“The greatest religious problem today is how to be both a mystic and a militant; in other words how to combine the search for an expansion of inner awareness with effective social action, and how to feel one's true identity in both” Ursula K. LeGuin

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Women's Foreign Missionary Society

Eight women met on Tuesday, March 23, 1869 at Tremont Street MEC in Boston to organize the group that, after mergers with other churches, would be known as United Methodist Women. (The church and six of the eight women are pictured here.) Plans for the society began earlier that month after Mrs. Lewis Fletcher, a member of Tremont Street, heard a sermon given on March 14 by Rev. William Butler at St. John's MEC on the experiences he and his wife, Clementina, had as missionaries in India over the past decade. Mrs. Fletcher met with Mrs. Butler and also with Mrs. Lois Parker, who had also served as a missionary with her husband, Rev. Edwin Parker.

They sent out notices to the twenty-eight Methodist Episcopal Churches in Boston inviting the women to take part in creating an organization to support foreign mission work. Because of extremely bad weather only eight were able to attend, but those that did attend persevered, writing a constitution and nominating a slate of officers with Mrs. Osman C. Baker as president. Dues were a dollar a year, or two cents a week -- "two cents and a prayer" as it came to be known, “for the purpose of engaging and uniting the efforts of the women of the Church in sending out and supporting female missionaries, native Christian teachers and Bible women in foreign lands.”

On the twentieth anniversary of its founding, the Women's Foreign Missionary Society dedicated eight stained glass windows in honor of the eight women, and in following years windows honoring the first missionaries sent that fall, Isabella Thoburn and Dr Clara Swaim were added, along with those honoring the first eleven WFMS units.

Church membership decreased over the years, and in the 1970s the building was sold to New Hope Baptist Church but it is still maintained as a site of Methodist history and visitors are welcome. In 2004 the Annual Meeting of the New England Conference United Methodist Women was held there, and the church was dedicated as a Historical Landmark.

Read more about the founding of the WFMS here http://www.gcah.org/research/travelers-guide/site-of-the-founding-of-the-womans-foreign-missionary-society-of-the-method

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