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St George, Leeds

Story

Since it was built in the 1800s, St George’s has always been well known for its strong engagement with mission to the city of Leeds. In the 1930s the Church embarked on a specific outreach to the homeless of Leeds based in the Church’s crypt, which continues as a thriving ministry today. The Rev’d Canon Jonathan Clark was appointed as the Rector of St George’s, Leeds in 2003 after a time when student numbers had tailed off, and Sunday attendance declined gradually to around 330.

Jonathan felt that there was a fairly straight forward fix to this gradual decline and went about renewing the evening service to attract students and young adults. By 2009 average Sunday attendance figures had peaked at around 650. Jonathan identifies three key drivers for this renewal and growth:

  • Adopting a consistent, contemporary and relevant worship style for the evening service;
  • Creating a leadership team of young people that made the evening service an attractive option for their peers;
  • Appointing younger people onto the Church’s staff team to help nurture the new focus.

St George’s launched a local Community Church plant in 1989, which became a District Church. Here there is an emphasis on the ‘belonging before believing’ style of evangelism and everything (almost) is lay led. More recently, St George’s have formed a partnership with a local parish church (St Augustine’s, Wrangthorn) with the Associate Vicar becoming Priest in Charge and working with a small team to help the congregation of St Augustine’s to grow in numbers.

St George’s has now adopted a Missional Community structure, made up of ‘Networks’ (about 20 mid-sized groups, each with c15-35 in membership). Some of these Networks are geographically based, and some are based on a common missional focus- on the workplace, or people of the same life stage; there is one focused on Israel/Palestine, and the political and faith issues that go with it, which is connecting with Muslims and Jews in the city. These Networks empower lay leaders, and enable groups to pursue both community/belonging, and mission, simultaneously.

St George’s has adopted the strap line ‘Sharing Life, Loving Leeds’ to express the church’s vision of belonging and mission to the city. With this new focus, and a structure to enable it, Jonathan is confident that St George’s can continue to grow spiritually and numerically. His dream is to send out more teams to renew the mission of the Church in Leeds.