Graham Johnson writes:
In recent years major additions have been made to the important Echoes of Service Archive of missionary material held at the Christian Brethren Archive. The collection is now much larger and richer and presents fascinating insights into the activities of British Brethren missionaries from the late nineteenth century into the twentieth century. The additions have now been catalogued and the catalogue is available online.
The original collection, deposited in 2004, consisted of correspondence files containing letters between the Echoes staff in Bath and missionaries working in the field. These have been supplemented over the years and now contain 1,568 bundles of correspondence relating to particular individuals and married couples.
The files of two of these, Handley Bird the missionary to India, and Geoffrey Bull, in China and Tibet, have now been catalogued in detail to complement the fully catalogued papers of these individuals also held at the University’s Christian Brethren Archive. Geoffrey Bull was interned by the Chinese in 1950, and the correspondence reflects the build up to his imprisonment and the concerns of staff, relatives, friends and the Foreign Office regarding his whereabouts and circumstances following his capture. Complementing the correspondence files are facsimile copies the Echoes of Service ‘Candidate Books’ where staff reflected on the suitability of those applying to enter the mission field.
There is a large collection of items which the staff considered important enough to set aside as ‘Historical Documents’. These include printed tracts, correspondence and various records and reports. The printed documents include early Brethren tracts, Echoes publications, and newspaper cuttings about Echoes and Echoes’ missionaries. The correspondence contains letters and bundles of letters relating to missionary work or the work of particular missionaries.
These include correspondence with Echoes of Service editors, often concerning controversial or sensitive issues. The records and reports consist of notes of talks and sermons, accounts of meetings and conferences, manuscript notes, collections of documents on particular themes, and a manuscript diary of Dan Crawford from the 1880s relating to his journey to Africa via Portugal.
The collection also includes a collection of personal papers relating to the life and work of Caroline Gates who worked as a missionary in China between 1887 and 1927. The material includes a published tribute to Caroline Gates, scripts and cassette tapes relating to a slide show and commentary, and printed extracts from letters by and referring to Caroline Gates. The Gates collection also contains 51 glass lantern slides and two boxes of 35 mm slides which include images of Caroline Gates and her fellow missionaries in China, her three adopted daughters, the areas she visited, local families and people at work.