Methodists to celebrate 200-year mission heritage in Leeds

(Photo: Mike Peel)
Wesley's Chapel in London

Methodists will be gathering in Leeds this week to celebrate 200 years since the founding of the Church's first district missionary societies.

The Reverend 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 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.

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.

"We now talk of World Mission, no longer separating work overseas from work in Britain," said Reverend 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."

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.

Dr Mukarji will preach at a celebration service at 3pm in Leeds Minster. Guests will include the Lord Mayor of Leeds, councillor Tom Murray, the Reverend Dr Albert Jebanesan from Sri Lanka, the Reverend Arnold Temple from Sierra Leone and the Reverend Dr Cuthbert Edwards from Barbados will also be among those attending the service.

Starting from today, Methodist Mission Society artefacts will be on display at Oxford Place Chapel for the next three weeks.

"Until 1813, Wesleyan Methodist missionary work was almost a private initiative driven essentially by the Reverend 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."

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