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Site of the Founding of the Woman’s Foreign Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church

Boston, Massachusetts
Heritage Landmark of the United Methodist Church

The former Tremont Street MEC was the site of the founding of the Woman's Foreign Missionary Society (WFMS) of the Methodist Episcopal Church by eight women who braved a stormy day, March 23, 1869 to meet together at the urgent call of the Mrs. William (Clementina) Butler and the Mrs. Edwin W. (Lois) Parker. Though small in number these courageous women voted to move ahead with the formation of a Society of women to minister to women in foreign countries. They called a second meeting, one week later, to solidify the organization and elect officers. Thus, the (WFMS) of the ME Church was organized despite opposition from the parent Missionary Society of the MEC, based in New York City.

On the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Society, stained glass windows, honoring the eight women who first came together to organize the Society, were placed in the back of the sanctuary above the gallery. In the 1940s at the instigation of Clementina Butler's daughter, Clementina (a missionary herself), and with the support of the pastor, Azariah Reimer, a number of other windows, honoring the founders of the Society and the first two missionaries to be sent out - Isabella Thoburn and Dr. Clara Swain - were also placed in the church. In addition each of the existing eleven units of the WFMS across the country also paid for a window to be placed in the sanctuary. Finally, there are two windows dedicated to the New England Deaconess Association which was founded just around the corner from the church.

In the 1970s due to unusual circumstances, this extremely historic building, of significance not only to the New England Conference, but also to the denomination as a whole, was sold to the New Hope Baptist Church - an African American congregation. This congregation recognized and respected the historic significance of the building to The United Methodist Church and had carefully maintained the windows dedicated to these early courageous women.

Points of interest at this Heritage Landmark:

Unfortunately, due to the high cost of maintaining this large, historic building, coupled with the lack of available parking, the New Hope Baptist Church made the difficult decision to sell the building and re-locate.  After the sale to a housing developer, all of the stained glass windows were removed from the building and offered back to the United Methodist community.  A number of those windows have now been claimed and are available for viewing.  The building itself now houses a number of high-end condominiums.  The outer facade of the church has been maintained, however, since it is located in a historic district.

Eight of the stained glass windows are now hanging in the reading room of the library at Boston University School of Theology.  These include two windows which honor the original eight women founders of the WFMS and five honoring leaders and missionaries in the Society:  The Rev. Dr. William and Clementina Butler, Mrs. Bishop Osman C. (Mehitable) Baker, Isabella Thoburn, Harriet Merrick Warren and Miss Clementina Butler.  An additional window honors Mary E. Lunn, who was the first Superintendent of the New England Deaconess Home and Hospital.

Three other windows have also been claimed.  The Abundant Life Deaconess Communities in Concord, MA, has claimed a second window celebrating the New England Deaconess Movement.  This one honors the Rev. T. C. Watkins and his wife, Emma, who were very early leaders in the Movement.  This window currently hangs in the Chapel at the Concord location.

Finally, two windows have been claimed by the Eastern Pennsylvania Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church and will soon be displayed at First United Methodist Church in Lancaster, PA.  One of these windows honors Miss Clara Swain, the first woman physician to be sent to a foreign country by any denominational missionary society, who was from Pennsylvania.  The second window was originally purchased by the Philadelphia Unit of the WFMS.

A brochure describing in some detail the windows which are hanging in the library at Boston University School of Theology may currently be accessed at:  https://docs.google.com/document/d/1CUZ6HkWEt_Hp1sbE_lfAEQkMyVoK9fVabLrYxfG5YMY/

This brochure is in the process of being updated to include the other three windows, as well, as should be available by September 2019.

Area attractions: The City of Boston has a number of Methodist-related historic places. For a free copy of the Boston Methodist Heritage Trail, contact Pat Thompson, PO Box 538, Morrisville, VT 05661-0538; e-mail: pajt8817@aol.com or check the NECCAH archives website page: http://www.bu.edu/sth/archives/cah/trails.htm.

Location: Within the bounds of the New England Conference, in the city of Boston at 740 Tremont Street. Food and lodging: There are numerous restaurants and lodging within the greater Boston area.

For further information or to learn more about United Methodist history in this area:

Contact Patricia J. Thompson (see information above).

Frances J. Baker, The Story of the Woman's Foreign Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church 1869-1895 (Cincinnati: Curt and Jennings, 1898).

Mary Isham, Valorous Ventures A Records of Sixty and Six Years of the Woman's Foreign Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church (Boston: Woman's Foreign Missionary Society of the MEC, 1936).