Methodists for World Mission

Methodists celebrate! 200 years since the founding the Church's first district missionary society.

At the Methodist Missions Forum meeting on Saturday 5th October 2013 in Leeds, we saw a date projector  scrolling through what should have been  a roll of 18,000 names  of missionaries or  ‘mission partners’ as they are known now. That is the number of people who have served the Methodist church overseas since the beginnings of its missionary endeavour.   However the list only got half way because the computer couldn’t cope! How remarkable, that John Wesley who declared ‘the world is my parish’ has had 18,000 people serving the parish he envisioned!                           

On the Sunday 6th October, exactly 200 years to the day, celebrations began for the Methodist people across the city of Leeds. I worshipped at Oxford place, where a former President and mission partner Reverend Steve Poxon preached.  After a snack lunch, we all proceeded along the main street to the other end of the city centre, where the Reverend Ruth Gee,  present President of the Methodist Conference, unveiled a blue plaque marking the site of the Old Boggart House, which was where the meeting took place on 6th  October 1813 that committed financial support for those going overseas. This led to the formation of the Leeds Wesleyan Methodist District Missionary Society which preceded the Methodist Missionary Society formed in 1818.

A service followed in the ‘Minister’ which was attended by The Lord Mayor of Leeds, councillor Tom Murray, some of the Minister’s staff and three church leaders from the parts of the world where the earliest missionaries began their work. They were the Reverend Dr Cuthbert Edwards from Barbados, the Reverend Dr Albert Jebanesan from Sri Lanka, and the Reverend Arnold Temple from Sierra Leone. The huge church was packed. The service began with a long procession of people who had served overseas.  It was an inspiring service which lasted some two and a half hours and included songs from the three areas of the globe mentioned and a drama about Thomas Cokes intended journey to Ceylon as it was then. Included in the prayers was a time of confession by us, the sending church, for the things we had got wrong and a declaration of forgiveness by each of the receiving church leaders.  It was an incredibly moving moment for each mission partner.

For me personally it was a chance to renew a relationship with Reverend Cuthbert Edwards, who began his presidency when Alison and I were serving in the Methodist Church in the Caribbean and the Americas. We were also able to catch up with news from Sri Lanka from ‘Reverend Jebi’ whom we had met in 2005. It was then that the seeds to my own call to work overseas were sewn.

What a heritage we have as a Methodist church. We must pray that our ‘discipleship movement shaped for mission’ may have a future as bright with service to the local and global parish.

Reverend Les Judd

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