Holbeck is an inner city area just south of Leeds city centre. It’s generally seen as one of the most deprived areas in Leeds; a base for the red light district and home to many drug and alcohol addicts. Locals call it ‘Hellbeck’. And it’s because of this, a group from Mosaic church in Leeds moved to the area.
“In 2008 a few people in our church all started to feel an increased passion for the same thing – a desire to see people saved and communities transformed. So we started looking at how we could partner with God and see just that. That’s when we found Holbeck.
John 1:14 MSG ‘The word became flesh and moved into the neighbourhood.’
Several of us moved into the area, not with lots of projects and services but just so we could live here. We began by getting to know our neighbours and praying that God would connect us with any ‘Kingdom activity’ that was already going on; mainly supporting and getting behind positive things already happening here. Then came our first outreach. Our offer to run a carol service in the community centre was accepted! It started small but now gets over 100 people each Christmas (unheard of for Holbeck.) Later the councillors asked us to do the Christmas Light Switch on and two events are now linked.
Over the years we have since then started ‘mission groups’ aimed at reaching out to different people within the community:
– Meal Club: we eat together and share a story about Jesus in an interactive way, anyone can come but it mainly reaches out to vulnerable people
– A group for young people
– English Conversation Club: to help those in the community improve their English skills
– Partnered with a local church to run a Food bank
After about 7 years here we felt the people we were reaching out to wanted more than what we could do organically from our homes, so we started a monthly Church service which gathers around 40 people of all ages and backgrounds. Many who come aren’t yet Christians so our aim is to give every opportunity for them to encounter him in a context which feels relaxed and accessible for them. We worship, share a story about Jesus from the Bible, have lots of discussion and pray for each other.
Our experience is that we meet him powerfully here because he is close to the poor and dwells among the broken hearted and down trodden. We have a vision for a thriving church in Holbeck full of people who have been transformed by Jesus and who are being sent out locally and globally to share him with others. But we’re in it for the long haul and so our approach is long, slow and organic. We also know that Jesus doesn’t just want to save people but also transform the whole community – so we celebrate new building works and projects and champion this community.
We don’t just count numbers on Sundays and salvations, if we did we wouldn’t have a huge amount to show for 9 years of investment; the numbers we’re more interested in are how many meals we’ve shared with people, how many have heard the name of Jesus for the first time, been prayed for, been loved, been smiled at, been included – that is what we’re about.
2 people have given their lives to Jesus through either a meal club or christmas service and have been added into our community, as well as an ex-heroin addict who is enjoying community and on her way to finding Jesus!
Regardless of what change we may see here, it is good for my heart to live here because it keeps me dependent on Jesus and desperate for his presence.”