Today’s UMC in Switzerland was formed from three different Methodist movements. The first Wesleyan congregation was founded in Lausanne in 1840. The Methodist Episcopal Church began working in Lausanne and Zurich in 1856. And in 1866 the Evangelical Brethren Church founded its first congregation in Berne in 1866.
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In the early days, missionaries from Germany, Great Britain, and America worked to build the Church in Switzerland. Local preachers soon cared for a growing number of congregations. However, this period was a time not only of growth, but also of resistance and oppression. Any religious movement that belonged neither to the Catholic nor to the Reformed Protestant Church was treated as a sect, and proselytizing was viewed as stealing members. Violence against preachers and lay missionaries was not uncommon.
But the spread of Methodism in Switzerland continued. It wasn’t long before members of the Church in Switzerland were serving as missionaries throughout the world. That tradition continues, with Swiss Methodists serving in mission in Argentina, Boliva, DR Congo, Albania, Macedonia, and Algeria.
In Switzerland as elsewhere, the UMC's field of activity includes much more than pure congregational work. The Church maintains close ties with various social and missionary institutions, including the Bethanien Charity in Zurich, Bethesda Charity in Basel, eight homes for the elderly, a living facility for mothers and children, a home for people with special needs, two hotels, a backpacker’s villa, and five retreats. Congregational efforts often emphasize work with children and youth, and the organization of contemporary worship services.
Together with the UMC in France, Belgium, and North Africa (Algeria/Tunisia), the UMC in Switzerland makes up the Annual Conference of Switzerland-France.
Global Ministries partners through active and continuing communication with leaders of the United Methodist Church in Switzerland. Currently, there are two Global Ministries missionaries serving in the country and one National-in-Mission who is the coordinator for ministry with the Roma.