Following the First World War, Methodist congregations were formed in various places in Poland thanks to the missionary and humanitarian efforts of the US-based “Methodist Episcopal Church, South” and in 1921 the Methodist Church in Poland was officially founded. It was run by Americans until the beginning of World War II. Then the local Methodists took over responsibility, and guided the Church through the following decades, which were anything but easy. Because of changes in the national borders in the course of WWII, the Methodist Church lost about one third of its congregations in regions now belonging to Lithuania, Byelorus, and Ukraine. At the same time, in some places in western Poland (former eastern Prussia) the congregational work was taken over by German Methodists. In 1945, the Methodist Church was officially recognized in Poland. This event was followed by the period of Communist rule, during which Church work was possible only against a strong “headwind” (e.g. various Methodist buildings were confiscated by the Polish government and have not been returned to this day; social institutions such as homes for children and the elderly were closed). In Masur during this period, some individual congregations of the Lutheran-Reformed “Unierte Kirche” joined the Methodists.
After 1989, the political changes presented many new possibilities for making an impact in society with Word and Deed. And thanks to the strong interest in missionary work in Poland and its eastern neighbors, many of these opportunities were realized. For example, considering its small size, the Methodist Church has a surprising presence on radio and TV, which frequently helps people who are searching for meaning to find their way to a congregation.
Today, the UMC in Poland also runs various language schools for English, a theological seminary in Klarysew (one of the official training schools in the Central Conference of Central and Southern Europe) and a youth hostel in Stare Juchy. On the one hand, these institutions are points of Email between the UMC and its surroundings, and on the other, they are places where people are trained to serve society.
In many congregations the work with children, youth, and women is thriving, and today, social initiatives are manifest mainly in concrete, local projects, where for example needy people are offered meals. Against the backdrop of large-scale societal problems (unemployment and poverty) and in connection with the requirements associated with the return of seized properties in western Poland, the social efforts of the UMC will be intensified and the projects more closely coordinated. The project “A Glass of Water”, which is aimed at alcoholics and their families, is one step in this direction.
In Roman Catholic-dominated Poland, the UMC is recognized and appreciated as a Church, and in the past as in the present, Methodist personalities have often proved to be excellent bridge builders in interdenominational relations. One result of this activity is an agreement for cooperation in preaching and communion with the Lutheran Church and the Reformed Church, as well as an agreement on mutual recognition of baptism between the six Churches of the Polish Ecumenical Council and the Roman Catholic Church.
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