Jonathan Clark has been Vicar of St George’s for 10 years now, so we asked him to share with us his reflections on the last decade! Why do you love Leeds? I love Leeds for lots of reasons: because God loves Leeds and it’s where God has called me to live; because it’s the leading Yorkshire city, which is where I’m from, I came here as a boy to the football and opera. It’s contemporary and vibrant; it’s got a buzz. I love it because it’s so close to the countryside as well as having all the great things of city life. I love its golf courses! The challenge for the Church however, is to work out how to tackle the inequalities in this city.
Summarise your journey over the last 10 years
It’s been a really exciting journey of empowerment of St G’s Church and of leaders. 10 years ago, the Church wanted to ‘get young again’, so they invited me to think about how to do that. At the time there were no undergraduate students so the Bishop said to me ‘can you get the students back?’ This was a good challenge.
One of the first things I knew I needed to do was appoint young leaders, when I got the chance, so I appointed Beth Tash, James Barnett, Chris Sayburn and later Joanna Pearson. This was an important step. But before I could appoint these members of staff the evening service was led by a team including Paul Roberts, Jo Bishop and Ian and Sal Warner, all I did was preach! This was part of the journey of empowering young leaders.
The thing that really excites me is raising up leaders and to see people I’ve appointed really thriving is so exciting. It’s been amazing to see Mark Powley’s dream of a Theological Centre become a reality. Big dreams actually take a long time to work out, and over the last 10 years it has been great seeing many big dreams become a reality.
It has never been about St G’s being a really good Church, it already was a really good Church; it’s about St G’s being a church for the city and for the North; we’re beginning to see that happen. We have trained leaders for St G’s, for Leeds and beyond.
In the last 3 or 4 years St G’s have been very outward looking and really started to serve the city; particularly the way we’ve placed our interns around the city has helped build relationships with other Churches. This has shown that we’re not about building our own empire but working for the Kingdom of God and serving the wider Church. We’re doing this through Networks, Worship, Internship, St Barnabas, Wrangthorn and involvement in New Wine.
I think now we’re getting a better balance between the old and the young in Church, within both congregation and staff. We’ve got the wisdom of our Church Wardens and older members of the Church that the young team needs.
It’s a calling on St G’s to raise up leaders and send them out.
What are your highlights?
The highlights for me are when we fill the Church over and over. I love to see the Church full of people I don’t know to hear the Gospel. I know how privileged I am to be part of a Church where these things are happening, but I’m often not directly involved, it’s something that God is doing.
A particular highlight has been Gospel events such as ‘Contemporary Carols’ and ‘Gospel According to…’ with high production value and communicating the Gospel in a relevant way. It’s a great bonus to have such talented musicians in the Church, but to take those gifts and use them to make Christ known is really exciting; gifts are to bless others. Our gifted musicians are set to serve the Church, and Chris Sayburn is a brilliant example of a serving leader, which has flowed out through the rest of the Worship team.
My enjoyment and satisfaction doesn’t come particularly through big events but it’s through seeing a Church mobilized. Whenever I see others using their gifts, it lifts me up. A big passion of mine is that people discover their gifts and use them in God’s service. I’ll never be finished in encouraging others to do this. The Shape Course, which I started 10 years ago, facilitates this; it is a great passion of mine.
What do you hope for the next 10 years?
In 10 years time I hope that St G’s will remain a strong Gospel Church, that our foundations remain biblical, faithful and counter cultural, that St G’s will be involved in planting a number of Churches in different ways; branching out to different areas of the city.
Another great aspect of St G’s is that we are a Church of many nations; the Farsi Network is thriving and our work with International Students reflects a modern multi-national city, though we still have a long way to go. I pray that this happens more and more.
I’d love to see a place for people who’ve come through the crypt or out of prison, from the streets or out of addiction, to have a network where they can get the support they need. A Church like this would have a strong discipleship programme and strong fellowship, with a shorter service that has punchy teaching and involves food! We’re not yet doing this, so we need to pray more about it. I’m thankful to God that so many things we’ve prayed for over the years are happening.
What has been challenging?
Leading both the Church and the Crypt with the same vision and values; at times this has been very stretching. But by the grace of God and His provision in leaders, it is made possible.
Another challenge has been working with all the church leaders in Leeds, trying to find a way for all the Churches to pray together and act as one body is a huge challenge. Progress is slow but this is necessary to get everyone on the same page.
It’s important that St G’s is a church that blesses Leeds, so the challenge is to manage my time and energy well between serving St G’s family and serving the wider church. Despite false starts and mistakes I’ve had lots of support from St G’s family; I see this as a sign that if others have the same vision, it’s from God and that it is a vision worth pursuing.
Read about Jonathan's most memorable moments here.