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Beach Missions

Capturing coastal life in the early 20th century in Southern England. In this art piece I used pen & ink with sepia wash effect. In the days when men wore striped swimming costumes with longish sleeves & ladies changed in bathing houses. These bathing houses would be wheeled down to the waters edge so that the ladies could swim & then come into the bathing house to change without being seen. No topless bathers then!

Coastal life, early 20th century, Southern England

From 1992 to 2010 Val & I were privileged to lead 23 beach missions on the North Norfolk coast with a very able team of volunteers from around the country.  From 1992-1997 in Hunstanton & area & from 1995-2010 in Overstrand. These missions were lots of hard work but incredibly rewarding for all involved. A team of 25-30 volunteers would serve with me to help make these action-packed missions possible. We would reach out to children, young people, families & adults.

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Open air services would be held each day on the front in Hunstanton & on the cliff top in Overstrand. These would involve inputs from children & young people in their age groups, team testimonies, action songs uniquely written for  participation, a serial drama written each year by Val & a visual input including gospel message. 

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Each year a number of children & young people chose to put their trust & faith in Jesus, as their Lord & Saviour, whilst many others made recommittments & grew in their biblical knowledge. The team were greatly encouraged in their walk with the Lord & musical, artistic & dramatic talents were developed, spiritual life deepened & quality fellowship experienced.

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Beach missions began in this country with a man called Josiah Spiers who was prompted to work with some children in writing out a biblcial text – ‘God is love’, using stones in the coastal sands of Llandudno in 1867. After completion the children asked him to share a bible story & then another. They agreed to meet the next day & more stories were told & agreed to meet the day after. Each day more people attended including adults & families & so began the first beach mission in the United Kingdom.

2000 years ago, Jesus asked Peter to push out the fishing boat & taught the crowd that had gathered on the shores of Capernaum. He then went out fishing & helped the disciples catch a large number of fish & then called James, John, Simon Peter & Andrew to follow Him in catching men, women & children in the Kingdom of God. Having been to Capernaum. to Galilee & Tiberius, I could see that speaking from a boat to the gathered crowds would have made an ideal setting, from which Jesus could be heard.

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Beach games with Kevin Moore & team on a sunny afternoon on the Overstrand sands.

Josiah Spiers developed the work & the Children’s Special Service Mission came into being [CSSM] with a real heart to educate & teach children in the Bible stories. Over time many beach missions began around the coast lands of England & Wales. Over a 100 years later many missions were reaching out to holiday makers & local children & families. Cornwall, Wales & Norfolk were particularly strong areas of beach mission activity. Each mission being encouraged to adopt the ethos of the Children’s Special Service Mission & develop it’s own team of volunteer helpers & financial support. The Children’s Special Service Mission changed it’s name to Scripture Union & continued to grow new movements in different countries around the world. Scripture Union, today, has over 130 movements each with it’s own identity & expression, appropriate to that country. SU Australia runs many summer camps, SU Peru works with street children, SU Zimbabwe works in schools running life-skills programmes.

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Over time, methods, personnel & structures change but the gospel message is unchanging. The bible says, ‘Jesus is the same, yesterday, today & forever.’ Hebrews 13:8  I look back with much fondness on those beach mission years, inspiring memories of practically effective, Kingdom building mission & my richest experience, yet, of Christian community life.

Overstrand Beach Mission team 2012

Face2Face Educational Trust works in association with Scripture Union