The vision for River in the City is to create new ways of 'being church' for people who work, relax and live in Liverpool City Centre. Pioneer minister Keith Hitchman envisages a growing network of small communities in workplaces, cafes, and many other areas.
Liverpool ONE is one of the biggest shopping centres in the country. Its 42 acres includes 160 shops, more than 20 bars and restaurants, a 14-screen cinema and a park. It is the largest city centre regeneration project in Europe.
River in the City will seek to serve those who visit, work and live in this development but it will also be there for anyone in and around the Liverpool city centre. The slogan for Liverpool ONE is 'Love the City'; the aim of River in the City is to follow Jesus' lead and to love the city in his name, demonstrating that love in useful and practical ways.
The Diocese of Liverpool is looking at a model of church that doesn't involve a large number of people coming together in one place but sees groups being established around a common interest – whatever that interest may be. In a world of choice and change, people form groups with others who share the same interests and views on life. It is through these groups that they discuss and ask the big questions and I want to help people to do that.
This is about taking church out of the church building and into the workplace environment. It's about growing faith where life happens and life happens in the workplace and places like the city centre.
It's interesting how people see my work. Someone recently described me as 'the travelling vicar.' In a sense I suppose that's what I am! Other things are also important here. I have already been asked the key question of what football team I support. My son has chosen Liverpool because I don't think we'll survive without supporting a team from the city but I'm going to stick with my own favourites, West Ham. That means I don't have to be a 'Blue' (Everton) or a 'Red' (Liverpool). Anyway if you add the blue and the red together you'd probably get the claret colour of The Hammers!
Culture is changing so rapidly that, for me, fresh expressions is not an add-on. It is vital. We're mapping out the way the Church will look over the next 200 years and that's exciting, but it’s also disturbing for people I think. The line that comes to me is from the book of Acts, 'these people are disturbing our city'.
Supportive bishops, deacons and those in leadership in the Diocese mean there is a growing understanding of what it means to do church in new ways and be church in new ways for a new time. I love the fact that there is a strategy for pioneer ministry here and the imagery of Lake and River – with the river of fresh expressions flowing into the lake of the inherited models of church. There's something very holistic about that.