Echoes of Service Archive

  • Reference
      GB 133 EOS
  • Dates of Creation
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      60 li.m. Some items in this collection are in poor physical condition.
  • Location
      Collection available at the University Archive and Records Centre, main University Library.

Scope and Content

The collection is made up of correspondence, general administration matter relating to missionary activity, and photographic material. The correspondence files relate to individual missionaries and married couples, and are made up of copies of correspondence to workers in the field, and letters from the missionaries concerned to the Echoes' staff. Early correspondence files were lost or destroyed during the Second World War; consequently the records are mostly post-1945. However, this does not mean that earlier material is not to be found here. Missionaries in the field in 1945 could well have been there for some time, so that many records relate to activities in the nineteen thirties.

Many of the letters from missionaries themselves are particularly valuable; they provide accounts of events and incidents, reports on their activities, and commentary on local responses and levels of organization. They also contain discussions of relationships within the missionary community, including comments on the effectiveness or otherwise of individual missionaries, alongside praise, criticism and discussions of the problems faced. Some of the files also contain examples of literature and other ephemera (such as leaflets, publicity materials and sermons) used in the field. There is much personal material relating to the individuals involved both during their period as missionaries, and later, as Echoes remained in contact following their return home.

The collection includes printed items, correspondence and records and reports that were set aside as 'Historical Documents' and were stored separately from the contents of the organisation's extensive library of printed books, most of which were donated to the Christian Brethren Archive's printed book collection at the University of Manchester.

There is also a large collection of photographic materials, which includes photographs, prints, photographic slides and an extensive collection of glass lantern slides.

The archive contains much of interest to those studying Christian mission in general and missionary activity abroad, the role of British missionaries in the twilight years of the British Empire, the significance of missionary activity within the Brethren tradition, and an abundance of biographical material relating to the individuals concerned.

Administrative / Biographical History

The agency Echoes of Service began life as a magazine produced to publish letters from independent missionaries working in the field. The inspiration for such a magazine came from an earlier publication The Missionary Reporter produced by James Van Sommer between 1855 and 1862. In 1872 the idea was taken up by Henry Groves and J.L. Maclean in The Missionary Echo, which became Echoes of Service in 1885. The magazine, produced from the Echoes headquarters in Bath continues to be published monthly along with an annual Echoes Daily Prayer Guide, listing those working abroad with whom Echoes is in contact.

Over time the role of the editors of the magazine expanded, and they became a focus of contact between assemblies at home and missionaries working in the field. However, the editors, firmly rooted as they were in the Brethren tradition, had no intention of becoming a formal missionary society in the manner of the Anglican Church Mission Society. The autonomous, independent nature of the Brethren movement meant that they eschewed any thought of centralisation and control of missionary activity. Instead they saw their main functions as:

  • to act as a conduit for money from assemblies and individuals at home
  • to publish information about work in the field
  • to exercise what was referred to as a ‘caring ministry’ for those abroad
 The ideal to which they aspired was a direct link between the assembly and the worker, and their role was to facilitate and encourage this link. There was a strong belief in the principle of ‘living by faith’, whereby the Lord would provide for those doing his work. Consequently Echoes did not make formal appeals for funds. It was felt proper that assemblies should raise their own money, should decide who should be sent into the field, and that the money should be passed to the individuals in question with minimum intervention and without deductions for office and other expenses. The editors did this work without remuneration, and became trusted and respected figures in the Brethren movement.

When missionaries in some countries were told they could not legally own property, Echoes took on the responsibility of holding both property and money for their use. To ensure that these continued to be used for their intended purposes, the editors set up private companies: the Continental Lands Company in 1895 and the Stewards Company in 1898. In practice they often had to play a more direct role, channelling funds and providing help to missionaries in the often complex and difficult situations in the field. As a result, at various points in their history accusations were made that Echoes was becoming a de facto missionary society. At times this led to controversy and criticisms, and a minority of assemblies refused to take advantage of their services. In the 1940s and 1950s, many missionaries returned home prematurely, and a more direct approach developed, whereby local assemblies were expected to correspond with the Echoes editors before commending people for service abroad. More recent times have seen a return to the earlier focus on commendation being primarily the responsibility of local assemblies.

In general, Open Brethren missionary activity has been disproportionately large as a percentage of the British missionary presence. In 1976 for instance, of the 5,862 missionaries listed in The UK Protestant Missions Handbook, 565 were from the list provided by Echoes of Service. Towards the end of the twentieth century Echoes produced a small booklet All About Echoes of Service which contained a list of the kinds of activities and work they undertook on behalf of missionaries. This provides a useful summary of their role:

  • Publication of regular news from missionaries in Echoes magazine or on Telephone Echoes, updated regularly.
  • Regular contact either by letter, telephone, fax or visits both to the field or from missionaries who visit the office at Bath.
  • Forwarding of gifts both designated and those from discretionary funds.
  • Provision of any necessary certificates for government and other authorities.
  • Advice and counsel over a wide area of missionary life and service, including any emotional and doctrinal matters.
  • Health care, including the provision of regular medical checks for missionaries and their families.
  • Advice on education of children.
  • Allocations from Special Funds held by Echoes of Service.
  • Acting as agents for the missionaries’ pension plan
  • Half-yearly houseparties held at Bath.
  • Payment of National Insurance on behalf of missionaries.
  • Re-settlement and retirement assistance.
  • Research facilities in the office both from missionary records and a wide selection of study books
  • Provision of booklets and display material for missionaries who are taking meetings whilst on furlough.
  • Procurement of goods, obtaining information, etc.

Today, under their new name Echoes International (in 2017 they amalgamated with the Scottish missionary service organisation Interlink), they continue to carry out these and other activities from thier offices in Bath and Glasgow . In recent years, declining interest in mission has meant that they have added to their list of functions ‘stimulating interest in mission’, and the editors provide conferences, seminars and talks as well as producing up-to-date web pages relating to their activities.


The collection is arranged into the following series:

  • EOS/1 Correspondence files
  • EOS/2 Echoes of Service Candidate Books
  • EOS/3 Historical documents
  • EOS/4 Photographic materials
  • EOS/5 Caroline Gates Collection

Access Information

The collection is open to any accredited reader.

The collection includes material which is subject to the Data Protection Act 2018. Under the Act 2018 (DPA), The University of Manchester Library (UML) holds the right to process personal data for archiving and research purposes. In accordance with the DPA, UML has made every attempt to ensure that all personal and sensitive personal data has been processed fairly, lawfully and accurately. Users of the archive are expected to comply with the Data Protection Act 2018, and will be required to sign a form acknowledging that they will abide by the requirements of the Act in any further processing of the material by themselves.

Open parts of this collection, and the catalogue descriptions, may contain personal data about living individuals. Some items in this collection may be closed to public inspection in line with the requirements of the DPA. Restrictions/closures of specific items will be indicated in the catalogue.

Acquisition Information

The original Papers were transferred to the Library on permanent loan by Ian Burness on behalf of Echoes of Service, in 2004. Since then, material has been added to the collection on a regular basis.

Alternative Form Available

The following items from this collection have been digitised and are available to view online:

Lantern slides, EOS/4/1, Postcard Album, EOS/4/2/1 and Diary of Dan Crawford, EOS/3/3/28

Archivist's Note

The Echoes of Service Archive was originally catalogued by Graham Johnson. Revisions made to the 4th edition of the catalogue were added by Lianne Smith in 2020.

Conditions Governing Use

All readers must sign a form stating that should they wish to cite or use this material in any form, they must first obtain the permission of The Editors, Echoes, 124 Wells Road, Bath BA2 3AH.


By agreement between the Library and Echoes of Service, the Library will continue to receive regular accruals of files no longer active.

Related Material

The Christian Brethren printed collection at the University of Manchester Library holds a near-complete set of the periodical Echoes of Service (formerly titled Missionary Echo).

The papers of the missionaries Geoffrey Taylor Bull and Handley Bird are also held at the Christian Brethren Archive at the University of Manchester Library.


Ian Burness, 'Echoes of Service', Precious Seed, 57(1), 2002

Echoes of Service, All about Echoes of Service: Explanatory Booklet (Bath: Echoes of Service, 1994)

Echoes of Service, All About Echoes of Service (Bath: Echoes of Service, 2002)

Echoes of Service, Living by Faith (Bath: Echoes of Service, 2000)

Grass, Tim, Gathering to his Name (Milton Keynes: Paternoster Press, 2006)

Hall, H.G., The Work of Echoes of Service: an Explanation (London: Pickering and Inglis, n.d.)

Stunt, W.T., An Outline of the Work Carried on by the Editors of Echoes of Service and some of the Previous History of Missions (Colchester: East Anglian Missionary Conference, 1948)

Tatford, Frederick A. That the World May Know (Bath: Echoes of Service, 1982-86)

Stunt, W.T., Pulleng, A., Pickering, A., Simmons,G.P., Boak, D.K. and Warren, S.F., Turning the World Upside Down (Eastbourne: Upperton Press, 1972)

Warren, S.F., Echoes of Service: Historical Development and Present Role (Bath: Echoes of Service , 1988)

Corporate Names

Geographical Names