Norman Grubb

Home Books Articles Remembering NPG Notes from Norman Photo-History NPG Influences Guest Book Links



Letter and Article to Oliver A. Barclay on the “Start of the Inter-Varsity Fellowship in Canada”



                                                                        April 29, 1968



Dear Oliver:


            Thank you for your letter of April 10th.  I’ve not been able to do anything about making a tape, but I have been jotting down some memoirs for publication probably next year (“Once Caught, No Escape”, published in 1969 by Lutterworth Press).


            Of course, they are written from a personal point of view and center largely on the Lord’s personal dealings with me at various times; but, in the course of them, I talk of my short period at Cambridge, and that brought in the SCM-CICCU-I.V.F. affairs of that time.  I have a spare copy of the draft of the memoirs, so the simplest thing is to send you extracts of that time.  You must please excuse the personal sections, but I still include them as they lead up to what particularly interests you, and I lined those sections with red.


            I used to speak of what God did then as a combination of “Faithfulness of Fire,” or the necessary foundations of The “Word and the Spirit” for any movement of God.  In other words, the Conference we had with the S.C.M. Committee and the necessary confirmation of our continued separation from them, was “the faithfulness”, and thus our loyalty to “The Word.”  What God did among us in the Keswick House part proceeding on to the Prayer Meetings and witnessing that next term, and resulting in the organization of the first Intervarsity Conference, was “The Fire,” or the moving of the Spirit.


            I have not mentioned in the memoirs about of the going out of Howard to Canada, so I add a further note on this.  You will need to verify one or two points of dates and names in connection with Howard.  I should think from himself, or maybe from Douglas.


            Warmest greetings.

                                                            Ever yours,






            I paid my first visit to Canada in a deputation tour for my Mission, The Worldwide Evangelization Crusade, in 1928.  During my travels right across the country, I was concerned to find, so far as I could discover, no coordinated evangelical witness in the universities or colleges, except for a group of about fifty whom I met with in McGill, Montreal and another small group in the newly started University of British Columbia in Vancouver (I am not sure that is the correct title for that University).


            I did not visit the U.S.A., except for ten days in Wisconsin, but so far as I could find out, there was nothing in the universities of the U.S.A. except for a Calvinistic type student group movement in a few colleges, which did not seem to have any vision of becoming nationwide.  (I don’t remember the name of this group, but probably Douglas Johnson would).


            So I returned to England with a burden and concern to see something started and spreading over North America equivalent to what God was beginning to do through the I.V.F. in Britain, under Douglas’ inspired leadership.


            The Annual I.V.F. Conference was due at Highleigh, and I asked Douglas that I might have permission to interview the I.V.F. executive in England when they met and put the challenge to them.  This was granted, and I did so.  Howard Guinness was also at the Conference.  I think he had completed his medical and was taking the next steps towards going out with C.I.M. to China but was also being outstandingly used among students.  I don’t remember whether I had my eye particularly on him or how it was he came into the picture, but it did result in him feeling a definite call of God to be the one to respond to the challenge and he did so.  I understand that the C.I.M. authorities were not very pleased at the prospect of him being diverted from his China calling, but he remained steadily clear that this I.V.F. call was of God.


            The question arose of the finances for such a new advance.  There were none available.  But I explained that though all may not be called that way, we in the W.E.C. were accustomed to going forward with a project and trusting God for the supply, and that actually I had just returned from this six months’ deputation tour in Canada in which I had asked our Committee’s permission for me to trust God to supply my travel funds in Canada without using Mission funds of Mission contributions.  They hesitatingly agreed, but to insure that I should not land in Montreal and freeze, they insisted on my taking £5.  Needless to say, the Lord supplied and the last gift I received as I boarded the boat to return home was $25 Canadian (£5 in those days) which I duly returned to the Committee.


            So on the strength of this up-to-date experience, I urged that the I.V.F. Committee would permit Howard to step out on the promises of God.  I think there was reluctance but they did agree.  I well remember seeing Howard off.  I was able to pass on to him my thick and warm Canadian overcoat; we were not exactly the same size.  The only contact I could give him was a friend in Montreal who was the owner of a large department store.  I don’t remember his name, and my contact with him had only been casual, but he had included an expression of his interest in seeing a movement like I.V.F. get established in Canada.


            I understand that Howard did land penniless, but at his first contact with this friend, $100.00 changed hands.


            From then onward, Howard has doubtless told the tale of the marvellous reception he had through Canada, the founding and spread of the I.V.F. and its development into high school fellowships; and then Howard’s move on to being the I.V.F. pioneer in Australia and New Zealand.


            I don’t know what connection Howard had with that student group in the U.S.A. and by what means it became replaced by the vigorous IVCF under the inspired leadership of Stacey Woods, and now through him, from the U.S.A. IVCF, to the world’s IVFEU.


Norman P. Grubb

April, 1968



* The Inter-Varsity Fellowship (IVF) is the group that grew out of Norman Grubb’s inner vision, which God gave him while at Cambridge University.


The three websites below give a ‘background’ to this letter and document:  (mentions Howard Guinness & Stacey Woods)  (mentions Douglas Johnson)  (mentions Oliver R. Barclay)