On the Finnish side of the Bay of Bothnia, Methodist preaching began to be heard by 1859 and the years to follow. Gustaf Lervik, a coxswain who had returned to his homeland, began to preach in his home country after being converted aboard the Bethel Ship in New York. Later, the Bärlund brothers joined in as preachers. In the 1880’s, impulses from Sweden led to a new start for Methodism in Finland, and the first congregation was established in 1881. Methodism in Finland fell in under the Sweden Annual Conference and had status as a district under the leadership of Superintendent B.A. Carlsen. In 1887 the first Finnish-speaking congregations arose, and two years later B.A. Carlsen established a mission to Russia, with meetings held in St. Petersburg, leading shortly thereafter to congregational development. The Czar, who at the time ruled both Russia and Finland, gave official approval in 1892 to the Methodist Church in both states. The Sweden Annual Conference organized “The mission in Finland and St. Petersburg” during the same year. In 1907,
German-American Dr. George A. Simons (son of Frisian immigrants from Sylt, in Schleswig) was appointed as superintendent in St. Petersburg. The link to Sweden weakened, and under his leadership the work developed rapidly with ramifications for Russia and Estonia. The Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 put a stop to all possibilities for church growth, yet, in spite of opposition, the work continued into the 1920’s. The Methodist Church in Finland gathered for the first time as an independent Annual Conference in 1911. The church had 1,568 members. In keeping with the development in Finland after its independence, the work was separated in a
Swedish-speaking and a Finnish-speaking conference in 1923. Finnish-speaking Methodism suffered greatly during World War II, since 60% of its members lived in regions that were incorporated into the Soviet Union.
Today the Finland Finnish AC has 800 members and 9 congregations. Two of the congregations have seen a strong increase in membership and four congregations have regular work with children and youth. The economical situation is difficult.
The Finland Swedish AC has 1100 members and 14 congregations.. The church has decided that 2006-07 will be a Children’s Year and steps have been taken to focus on children’s and youth work. The economical situation is improving through prudent stewardship and an increase of tithing. The church is looking to the future with confidence.
The first Wesleyan missionaries came to France from Great Britain via the Channel Islands in 1791. About sixty years later, the still relatively small movement was consolidated to form the French Wesleyan Conference. This conference remained in existence until shortly before the Second World War. Then, sixteen congregations voted to join the French Reformed Church. Six congregations in the southeastern part of the country broke away because they were unwilling to take this step. During the following decades, they continued to exist, along with two more congregations, as autonomous “Eglises Evangéliques Méthodistes de France” (EMF), and numbered about 1,500 members and friends.
Today’s “Union de l’Eglise Evangélique Méthodiste en France” (UEEMF) was founded in 1868, when the Evangelical Brethren in Germany sent a German-speaking American missionary to Strasbourg, for the purpose of initiating a German-speaking congregation there. Other missionaries from Germany and Switzerland came to the surrounding cities with the similar intentions. From these efforts, the nine congregations of Alsace-Lorraine developed.
In southwestern France, the missionary work began in 1926 among Swiss immigrants who had settled in Agen after the First World War. Eventually, the congregation’s clientele changed, and the work was carried out in French, as was also the case in Alsace-Lorraine. In the 1980s, missionary work of the congregation in Agen led to new initiatives in Fleurance and Mont de Marsan.
Although there had always been Emails between the EMF and the UEEM, for a number of reasons, the two churches have tightened their links significantly in recent years. In 2002, following intensive talks, it was decided to provisionally incorporate the EMF into the UEEMF, and thus into the Annual Conference of France and Switzerland. This decision was made definite in 2005.
Today, important areas of emphasis in the Methodist congregations include working with children and young people, conversation groups and creative groups for women, and missionary work and evangelization, as well as literature. However, the congregations are also aware of their heritage of social service and take this mission seriously, and work to help people at the personal level.
Chinese, Korean, and Cambodian congregations, which all have the status of associated congregations and which display an astonishing missionary dedication, meet in the buildings of the Methodist congregations.
Points of Email between Church and society include several institutions with which the UEEMF is affiliated: the Bethesda charity three homes for the elderly in Strasbourg, Mulhouse and Munster; the retreat center in Landersen, which has been through difficult times, but now looks to the future with renewed confidence; a
home for the elderly in Valleraugue; and diverse Protestant bookstores (CEDIS).
Together with the four congregations in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, the congregations in France form the “District francophone” of the Annual Conference Switzerland/France.