Miss Hasell, left, and Miss Sayle are pictured in an undated photo alongside their vehicle of choice.
An eight-decade old Anglican story with a Canadian connection was highlighted in the British media recently. The Telegraph of London ran a photo of English “vanners” Eva Hasell and Iris Sayle, along with accompanying news item, with their Ford Model T caravan.
Anglican Journal reader W.M. Crowfoot, writing from Eastbourne, East Sussex, England, who sent in a copy of the news item, wrote to the Journal “I was rather surprised but also thrilled” to see the item and picture. The two, she wrote, “made tireless trips across western Canada for the Sunday school missions back in the ’20s.”
The Sunday School Mission vans were mentioned as one response to the question, “What would Jesus drive?,” a whimsical take on the popular “What would Jesus do?” question.
Ms. Crowfoot added that she remembered “seeing both ladies giving illustrated talks with lantern slides on visits to Saint John, N.B.”
From 1920 through to the early 1970s, the vanners brought the church and Sunday school to remote communities not normally served by the church.
Run by two British women, known commonly as Miss Hasell and Miss Sayle, the mission peaked between 1955 and 1959, with 31 vans and 62 workers in 15 dioceses.
The vanners were always young women, usually British, and served four months at a time. One of the two staffers on each van was expected to be a “Sunday school expert;” the second was required to be able to “drive a car, do running repairs (of the vehicle), cook and wash and, if possible, teach under the supervision of the expert.”