Leeds & The Revd Dr Thomas Coke: two anniversaries, 200 years

Leeds, October 2013 - 200 years of the MMS, including the 2013 Methodist Missionary History Project conference

Brecon, May 2014 - Remembering the life and legacy of the Revd Dr Thomas Coke, Father of Methodist missions and the first co-superintendent (bishop) of the Methodist Church in America.

The Leeds District (Wesleyan) Methodist Missionary Society was established on 6 October 1813; the eve of the departure for India and Ceylon (Sri Lanka) of the pioneer and leader of Methodist missionary work, the Revd Dr Thomas Coke. Over his 30 years of mission, Methodism had become almost entirely dependent on Coke's energy and skills as an organiser and fundraiser.

With his imminent departure and a not unreasonable expectation that he would not return, and the recognised threat to Methodist efforts of other denominations and groups such as the London Missionary society, it had finally been acknowledged that alternative mechanisms for encouraging support and management for Methodist overseas missions were needed. By 1818 the District missionary society model had been adopted by the Connexion and the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society was established.

This turned out to be inspired timing. Thomas Coke never got to Ceylon (Sri Lanka). He died at sea on 3 May 1814, and his body was committed to the Indian Ocean. He had expressed a wish to be buried in the Cathedral of his home city of Brecon in Wales with his two wives, both of whom died tragically soon after marriage. Instead a large slate memorial plaque in the Cathedral bears witness to his faith and service. One of its signatories is the Revd James Buckley; who gave the address in Leeds in October 1813 in Coke's place as he was in Portsmouth prior to embarkation.

When the three main nineteenth-century denominations of Methodism reunited in 1932, so did their Missionary Societies. A new home was built for the united society, Mission House, at 25 Marylebone Road, London - today known as Methodist Church House and home to the Connexional Team. In 2013, the Methodist Conference took the historic step of winding up the society. Not because overseas mission is no longer a priority for the Methodist Church. Rather in recognition that mission at home and overseas is all 'One Mission'.

In October 2013 in recognition of 200 years of the Methodist Missionary Society (MMS) and that it was 200 years since the death of Thomas Coke in May 2014, a series of commemoration events, exhibitions and worship services were planned. On the following pages you will find programmes, photos and transcripts of the talks delivered:




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