Missionaries first landed in the British Isles in 1837, beginning an undertaking that would continue almost ever after.
There are many reasons why those first missionaries came to Preston. If you ever have had a chance or get an opportunity to tour the Church Historical sites in Preston, you will see how the then Town and now City was prepared to receive those missionaries.
In those early days, they sailed, travelled on horse and carriage, held street meetings, and wore top hats.
In the ensuing years, the Church moved with the times and embraced technology and more modern methods of reaching out to people.
During the two World Wars, missionaries from overseas were withdrawn and returned home. When they returned in the 1940s, they found that the faithful members often met in community halls and other buildings.
In the 1960s, a vast building project commenced in the British Isles. New chapels were built for the members. When this project was announced along with the provision of carparks, many members smiled; hardly any of them had cars then.
This project required a new type of missionary service, and the building mission was launched. Valiant young men worked with skilled tradesmen to labour on the building sites to help build the much-needed chapels. They worked with enthusiasm, and many of those young men went on to be great leaders in the Church; Bishops and Stake Presidents came from their ranks.
In the 1970s, missionaries still wore hats in the winter, trilby hats this time, and they used modern technology. Teaching in homes, they used cassette recorders to play soundtracks and show film strips using small portable projectors to display images on walls or small screens.
Film strips were replaced by DVD’s and eventually the use of iPad’s linked to the Internet provided many more materials.
During the current Covid pandemic, missionaries are based in their apartments or chapels. Though fewer in number, they are using social media to reach out to many more people than they have previously been able to work with. Hats are no longer essential, and dress standards have been adjusted to suit local, national conditions, and weather patterns, wherever the missionaries are based.
The Preston Ward is now very different from those early days. Like many others in the United Kingdom, it is multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, and multilingual.
In more recent times, the call that “Every young man should serve a mission” was issued. For some faithful young men and women, whilst serving a mission was a righteous desire, it was not always possible or appropriate for them to do this for several valid reasons.
In 2020, an alternative opportunity to a proselyting mission was made available to these faithful members, through serving a service mission. Equal in stature and as valid and appropriate as a teaching mission, the service mission allows members to live at home under mission rules and serve faithfully in their local communities.
They represent their Church, they wear the badge, and they serve by example, working as volunteers alongside those of other faiths and those of no religious belief. They serve reliably and enthusiastically, and continue to be examples of faithful Church members, once more bringing the Church to the people and touching hearts as they do so.