Caravan Missions & Treks
The use of vans and caravans had come about when it became clear that Church Army missions were rarely touching people living in the countryside, so they started using vans and caravans to take evangelists from one village to another. Initially these vans were pulled by horses but later became motorized.
It was 24 June 1892 when the first Church Army mission van left central London to go to the countryside of South London.
The evangelists on these vans would visit different villages and take services in schools and open-air meetings, on the village green or market square, as well as home visits.
During the war years it was the women who took over the running of these vans but the focus shifted from open-air meetings and big gatherings to more cottage meetings and house-to-house visiting.
The use or vans and caravans helped to reach communities which were more isolated and perhaps less socially accepted, including gipsies and hop-pickers, whose lifestyle made the conventional church less welcoming.
At the time of the World War One Church Army ran eight seaside missions but due to the hostilities these had to be closed down but after the war it was decided they would be incorporated into a bigger summer crusade. Captains and Sisters would gather at a Cathedral city and would be sent off by the bishop and clergy and start trekking slowly through the countryside, stopping at towns and villages along the way, taking 5 or 6 weeks to reach their seaside destination. They would trek with a trek cart which would carry their kit bags and everything else that they needed. They would march during the morning, reaching a village at lunchtime and would spend the rest of the day visiting and taking meetings, preaching in the churches and helping at the Sunday schools. Eventually they would arrive at their seaside destination to begin a 3 or 4 week mission, which included hymns, teaching and sharing of stories, in seaside towns such as Cleethorpes, Bridlington, Swansea, New Brighton, Blackpool, Great Yarmouth and Hastings.
As time went on these treks became motorised and the beach missions were expanded to include acting, conjuring and quizzes, with a focus on children, with games and excursions for them.
Read Captain David Sanderson's story