Methodists celebrate 200 years of Mission

Methodists will celebrate 200 years since the founding of one the Church's first district missionary societies at a special event next week.

The Revd Ruth Gee, President of the Methodist Conference, will unveil a blue plaque marking the site of the Old Boggart House, which was the first purpose built Methodist chapel in Leeds. The blue plaque will also commemorate the public meeting held on 6 October 1813, which led to the formation of the Leeds Wesleyan Methodist District Missionary Society - the forerunner of the Methodist Missionary Society formed in 1818.

Church leaders, including Dr Daleep Mukarji, Vice-President of the Methodist Conference, will gather on the steps leading up to the West Yorkshire Playhouse for an inauguration service on Quarry Hill at 2pm on 6 October.

"We now talk of World Mission, no longer separating work overseas from work in Britain," said the Revd Ruth Gee. "We will be celebrating the fact that we are in partnership with Methodist churches around the world and share in mission together. Methodism in Britain today is enriched by many in our congregations who have come to Britain from other parts of the world and we want to give thanks to God for that. As we move on together we give thanks for the foundations that were laid 200 years ago and we commit ourselves to one mission in partnership with Methodists and other Christians around the world."

The unveiling of the plaque will be followed by a celebration service at Leeds Minister with an address by Dr Mukarji at 3pm. Festivities will include a steel band and drama performed by the theatre group, Apple Cart. The Lord Mayor of Leeds, councillor Tom Murray, the Revd Dr Albert Jebanesan from Sri Lanka, the Revd Arnold Temple from Sierra Leone and the Revd Dr Cuthbert Edwards from Barbados will also be among those attending the service.

An exhibition of Methodist Mission Society artefacts will be on display at Oxford Place Chapel - next to the Leeds' town hall - in the run-up to the celebration on 6 October. For three weeks from 30 September, visitors will be able to view the artefacts between 10am to 2pm.

"Until 1813, Wesleyan Methodist missionary work was almost a private initiative driven essentially by the Revd Dr. Thomas Coke,"  said Colin Dews, Methodist Archivist in Leeds. "The beginning of a missionary society in Leeds quickly encouraged similar initiatives elsewhere, such as in Halifax and York. These led to the formation of the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society in 1818 and as a result mission work was placed on more solid financial footings. The other branches of Methodism - the Primitive Methodists, Bible Christian, Methodist New Connexion, and United Methodist Free Churches - all developed missionary work overseas. Ultimately all this led to Methodism becoming a world Church."

The Old Boggart House was demolished following the opening of the adjacent St Peter's chapel in 1834. An inaugural sermon was preached in Armley, prior to the public meeting at the Old Boggart, to mark the founding of the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society. Armley, which was predominantly a domestic clothing settlement 200 years ago, remains the birthplace of the oldest Methodist society between Birstall and Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

Ends.

A report accepted by the Methodist Conference in July this year re-envisaged the idea of Methodist mission as "one mission", with less division between mission and evangelism and home and overseas mission work. See here for the report.

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