The Story behind Leeds Vineyard
In the late 90s, when Alison and I returned to Leeds and began to gather people together with the intention of planting a new Vineyard, Leeds was already blessed with a marvellous Vineyard called the North Leeds Vineyard. But we had bought a house in North Leeds (which is where we are from) and were left scratching our heads wondering what name we should use: North East Leeds Vineyard?, Alwoodley Vineyard?, White Rose Vineyard?. We were stumped.
Then a little while later we were walking with the boys along Otley Chevin and as we gazed out North across the Wharfedale valley I felt the Lord say, “this is where you are”. So we called the church, the Wharfedale Vineyard. It wasn’t a particularly meaningful label, it wasn’t forever, it was just where we were.
As it happened, we gathered a wonderful group of people from up and down Wharfedale over the following years and the name suited us well (unless you were a southerner in which case we got mixed up with a popular salad or a famous hotel). I loved the fact that Wharfedale is a viking word made up of wharfe, which means bendy, and dale, which means valley. The bendy-valley-vineyard!
As the calendar tipped into 2010 we began to feel that the time had come to think about the name again. North Leeds Vineyard had come to an end and in the subsequent years a number of our folk moved to join Jonathan & Nicki Abbey who were sent out from Hull Vineyard to plant a church in York. Subsequently, we became less widely spread around West & North Yorkshire - especially as we planted churches in Harrogate, Sheffield, Bradford and Edinburgh.
Although I love the Dales, I am a city boy and have always felt called to bring the kingdom to Leeds - citywide. So our focus has steadily settled on Leeds. Practically, when someone in our area does a web search for a Vineyard, they will more likely know where Leeds is than Wharfedale. And, Leeds is easier to spell than Wharfedale.
So we are now called Leeds Vineyard but many of us hold on to precious memories of the Wharfedale Vineyard and thank God for the wonderful, miraculous, saving things He has done within the community carrying that name. Wharfedale Vineyard is still the official title of our holding charity.
The name has changed, but nothing much else. We have the same purpose, we do the same things, we worship the same Lord, we minister in the same places.
In 2013, after many years moving around from venue to venue like a hermit crab, we heard the Lord direct us toward Headingley. This is the part of Leeds in and around which we both grew up and it seems we were being sent even closer to our roots. We are under instruction to "make Headingley our Home and our Hub".
God has been gracious to us in enabling a partnership the wonderful people at Headingley Methodist Church from whom we rent the church for Sunday worship. There can be few better situated churches in the city, we are very grateful. A group of Leeds Vineyard folk, led by Jos McLaren, also meet regularly on Sundays in Morley.
As we have been making Headingley our Home we have now bought Vineyard House (previously known as St Michael's Parochial Institute). Over the coming years we plan to make this iconic and famous building our Hub and a vibrant expression of God's compassion and justice - feeding the hungry and serving the poor.
P.S. We are keeping the Wharfedale Vineyard Charity in place. Leeds Vineyard will operate within the Wharfedale charitable and financial structure. If you give to Wharfedale Vineyard the money will still end up in the right place. New gifts can be made to Leeds Vineyard.
Here are Our Vision and Our Values.
Image credit: Humphrey Bolton / View of the Wharfe Valley from Chevin Country Park, Otley / CC BY-SA 2.0
David and Alison Flowers, 13/04/2015