The church that began in a shoe shop

A new church that originally met in a shoe shop has been officially launched by Bishop Nick.

Riverside church began four years ago from nothing – or rather, from just an idea to connect with the 10,000 people who’d come to live in the new communities in and around Leeds. Pioneer Minister, the Revd James Barnett (left) conducted 600 one-to-one interviews with the new residents and as a result a small group began meeting in a disused shoe shop. With a complete mix of ages and backgrounds, there’s now a core group of 80 adults and 25 children, for 50% of whom church is something completely new. And this year alone five people were baptised.  James says, “It’s really proved to me that if you invest in personal relationships then people show up.”

He adds, “Essentially we’re a church without a building - along the way 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 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 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 but differently.

“We keep our stated values deliberately simple and clear, so that everyone gets it. Essentially 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 growing into Anglican liturgy – for example we now have daily prayer at 8am.

“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 although we’ve made loads of mistakes, 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.”

Earlier this month, Bishop Nick officially launched the church (as it now has a Bishop's Mission Order and is therefore a recognised part of the Church of England) and he licensed the Revd Hannah Smith (right) as curate.

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