A Personal Journey

A personal journey to V4L

paul_snell_web2Paul Snell
At the end of November 2005, I was invited to be a part of a small group of people from the URC representing a wide range of theological positions. We met at Hothorpe Hall in Leicestershire for a 2 day consultation on the theme of "Evangelism and Spirituality in the URC".

Facilitated by the Life and Witness Committee of the URC and GEAR (Group for Evangelism And Renewal), the meeting was an initial part of the next stage of Catch The Vision (CTV). Much of the structural change part of CTV was already in process and the church generally was itching to get to the heart of what CTV was originally about-a transformation of the heart of the church to make it equipped and relevant in a society that had lost confidence in the church in the West, and yet was interested in pursuing spirituality in a variety of ways.

That meeting began a process which enabled us to open up to each other in different ways as we learnt to appreciate different theological stances and to be willing to listen to how God was speaking to us and using us in different contexts and diverse ways of worshipping and working together in our church communities. We were always open and straightforward, even in tackling thorny issues such as human sexuality, yet keen to hear the Spirit in each other and desiring to operate in grace rather than retreat into theological ghettos.

At our second meeting together we drew together the strands of previous discussions and eventually came to a dream! I can't remember exactly how we got there-which probably says something about the unity of vision we shared-but we dreamt of a 3 year period in the life of our church that would transform its heart through an emphasis in worship, preaching and teaching, home groups, and many other ways on the three themes of

Engaging again with the Bible

Rediscovering the power and value of Prayer

Finding confidence in Evangelism

The underlying theme was one of storytelling and the need for us to learn to share our stories with each other and the world. We went away from the meeting inspired and challenged-excited about the possibility that this just might be a way forward for the whole church. Could it be that we had hit on a way through the  issues which face the URC? Would the sense of "it seemed right to the Holy Spirit and us" catch on throughout our denomination?

One of our group is Revd. Dr. John Campbell, principal of Northern College in Manchester, and as we drew that meeting to a close he mentioned that he had some months of sabbatical set aside in 2007 and would be willing to give considerable time to researching and formulating the beginnings of material and resources for such a plan. And so the beginnings of what was to become known as Vision4 Life were set in place.

The result so far is that we agreed a name and logo, and have devised a programme which begins with an introductory period on into the summer of 2008. Churches will then be asked to "sign up" through use of 4 sets of material for use in worship, church and elders meetings or house groups next summer. The main programme will begin with a focus on the bible from Advent 2008. The following year we will focus on prayer, and in 2010 we will look at material on evangelism.

That seems a long way away, but there is a real feeling that this is not just some flash in the pan programme. Indeed we are seeing this more as a 'process' than a programme. The V4L team's vision is to see a radical transformation of the church-hence the strap-line in the logo. If we are to become relevant to the society in which we are set, it will take more than a programme. Hearts need to be changed-lives transformed-habits altered-vision encouraged. The plan is not to offer proscriptive materials, but a set of resources that local churches can use and adapt to suit their own context. For some they will want to simply use the materials which the team and others will produce. But for many they will already be focusing on these themes as part and parcel of who they are. We want to learn from each other and share ideas. In short, we want to see the URC excited again by the God who loves us and confident about the faith we share.

So do you have a Vision for life? 2008 will be the chance to embark on this radical step forward in company with tens of thousands of others around the country. I hope you are going to join in!

Paul Snell                    [803 words]

Note to Magazine editors and publicity people in churches -
Please feel free to 'clip' the Vision4Life LOGO from the top of the Vision4Life fact sheet 1 to use in your magazine or wherever else you are presenting Vision4Life in your local setting.