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.
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