The Vessel Trust is a small charity based in West Cornwall, that provides people with a context to learn and explore the meaning of Christian life in the everyday world navigating the various transitions of faith and life. Seeking to support churches, we work ecumenically with small groups and individuals to offer a meeting place for studies, discussions, spiritual direction, informal teaching, training and social events.
The purpose and heart of our work is to provide a context, to create an environment in which people might deepen their understanding and experience of how God is present and at work in their lives and in the world, and how he might be calling them to live out their faithful response in the ordinary business of everyday life. Whether this is with individuals through spiritual accompaniment, in the various groups that we run, or with folk who are just asking questions about what faith in God may be about, the principle is the same: to offer a spiritually and physically hospitable place to explore, reflect, question, wonder and discuss in a way that enables the growth of meaningful relationship and community.
As an outworking of this core vision the Trust is committed to the following aspects of ministry:
- Community building: providing space to belong, to build relationships that can support, stretch, challenge and encourage.
- Resourcing: offering various activities in support of the work of local churches and for those with no formal church connection.
- Hospitality: opening our homes and our lives, sharing resources, home-cooked food and the spiritual hospitality of listening.
- Fostering action in the wider community: making our response to God concrete in the actions and choices we make about lifestyle, social, environmental and political issues.
- Spiritual companionship: recognising the value of and formation in travelling with others on the journey of faith.
How did it all begin?
The Vessel Trust has grown out of and in partnership with The Coracle Trust a small charity based in Edinburgh (www.coracletrust.org.uk). The Coracle Trust was founded by Kenny and Bridget Macaulay see who we are. They were working as ordained ministers in the Scottish Episcopal Church and set up the Coracle Trust in 2001 in an attempt to offer a city-wide ministry initially to people in the twenties to forties age range from across the theological and ecumenical spectrum. They named the Trust 'The Coracle Trust' because they felt inspired by the image of the little boat as a symbol of faith. Kenny and Bridget’s home became a base for the Trust as they offered hospitality to the various groups that evolved, working with young adults and others exploring important life issues and stages. For a number of years this was their full time ministry.
In 2008 after a three month sabbatical a way opened up for Kenny and Bridget to move to Cornwall. They relocated first to Truro and now in the west of the county based in a village called Perranuthnoe (close to St. Michael's Mount). The Coracle Trustees agreed there was still space and a need for the work Kenny and Bridget had established and Coracle now employs Andrew and Kirsty Hook to facilitate and coordinate this ministry working with a core group of committed individuals. Andrew and Kirsty are good friends of Kenny and Bridget, have been involved in a number of the groups, and connect deeply with the ethos of Coracle. They have a passion to see this work continue and expand. In addition to continuing the work in Edinburgh the Coracle Trustees expressed a desire to support Kenny and Bridget as they explored the possibility of establishing a similar work in Cornwall. After six years in the melting pot, the Vessel Trust was launched at the end of 2014, thanks to seed money provided by Coracle.
The Vessel: a symbol of faith and journey
The word 'Vessel' has a variety of meanings: it is a simple domestic pot that offers and receives food and drink. It is also an earthy 'house' for something precious and eternal ('We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.' 2 Corinthians 4:7). A vessel is a container, a holding place, hopefully a safe place. But a vessel is also a boat, a mode of transport and it offers a means by which goods can make their journey and reach their destination. Our hope is that Vessel offers:
- a safe place in which we can befriend our earthen-ness and also discover the treasure that lies within
- a holding place for those that perhaps find themselves 'at sea' in faith and life transitions
- an opportunity to give and receive in the hospitality of food, home and heart
- a means by which we can travel together, exploring new territories in faith and service in the world
Our guiding principles
These guiding principles are shared with The Coracle Trust and shape the Trust's work:
- The relationships between church, society and ministry are constantly changing. The Trust works with diverse groups of people within and across parish and congregational boundaries, and helps churches develop their own resources.
- Faith can grow where people from a variety of backgrounds meet and learn together. Differences of theology, liturgy and styles of prayer can stimulate learning to live in friendship with God and each other.
- Faith can grow where people meet in groups small enough to get to know each other well. Small groups can provide an experience of community that forms, heals and sustains Christian learning and living.
- Faith can grow where people imitate and share in God's own life in a network of relationships springing from love.
- Faith can grow where all aspects of everyday life find their source and sustenance in God's grace. Christian faith incorporates bodies, minds, hearts and possessions into one holistic life of worship in Jesus Christ.
- Faith often flourishes best where people work together 'life on life' and lead by example. Faithful lives are caught as well as taught, and this can happen where a few lives engage each other in depth.
- Faith can grow where people acknowledge their vulnerability and discover that God works with it. Christian understandings of sin and redemption mean we are called both to critique culture and discern and share in God's creative Spirit within it.
- The Trust seeks to develop cooperative and collaborative ventures between different groups, drawing together Christians who might otherwise find themselves isolated.
- The Trust is committed to being welcoming and inclusive in its outlook. The groups are open to those of different Christian traditions but also welcomes those who are exploring faith and those who have no church connection.
- The Trust's work seeks to imitate God's network of relations, both between Father, Son and Spirit and between God and creatures. The Trust's projects matter because of the people involved in them, and not the other way round.
- Small group work is at the heart of the Trust's work. This is designed to provide an encouraging and supportive environment for asking questions, exploring issues and examining everyday habits. Discussion is led without being prescriptive, in an atmosphere of commitment to one another and care for each person.
- Prayer, study, reflection, spiritual direction and supervision of the Trust's employees provide the rich soil in which the Trust's work can grow and reproduce.
- These guiding principles are a work in progress!