From a car-park church to a front-door church

HM PictureSome news ... we have been in conversation with Rev Tim Boocock from Headingley Methodist for the last 6 months and as a result we have broadly agreed to take a 12-month license to use the Headingley Methodist church for our Sunday service(s) from September 2013!!!! That is such a short sentence to type but has such enormous implications. Alison and I feel that this is the biggest change we have yet taken Leeds Vineyard through and that it sets us up for the next decade(s) of our story.

At this stage it is just a verbal agreement and so things may well change in the coming weeks but I am hopeful that we will agree terms soon and move weekly worship to Headingley Methodist church in September. We are enormously grateful to the Methodist congregation in Headingley for being willing to consider sharing their church building with us.

You will almost certainly have questions. Many of you will have doubts. And that’s OK. Talk with your housegroup leader if this news causes you difficulties, email me if you have questions, post comments on the website. We need good ideas and suggestions and to be made aware of difficulties. If you have a criticism please offer alternative suggestions. My main request - whatever your feelings about this – please pray for us as we seek to make this work.

In a few weeks’ time we will set aside a Sunday to go through the detail of the move and what it means. In the meantime we are submitting a proposal to the Methodist church and would hope to reach a formal agreement during July/August with a start date in September. August will give us some useful downtime to sort out some logistics (signage, equipment, publicity etc).

Assuming this all goes ahead...
An immediate transformation from a car-park church to a front-door church and then a gradual shift from commuting church to a community church.

In other words, the entry point to the gathered community won't be at the car-park but at the front door. Although we don't see ourselves as a "community" church in the sense of being entirely focussed on a small geographical community, we will, hopefully, see an increase in the number of people from the local community who can "walk" to church.

Many of us will continue to commute of course but I would love to see a higher proportion of new people coming to the Vineyard from the local streets and that will gradually alter the way we see ourselves.

Sunday timings
The congregation at Headingley Methodist have decided to move their Sunday service to 9.30-10.30am. This opens up the possibility for us to meet afterwards.
• The handover will need some creative thinking and a late finish will be a challenge for the infants (and their parents);
• Set up for worship will also need to be thought through very carefully;
• We are seriously considering starting a Sunday evening service too.

We will be able to transfer our cafe operation and there may be scope for sharing with the Methodist congregation in this.

Vineyard Kids
We have enjoyed many years of brilliant kids' facilities. An old church building can't possibly replicate what we have had. It will accommodate the number of children but without the luxury of fully equipped classrooms and wide-open spaces. Our amazing Vineyard Kids team will be using all their creativity and adaptability to make it special.

I was amazed when I first went to look around the sanctuary. It's lovely and, with the balcony, can seat 500 people! However ... the seating is in large pews (some are family sized), there is no PA to speak of and no projection facility either. So the worship & PA/AV teams will also need to use their creativity!

The Building
Is in good condition – it has been looked after well. Under this agreement the fabric would not be our responsibility.

Apart from the sanctuary there is a scattering of 8 or 10 rooms with a kitchen and sports hall.

Car Parking
I foresee that this may be the cause of some grumbling. We will work hard to mitigate the difficulties but the fact of the matter is that we will all need to enjoy the luxury of Ralphs because the car-park era is about to come to an end! When I asked Brian Nicholls (the Senior Pastor at South Parade Baptist) about this he said it doesn't turn into as big a problem as we might think. People adapt, we find parking places. Many of the restrictions are lifted on a Sunday and we can do some deals with local businesses. 20,000 people manage to get into Headingley rugby and cricket grounds on a regular basis so there must be a way. A major positive is that access by public transport is good.

Vineyard Centre
We are still waiting for a buyer for the VC. Until we have sold the building there is no need to address the issue of mid-week activities The agreement with Headingley Methodist will, for now, focus on Sunday use.

Please keep praying for the effective sale of the VC. Please pray for Nigel Tapp and his firm as they market the building.

And please keep the whole thing in prayer. We know the Lord has led us to this point. It won't be easy but we know His hand is on us for the next stage. And more kingdom fruit will be manifest very soon.


David Flowers, 27/05/2013