When my father was a young man in the Plymouth Brethren he joined what was then an innovative organisation engaged in mission in the area around his home. It was called the South East London Mobile Evangelism Unit. It had existed for some years before he was old enough to be involved. But he still speaks warmly of his adventures in a converted Landrover, with a loudspeaker system wired up to allow music and preaching to be transmitted into the neighbourhood where the vehicle was driving or had been parked. As a young boy myself I remember another Plymouth Brethren ministry, Counties Evangelism. This also engaged in evangelism and I can recall being on a large village green in Kent somewhere while a great white marquee was being erected by various volunteers from our Brethren congregations. If I think carefully I can still bring back to mind the great, warm-hearted evangelist who would preach and teach in this tent and in our Brethren congregations.
There are many aspects of the teachings and practices of the Plymouth Brethren among whom I grew up which are deficient, and even completely wrong. But this desire among some of these Brethren to share the Christian Gospel with the towns and villages around them is entirely commendable, even if their understanding of the Gospel was not complete.
What about Orthodox missionary work in the UK? Will we be satisfied with a few communities established here and there? I cannot be. There is a great and swelling hope in me that we are being called to work in this generation with the Holy Spirit in a great breaking forth of the Orthodox Gospel in England and the United Kingdom. What if there were 50 British Orthodox communities within the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria in the next 20 years? What if it was possible for the majority of British people to have reasonably local access to genuine Orthodoxy in our own language and culture? How would that transform the Orthodox missionary landscape in the UK?
I have a vision of an Orthodox Mobile Mission Unit. Bear with me. It is surely not an unreasonable hope. If God wills that all men come to a knowledge of the truth, and if he wills that all men be saved, and if the Orthodox Church in every place is commanded go and make disciples, then there is nothing lacking in God's desire to see Orthodox missionary work being engaged throughout the UK. What is lacking is the provision of resources from God's own people. Such a vision demands prayer. Such a vision demands people. Such a vision demands financial support.
What do I dare to imagine in faith and hope? I imagine a vehicle converted for missionary use. It contains the resources to organise a variety of exhibitions, to celebrate Orthodox services and liturgies, and to engage in education work in schools. It would have facilities on-board to allow visitors to examine a small set of exhibits about Orthodoxy, and to choose some interesting literature, and to have a cup of tea and engage in conversation about our Faith. Not only would this vehicle be used to help develop interest in entirely new areas of the UK, but it would be used to develop interest in the towns, villages and communities around existing Orthodox communities.
Here is the sort of vehicle that I have in mind...
Am I being unreasonable to imagine a small team of Orthodox Christians serving in such a ministry around the UK in the future? Is it impossible to believe that in the future a group of Orthodox volunteers from around the world might gather to spend a month serving in missionary work with such an established team as I am describing. I believe that God's will is that Orthodoxy be made known among the people of Britain. Already in the limited missionary work being conducted by the British Orthodox Church it seems that doors are opening in every place.
What is required? Surely not the good will of God. But the provision of prayer, people and financial support from Orthodox Christians around the world. I am convinced that we are at the beginning of a great movement of the Holy Spirit. Who will stand with us, those few of us engaged in Orthodox missionary work in the UK, and share with us in the ministry of the Gospel of Christ?
If you are moved to consider spending time in missionary work in the UK next year and in the future with the British Orthodox Church then send a message to be kept up to date with possibilities as they develop.