Our History – Then & Now

Everything we do is built on the foundations laid by Wilson Carlile – a visionary who inspired generations to give hope to millions.

Picture a church building in London full of people who are happy with things the way they are. They enjoy being part of a church community and gathering together on a Sunday but don’t want to extend their community to those outside of the church, particularly those struggling with poverty.

Then along comes a young curate (trainee-vicar) who’s passionate about his faith and wants to share the Good News of Jesus with people who’d never dream of stepping foot in a church.

This curate was Wilson Carlile. He believed God’s love is for everyone, and with this belief he established Church Army in 1882.

Carlile began by hosting open-air gatherings to share faith and encourage people to put their faith in to action.

He started training ordinary Christian men and women to share the freedom and joy of knowing Jesus with those most in need. He started social action initiatives, initially focused on the slums of Westminister – one of the most deprived and poverty-stricken spots in London. The work of Church Army today builds on the foundations laid by Wilson Carlile – a visionary who inspired generations to give hope to millions.


Wilson Carlile starts training as a vicar. He’s passionate about his faith and sharing God’s love with others


Carlile works in a church in central London but finds himself preaching to people who are happy with the way things are and not wanting to extend the church community to those outside the church or in poverty.


So, he establishes Church Army in 1882 with a mission to share God’s love with everyone.

1882 onwards

Carlile begins hosting open-air gatherings to share faith with ordinary people and encourage faith to turn in to action.

1882 onwards

He starts training normal Christian men and women to share the joy and freedom of knowing Jesus with those most in need.

1883 onwards

With these newly trained volunteers, he launches social action initiatives initially focused on the slums of Westminster – one of the most poverty-stricken spots in London.

1883 onwards

Men’s and women’s homes are established to support those struggling financially. Prison work and horse-drawn mission caravans are also in action.


Church Army is officially recognised by the Church of England


Training centres for Church Army Evangelists are created


The Church Army Printing Press was launched allowing Church Army to create evangelism materials and – later – evangelistic films.


At the turn of the century, unemployment was high and Church Army’s work focused on residential care homes.


WWI begins and Church Army work both at home and overseas providing much-needed recreation huts for armed forces, and operating ambulances, mobile canteens, and kitchen cars.


After WWI Church Army opens training centres for men who had been left disabled by the fighting to help them find new jobs in a post-war society.


The Church Army ministry of women was recognised alongside their male counterparts.


WWII starts and the UK and Ireland enter the horror of war again. Church Army resumes much of the work they did in WWI to support the armed forces and civilians.


We enter a period of post-war where the country begins rebuilding itself and launching a new national health service. In this new age, Church Army’s work focused on working with children and young people – the next generation.

1950s onwards

Youth centres were built and Church Army starts working with Scouting and Guiding.

1950s onwards

Our work with the homeless and running homeless hostels expands.

1950s onwards

Church Army care homes continue to provide a place for the elderly to live.

1950s onwards

Summer events like beach missions took place all over the country.


The end of the 20th Century saw a focusing of work and a reduction in much of the residential work, passing on homes for the elderly and many hostels to better placed agencies.


Other work included tent and beach mission to share Jesus with people all over England.


Church Army established in Denmark, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, and East Africa.

1990s onward

Resources are launched to equip normal Christians to share their faith with others. These have been revised and replaced over time to ensure they remain relevant.


Xplore and Reunion groups start for those wanting to live missionally in community and do evangelism.


Church Army’s first centre of mission was established. Working with the local church, evangelists moved in to deprived areas to build relationships, run social action projects and community initiatives, and start new styles of church groups that everyone can be a part of.


Church Army became an Acknowledged Mission Community in the Anglican Church, open to all Christians with a heart for evangelism.


Church Army training becomes non-residential with support from Church Army’s ‘home’ in Sheffield. This allowed trainees to remain in their ministry context whilst studying mission and evangelism.


Increasing numbers of people are training to be Church Army Evangelists to grow in their calling as evangelists and their skills in mission and social action.


We now have centres of mission across the UK and Ireland and projects working with young people who self-harm and those who are homeless. Find out more about what we do.

Our Work

We do not shy away from challenges and strive to help those most in need. Through partnership and collaboration, we aspire to empower lives and nurture a sense of belonging in communities across the UK and Ireland.

View our projects

Get Involved

We’re on a mission to change lives and you can be part of this! Find out how you can transform communities with us.

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