Reflections: A Poet Theologian in Lockdown Leeds

In April 2020, poet Hannah Stone was invited to become Poet Theologian in Virtual Residence for Leeds Church Institute, charged with writing an uplifting and empathetic weekly reflection on the impact the Covid-19 lockdown was having on the communities of Leeds, using her own and others’ poetry as a medium. Week by week Hannah drew on religious ideas, poetry, art and music to map a route through this fast-changing and unpredictable experience.  

Hannah’s book was launched as part of Leeds Lit Fest 2021.  This book is based on the blogs written for LCI in 2020 and we offer it to Leeds for 2021. 

Hannah’s book is available now via Paypal (£10 inc P&P) or by emailing [email protected] 

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Refugee Realities in Church Art

A booklet spotlighting experiences of Asylum Seekers, Refugees and Immigrants as portrayed in the stained glass windows of Christ Church, Upper Armley, Leeds.  Text and concept by Janet Fraser-Smith and photography by Alastair Morton.


This quote from Ecclesiastes, a book in the Old Testament, reminds us that not one of us really has totally unique experiences; we all share something with others. The idea behind this booklet is based on this truth.

 The life stories of the people represented in the windows of Christ Church, Upper Armley, are reflected today in the lives of ordinary people, in particular in the experiences of asylum seekers and refugees and possibly intentional immigrants.

Captain Nic Sheppard (Church Army):  “Thank you to you for creating such a valuable and intriguing guide to which I look forward to returning to in future days.  For me there is just enough, and not too much, on each page to inspire and challenge me in my response to the Gospel and the journeys of others.”  

Order the booklet for £3 via Paypal (inc P&P) or by emailing [email protected] 

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And the Stones Fell Open: A Leeds Poetry Anthology

“This brilliant anthology is a celebration of Leeds, its cityscape, its people, its problems and potential, its shadow and its light.  The poems here construct a vision for the city that helps us be truthful about what is but hopeful and unapologetic about what yet may be.”  Canon Mark Oakley

Last year, the Leeds Church Institute called for poems for a new anthology responding to themes in Canon Mark Oakley’s 2019 Hook Lecture at Leeds Minster.  The poets of Leeds were asked:

  • Who will speak truth to power?
  • Who would we describe as our prophets?
  • Whose voices are struggling to be heard?
  • What are the stories that aren’t being told?
  • Can the voices of the past help us make our future?

Some answers to these questions are between the pages of this Anthology, from established and establishing writers, as well as poets appearing in print for the first time.

Order the book now for £10 (inc P&P)

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Signs by Si Smith

Signs, the new graphic novel from Si Smith (How to Disappear Completely and Abide With Me), is filled with images of the city centre in Leeds and explores the positive impact of strangers amongst us. You will be struck by the places you recognise, and your sense of recognition of bigger truths in the short stories it contains.

Signs places a high value on the contributions of diverse people, whose names are often not known and who might just be passing through the city, and shows the difference their acts of kindness, action or support can make in people’s lives. It is inspired by portrayals of angels in the bible and also in popular culture. Signs is relevant for people in Leeds of all faiths and no religious faith. It is about the city that we inhabit and create together.

Order the comic now for £7.50 (£2.50 P&P)

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Research Into Ecumenical Mission In Leeds

“Leeds is a place where ecumenical things happen,” said the late Lewis Burton, first Ecumenical Officer for West Yorkshire. In a 2015 Ecumenism in Leeds report by Sue Hoey, on behalf of Leeds Church Institute, there was a similar statement; “Over the last ten years ecumenical activity in Leeds has blossomed…” 

These claims are evidenced by the scope, breadth and variety of the 75 plus ecumenically-based projects that are now operating in the Leeds District. In broad terms, the projects are tackling challenges around poverty, homelessness, hunger, housing, education, cross-cultural mission, and issues affecting ex-offenders, pregnant women and sex workers. There is also a lot of work focused on students, youth and children. Given this positive picture, what can we learn and what are the life-giving ingredients that have given rise to ecumenical mission in Leeds?

Paul Lancaster conducted research into ecumenical mission in Leeds on behalf of the Leeds Church Institute, You can read the full report here.

Abide With Me

Abide With Me is a set of three comics, inspired by the commemoration of Candlemas, that explores some aspects of life with memory loss.

Each of the three comics tells the story of one weekend from a different perspective; a father who is suffering from dementia, his wife struggling to take care of him, and the son who is trying to help.

Written and beautifully illustrated by Simon Smith, whose previous work How To Disappear Completely (below) is available from Valley Press, Abide With Me is relevant for people in Leeds of all faiths and no religious faith. The comics value the perspective and insight of older people who have lived their lives faithfully, hoping that the best is yet to come; and show that when different generations live well together, they are greater than the sum of the parts.

Download the comics here.

© Simon Smith and Leeds Church Institute, 2018. Abide With Me may be downloaded for personal use, but may not be reproduced in print or any other media without written permission.

Leeds Country Way Pilgrimage

As a group of LCI members and staff, we walked the Leeds Country Way as a pilgrimage in sections between September 2016 and August 2017. We highly recommend the experience of a local pilgrimage when you can grow in appreciation of and reflection on our city of Leeds and its environment. To help we have put together this short guide which will help you with transport and reflection.

I hope you enjoy reading the booklet and the lovely photographs it contains. It would be delighted if you have feedback to offer or to hear if you are considering walking it yourself.

Download your copy here.

Our booklet provides guidance for the pilgrimage aspect of the country way, but if you also need help finding your way around the route you will want to visit Leeds City Council’s Country Way page.

How to Disappear Completely

How to Disappear Completely is a comic for Lent and for Leeds commissioned by Leeds Church Institute and illustrated by Simon Smith. The comic reflects on some of the themes of Lent, and particularly the story of Christ’s forty days in the wilderness. It also reflects something of the realities of life and faith in modern-day Leeds.

Folk local to Leeds will recognise some of the locations that Si has used, (not least the derelict council offices on the way out of the city to the M621), and all of the characters and people in the comic have been observed and drawn around Leeds

“How to disappear completely is a comic that was written for Lent and for Leeds so it’s basically built around Christ in the Wilderness. I’m reluctant to say too much about it because I quite like people to come to it and find what they think it’s about.”

“I like the idea that people will use it in Lent and won’t just read it and put it on the shelf going ‘I’ve done that’ but that they can read it and find something else in it. I’ve put things in there that people can find, there’s hints to things, and there’s references to songs, so if you’ve got the patience, and the interest you can look at it and go, ‘oh yeah’”.

How To Disappear Completely has been picked up by Valley Press, so it is no longer available through LCI, but you can find it on sale at the Valley Press website

Hospitality & Sanctuary

This resource, written by Inderjit Bhogal, offers prompts for conversation and reflection on the theme of hospitality and sanctuary. Though people of different backgrounds are involved in the work of hospitality and sanctuary, this is a resource produced for Churches. This resource is free to use. Please let us know if you do!

Download Hospitality and Sanctuary for All

About Inderjit:

I was born in Nairobi where I lived till the age of 11 in 1964. Kenya achieved independence, and with my parents and family I left for The UK, via a nine month sojourn in what was then Tanganyika. My first home in this country was in Dudley, West Midlands.

From my earliest days of life in the UK people of Asian backgrounds talked with me, because I was fluent in English, about their immigration concerns and forms.

So personally, rather than professionally, I have become familiar with immigration matters, policies and procedures. I am familiar with the fears, frustrations, and pains of people of all backgrounds around these. I have determined to take simple steps to seek justice and mercy in policy and procedure.

As a Methodist Minister, and Pastor, I have worked with others, especially in Churches, to critique and challenge policy and procedure where it has been unjust and discriminatory. I have supported many campaigns to challenge unjust deportations orders. In the 80’s I supported people taking sanctuary in Churches. I chaired the Sanctuary Working Group of the British Council of Churches.

In March 1997 I walked from Sheffield where I live, to 10 Downing Street, with a letter to the Prime Minister asking that Asylum Seekers are not detained in conventional prisons alongside convicted criminals, and for a fairer deal for Asylum Seekers. I also walked from the Home Office to Campsfield Detention Centre in Oxford for the same reason.

As President of the Methodist Conference in The UK [2000-2001] I visited all the Detention Centres in The UK and Northern Ireland, following which I wrote a reflection entitled “Unlocking the Doors” [2001]. I sent a copy to the Home Secretary.

In October 2005 I called a meeting, with Craig Barnett a Quaker colleague, to launch the City of Sanctuary initiative. In 2007 Sheffield was declared UKs first City of Sanctuary. When others asked how they could follow this idea, to assist, Craig and I wrote a short book entitled “Building a City of Sanctuary” [2010] with inspiring practical ideas.

There are now 30 Cities/Towns in The UK and Ireland working with the City of Sanctuary vision, to build cultures of welcome and hospitality, Cities we can be proud to live in. Visit the City of Sanctuary website for more details, watch a short video, and study the Birmingham Declaration and criteria for action.

Stories From The Forests Of Leeds

by Daniel Ingram-Brown

The book was commissioned by Leeds Church Institute and is published in partnership with The Leeds Big Bookend Festival

This book is currently out of print.

Stories from the Forests of Leeds is a treasury of tales and artwork that imagine an alternative Leeds – a forest of weird and wonderful fairytale characters. Created by a group of local writers, led by local author, Daniel Ingram-Brown, it tells the story of those who live on the fringes of the Forest through the eyes of Clarence the water rat. The stories, written by a whole range of people, from an 11 year old, to a professor of English, are beautifully illustrated by Simon Smith. This is a world inhabited by the Witch of Woodhouse, Guisely the mask maker and the three headed giant of Headingley.

The book is accompanied by a map of the Forests of Leeds and 12 character trading cards.

Why a Forest?

In stories, the forest is a place of transformation. It’s a place people venture into, away from the established order, to confront the problems that face them. Over the past year, we’ve been imagining Leeds as a forest – a complex, diverse place with no wide landscape, where roads thread between buildings, connecting people and communities. Using the image of a forest is a fun way to think about the challenges the city faces and how solutions to some of those challenges might arise.

This book is currently out of print.

The Leeds Story Cycle

Seven stories set on the day of the Grand Départ of the Tour de France

“…moving, shocking, humorous, sad and hopeful.” Dr Helen Reid

Published by Leeds Church Institute and The Leeds Big Bookend Festival

It’s 5th July 2014 and the world’s biggest cycling race is about to depart from Leeds. 22 teams, 198 riders, 2,000 journalists and 4 million people are converging on this Yorkshire city. Among them are Gizmo the dog, with his owner; a woman carrying a tin full of memories; a refugee with a rose in their pocket; a student; a grandad and grandson; and X. For each of them, 5th July will turn out to be a life changing day.

This book was curated by Daniel Ingram-Brown and created by community groups from across the city. The Leeds Story Cycle is what you get when you put a group of young people, asylum seekers, students, retired church folk, writers and recovering addicts in the same room and ask them to tell a story about their home town. This unique collection of stories was written in partnership with author, Chris Nickson; lyricist, Testament; poet and playwright, Rommi Smith; poet, Jane Steele; playwright, Lorna Poustie; and theatre practitioners, Simon Brewis and Lynsey Jones.

This book is available to buy here from Daniel Ingram-Brown for £10 (RRP £14.99), including postage.