The UMC’s work in the Vojvodina region (the northern part of what is now Serbia) was begun by German missionaries. German emigrants – and this was the reason why the churches were exclusively German-speaking until 1904. In the following years the work grew, and thriving new churches were born among other population groups, as well. But there were not only joy and growth, the church experienced persecution, suffering, isolation and setbacks, as well – mostly because of political reasons. Today a varied children’s and youth ministry, Christian outreach
programs, local and regional activities for women and men as well as practical help for people in need are some of the priorities of the local churches, which combine both the proclamation of the Gospel and love in action. In a country still falling on hard times while looking for a future, they aim to help people to discover God’s love – beyond any border of ethnicity. The fact that a new generation has accepted the calling into the ministry of the church and is taking the lead regarding this aim is an important sign and a source of hope. Despite political separation of their countries, the local churches in Serbia and Macedonia still belong to the same Annual Conference.
In 1920, missionaries from the US-based Methodist Episcopal Church, South began their work in Czechoslovakia. They organized evangelization meetings, distributed Bibles, and provided emergency services to the people, who were still suffering from the consequences of the First World War. In the following years many local churches were established – first in what is now the Czech Republic, later in what is now Slovak Republic. The church grew rapidly but also experienced politically and financially difficult times. Today the UMC is very mission-oriented. This is clearly seen in its evangelistic programs, its youth ministry and its work in the communications media. The social services for people on the margins of society (particularly people belonging to the Roma minority in eastern Slovakia) are another priority of the church work. The UMC is also very engaged in ecumenical activities (not least in regard to theological education) and
stands for a common Christian witness. The UMC in Slovakia and in the Czech Republic is organized in a cross-border Annual Conference with two districts.
The Methodist Church in Spain was started in the northeast part of the country by missionaries from England in 1869. But before this date, at the beginning of the 19th century, there was some missionary work done by a British Methodist minister, William H. Rule, who from Gibraltar established some Protestant day schools and groups of worship in the south of Spain that had no continuity because of the presence and action of the Spanish Inquisition. But this attempt to establish a Protestant church in Spain was the first done in the country since the 16th century.
In 1868, a change in the government started a new period of tolerance and the first Protestant churches were established. The first Methodist church was organized in Barcelona on September 1, 1869. Afterwards others were created in Catalunya and the Balearic Islands. The life and witness of these churches has been limited by intolerance and lack of liberty that prevailed in Spain all through these years with just very few and short expectations. There was no religious freedom in the country until Franco’s death, when a new constitution (1978) was approved that established a clear separation between church and state and total freedom.
In 1955 the Methodist churches were integrated in the already existing Spanish Evangelical Church that was formed by congregations with Presbyterian, Congregationalist and Lutheran traditions. Since then the church has strong relationships with the Methodist Church in England and The United Methodist Church USA. The Spanish Evangelical Church was received as a member of the World Methodist Council in 1981.
The first Wesleyan congregation in Switzerland was founded in Lausanne in 1840. The Methodist Episcopal Church began its work sixteen years later in Lausanne and Zurich. And finally, the Evangelical Brethren Church founded its first congregation in Berne in 1866. Today’s UMC in Switzerland was formed, after various unification processes, from three different Methodist movements. The Church grew and soon Switzerland was itself the source of missionary work. Men and particularly women were sent out to nearly all continents to do good works, to teach people about God, and to help build new congregations. This resulted in lively relationships, which have not ceased to exist till the present. In addition to the ministries with children, teenagers, and youth the last third of life increasingly becomes the focus of attention of the congregations. Furthermore, there are missionary activities and serving ministries at many places, and congregations are opening themselves by initiating programs based on the needs of people not affiliated with any Church. The cooperation with other Churches is another important priority and is considered to be an active contribution towards a common Christian witness. The fact that the Methodist work is carried out in an increasing number of languages is also distinctive of the UMC in Switzerland. Finally, the Church maintains close ties with various social and other institutions (Bethanien/Bethesda Charities, homes for the elderly, group living facility for mothers and children, home for people with special needs, hotels, retreats).