George Wieland has just finished his sojourn “out West” delivering five professional development days for VisionWest staff as they grapple with being authentic in their faith-led practice in serving their community.

VisionWest has developed from a local church initiative in serving its local Glen Eden community to a national organization providing a range of community and social services. As it has grown, the challenge of maintaining its distinctive identity and ethos has grown more urgent.

In 2018, the VisionWest CEO, Lisa Woolley, audited Carey’s course on Poverty, Transformation and the Gospel. She felt that this approach to integrating Christian faith with practical engagement in communities and their challenges would be helpful for VisionWest staff. Lisa approached Rob Ayres, Carey’s Academic Director, and Rob, George Wieland and VisionWest leaders worked together to develop a programme of five professional development sessions drawing on the concepts and content of that Carey course, to be delivered by George at five of the staff team’s monthly professional development days for 25 of its senior staff.

The participants found Carey’s integrative “Word, World, Work” approach very helpful in framing their thinking about how their practice can be both aligned with the values of their faith and appropriate to the specific contexts in which VisionWest is serving.  

Lisa Woolley, CEO, says “Thanks so much for working with us on this course.  I believe this has put in place a foundation to build from in the future and we would love to see this kind of course running at VisionWest every year so that all our staff are fully on board with the how, what and why we are serving in our community.”

Topics covered were, “God and the Poor: The Bible’s Witness,” “Charity or Transformation: What Do We Think We Are Doing?,” “Understandings of Poverty and Implications for Practice,” and, “Transformed Lives, healthy Communities and the Mission of God.”  George loved spending time with VisionWest’s practitioner- leaders. He has come away with a fuller understanding of the realities faced by those who want to live out their faith in practical engagement with communities, and those insights will feed back into Carey’s programmes.