe shop.
There’s now a core group of 80 adults and 25 children and they see a steady number of people wanting to be baptised each year. For 50%, church is something completely new. James says, “It’s really proved to me that if you invest in personal relationships then people show up.”
He adds, “We’ve met in different places, including the Royal Armouries, and now we meet on a Sunday at Holy Trinity Boar Lane. But we’re not just about Sunday; we have ‘missional communities’ around the city, which are small weekly gatherings of people who are committed to the values of Riverside. Some are based around a pub quiz or curry (so that it’s easy to bring friends along) or a geographic location. We’ve just set one up for students and one is a traditional Bible study group. And others are for people who are particularly focussed on being missional in the work place or the arts, for example.
“Every term the missional communities come together to describe what’s been going on for them and this time we decided to capture that on film”.
The films were fronted and filmed by Lizzy Brothwood (above), who is about to apply for ordination. She says, “Many who came on that Sunday were learning about missional communities for the first time, and the video clips led to a lot of great conversations. And for all of us, they really caught the diversity of the communities, but also their common thread - that we’re all about people who are learning from Jesus helping others learn from Jesus, ie we’re disciples making disciples”.
James adds: “We keep our stated values deliberately simple and clear, so that everyone gets it. Our aim is ‘to live by a faith which is illustrated by hope and known by love’. We have quite a bit of lay leadership, and our services are pretty informal (and, because we’re in the heart of Trinity shopping centre, they often include tourists wandering in to take photos), but we’re also growing into Anglican liturgy.
“Pastoral care is sometimes an issue as we have some particularly broken and vulnerable people, along with a high proportion who are new to faith. But we’re growing together and we hope that we’ll increasingly be a blessing to Leeds.
"Anyone is welcome to come and join us - to ask questions and explore the Christian faith, or just to try us out.”
In 2014 Riverside became a recognised part of the Church of England when Bishop Nick gave it a Bishop's Mission Order.
Watch the video clips here
More on the Riverside website here.