The England Missionary Training Centre (MTC) in Chorley is now the only centre in Europe that helps train missionaries to preach the gospel when they are called to serve a mission in the Europe Area. The Spain MTC in Madrid closed a year ago and since then, England MTC has expanded its staff, missionaries, and language programmes.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has twelve MTCs across the world, soon to be eleven when the Argentina MTC closes this summer. The largest, in Provo, Utah, has sufficient capacity for 3,700 missionaries. Two MTCs are located in Africa, and others in Central and South America, and the Pacific, ranging in capacity from 30 to 650 missionaries.
Chris Pattenden has worked at the England MTC since 2005, firstly as a teacher, then as Training Supervisor, and as Manager since 2010. He explains what this expansion means for the MTC and why it’s so beneficial to Chorley and all parts of Europe.
Said Chris, “I supervise the 21 teachers (only one is actually from Chorley) and their training, and all other facilities and administrative work at the England MTC.
“The MTC can hold 108 missionaries but on average of hosts 60. The MTC is presided over by an MTC president and his wife, who are called as volunteers from different parts of the world to supervise the spiritual and temporal wellbeing of the missionaries.”
Chris added, “People travel to come and work here, and for a part-time job; that’s significant, as not very many people are willing to uproot from their country and move a long way away just for a part-time job and then go to a local university so they can teach here at the missionary training centre.”
The England MTC primarily serves 23 missions throughout the Europe Area, including those located in the UK, Ireland, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Russia and Greece.
Explained Chris, “We are unique to all other MTCs in the number of programmes that we offer. Normally, a programme is taught in English to preach in English, or taught in English to missionaries going to preach in the language they’ll need to learn of the country they’ll be going to. But here, if the missionary already speaks the language of the country they’ll be going to, we’ll teach the class in that language and not English, so they don’t have to learn English. No other international MTC offers that many languages.
“I think what’s most significant about this MTC is our missions are not just English-speaking missions, even though we are an English-speaking country. Big cities like London, Birmingham, Leeds, and Edinburgh, have many international residents. At this MTC we can have missionaries from China who are going to speak Chinese in those big cities, or missionaries from Portugal to speak Portuguese. We’ve got a real array of nationalities and cultures.
“The most nationalities we’ve had here, during my time, has been 21. Twenty-one different countries, languages, and missionaries. It’s a pretty significant thing when you think about bringing all those cultures and languages together.
“The different ways of thinking, eating, speaking, and different ways of doing everything. You put all that under one roof and they all come together for one common unique purpose, to learn how to invite others to come unto Christ to fulfil their missionary purpose.”
The area around the England MTC is rich in Church history. The first overseas missions of the Church began in Preston, England, shortly after Elders Heber C Kimball and Orson Hyde arrived in Liverpool in 1837. The first baptisms were performed in the River Ribble in March of 1837.
Said Chris, “The idea that there is a training centre after those first missionaries in the 1800s is a spectacular thing. I think the significance of the history here is that we are standing on the shoulders of giants, of the early missionaries who arrived, and now we continue that work. But we aren’t just doing it with missionaries from America, or missionaries from England. We’re literally doing it with missionaries from all over the world.”
However, it took a while for Chorley to be open to the idea of the MTC being in their area.
Explained Chris, “There was some concern in the local community, on the MTC opening in 1998, that missionaries would be knocking on their doors all the time trying to convert everybody to the church.
“We tried emphatically to show love in the community. We wanted to be friends with the community and serve in the community. We wanted to show that we weren’t going to pester everybody, and we promised to be respectful.'
“I think one of the benefits the Chorley letting us have the MTC here is that we’ve kept that promise, we have shown that we are respectful. We don’t allow our missionaries to proselyte in this area - if we are going to, we go further afield so as to make the local community not feel that we’re a burden to them.'
Chris added, “We’ve taken our missionaries out and we’ve persisted in community projects like landscaping the big roundabouts just outside the entrance. We’ve done litter picks, and because we’ve got such a large group of missionaries, we accomplish a lot more.
“And so, I’d say we benefited the community by accomplishing those projects and by being a friend to the community. Our missionaries, who’ve never been to England, can also add a little to the local economy of Chorley every Tuesdays as they go out and experience the local markets.”