Last Friday I travelled to Leeds with students on the pioneer mission leadership training course for a ReSource weekend. There are 4 of these a year and they give Christians from every background the opportunity to hear stories of mission and experience fresh expressions of church that are being created in various locations around the UK. Friday night we heard the story of Revive and how this faith community are using a Grade 2 listed, disused church building, that was in a serious state of disrepair, to provide an arts venue called Left Bank. They have restored the outer shell and now have plans to install under floor heating and a permanent labyrinth. This week they had their first meeting to plan and begin galvanising support for an ambitious project at the end of the year, a production of ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’. Despite the snow, they had an impressive turnout of 100 local people that included actors, artists and musicians. While we were happily warm and comfortable in Simon Hall’s front room, we were blissfully unaware of the blizzard that had been raging outside! When we left to find our accommodation for the night, we had a hairy journey as vehicles slipped and slided on the roads. Eventually we had to abandon the car and trudge up the hill through the snow- storm to get to our final destination!
On Saturday morning we visited Left Bank and then Andrew Grinnell gave us an overview of Leeds by mapping the extremes of wealth and deprivation that co-exist there. It put where we were and what we would see in its geographical context. Next we heard from Mike who was working to encourage and equip individuals who had a vision to transform their locality from the grassroots. He combined this with exerting influence on those in positions of power at the City Council and within the business community to affect change at a strategic level. We then travelled with Andrew to East End Park which is an estate where he lives and seeks to build Christian community with his family and a couple of friends who relocated with him from the affluent suburb of Raynes Park in South West London nearly 7 years ago. Here we saw firsthand the devastating effects of poverty and the positive difference Andrew’s patient and relational approach to mission is having in slowly restoring hope and social cohesion.
In the evening we went into the City Centre and visited the recently renamed Leeds Minster where Sue Wallace puts on a worship experience called ‘Transcendence’. This combines the ancient, as reflected in the historic fabric of the building, with modern LED lighting and multi-media presentations. The Minster provides a very different opportunity for mission but requires the same need to recognise the connection points and the imagination to make the gospel accessible and meaningful for those beyond the reach of conventional church. On Sunday morning we had a chance to reflect on our own, and then in groups, on what we had encountered over the weekend and how that could be applied and adapted to our own local contexts.
As usual ReSource Leeds was a wonderful mix of food, fellowship and interesting stories. But it also has the power to generate a spark of Holy Spirit inspired life and energy that can give birth to exciting new ventures where Christ is revealed afresh. The next one will be in Birmingham on 12-14 April 2013 where the focus will be on mission in a multi-faith environment. If you would like to know more visit http://pioneer.cms-uk.org/resource/weekend-details. I hope to see you there!