of the future"
Our story is a long one, and sometimes it scares me to see how the dates have whizzed by. Those of us who have been in Visions since the beginning have now been on this strange journey for 14 years. I find that unbelievable, and yet being here is still a constant surprise, constantly new.
I was roped into this journey back in 1989, when a disparate bunch of people were recruited into a project that involved turning a disused warehouse into a nightclub for a month. It was just a short summer thing, but friendships were forged then, ideas were born, and dreams were dreamed. One dream was to create multimedia worship with its finger on the pulse of the city and the world. It took two years of cultural exploration and learning before we felt we were willing to "take the plunge", but in August 1991 we finally created our own church service, on the theme (appropriately) of "Help!".
Since then many things have happened. People have come and gone, being drawn to other places and projects. Musical and visual styles have been tried, discarded, and made their comeback (or not). Name suggestions came and went too. We were stuck with the name "Warehouse" for years, even though we didn't even have a warehouse, until finally we agreed on a name that meant something to all of us, and re-christened ourselves Visions.
We have been through some lean times too, especially in the mid 1990s when scandal after scandal was hitting the church of England. In fact sometimes I believe that the only reason we survive today is because of our sheer stubbornness, our total refusal to give up on the "Dream". To have a church which is part of the culture of the city, multi-sensory, ahead of the times rather than behind, a creative and inspiring place where you actively enjoy being a participant. A place where people can experience God as they are, with all their messiness and angst, and yet feel totally accepted, loved and in love with the Messiah and each other. That kept us going through the wilderness years, when our congregation was very small. Yet at the same time, many people from elsewhere in the world were finding our ideas useful and using them to reach out far further than we ourselves could.
Recently things have taken a new and exciting turn. Suddenly, surprisingly, and wonderfully, we find ourselves growing and we're not really sure quite why its happened, although we are very glad all the same! Perhaps we've learnt a bit more about how to involve and train new people. Perhaps it's just a result of coincidences, like a number of people returning from university and wanting to get involved. This year, for the first time in our history, we have been able to have full multimedia services every week. That in itself has led to more growth, in that people no longer have to reach for a calendar to work out whether there is a service or not. We have two different teams of people, so that no-one has to work more than two weeks in a month, and the teams get to surprise each other. This has been one of the best things about last year for me. It has been wonderful to watch people learn new skills, and exciting to go to a service and genuinely not have a clue what the next item on the agenda is going to be.
As for the next things on Visions agenda, we don't really know (as always!). But there are some exciting opportunities coming up in the city of York in the next few years, and we still hope that we can find a way of being more than just a church service. We want to discover how to bring the church to the people, rather than the people to church, how to meet their physical needs as well as their spiritual, how to introduce people to experiencing our God in a way that is totally natural and deeply attractive. But as for how, where, and what next? Who knows? We'll just keep treasuring the dream and see what happens.
Sue Wallace is worship coordinator and composer for the 'Visions' community. She is the author of two books on multisensory prayer (published in UK by Scripture Union) and several albums available form the Visions website: www.visions-york.org